5 MUSIC BUSINESS MISTAKES TO AVOID
Dress like you are going to a nightclub or a costume party. I can’t count the times that I’ve seen artists (usually young ones) come into our publishing office dressed in wildly age-inappropriate clothes. Breasts hanging out, skirts you can’t sit down in – if you know what I mean. That’s a GREAT way to get attention, but not the right kind of attention. You wouldn’t walk into a lawyer’s office dressed that way. So, you shouldn’t walk into any other business dressed that way. Your breasts will be taken seriously, but not your music. Great songwriters and artists don’t have to dress that way to get attention. On the male side, people come in dressed as cowboys or thugs. Wallets chained to their pants, stocking caps on in the summer, it starts to look like a costume party at times. We’ve either got people that look like they stepped out of a western or a Halloween party. It’s really very simple. If you want to be taken seriously in the music business, dress like you are ready for business. Those kinds of dressing might be part of you “image” but when you are in a business meeting, you are not there for establishing you image. You are there to do business. You can establish your image in your music videos and concerts but not in the publisher’s or lawyer’s office!
Overload people with your music. You always want to leave people wanting more instead of wishing they could gnaw their arm off and get out of the trap you’ve got them in. Back to what I was keep saying nonstop, less is more. Playing someone one amazing song will do way more for your career than playing them 9 decent songs and one amazing song. Plus, they won’t hide when they see you coming. Take your shots carefully and use the rifle approach, not the machine gun. Take one carefully aimed shot instead of slinging things around until something sticks.
Only show respect to people who can help you. I knew of a writer who went into a lowly plugger’s office one day and took out his frustration on the poor guy. He threw a thumb drive of his music on the guy’s desk and said “If you can’t get these songs cut, you don’t need to be in the music business” before he stormed out. Several months later, there was a shakeup at the company and the lowly plugger was promoted to Head of Creative. He called the writer in, threw the same thumb drive across the desk and said, “If you can’t write better songs than these, you don’t need to be in the music business”. And he dropped the writer. Those stories happen all the time. Be nice to the receptionist, the new writer who asks you to write, the janitor, the security guard – you just never know – they might be running the show someday. A security guard at one major Tehran label helps me slip CDs to people because I’m kind and speak to him every time I come in the building. Kindness comes back to you. So does rudeness. This is not just limited to the music industry. This is just basic manners but here, in this business as our topic, having those manners can help you to go a very long way!
Another example from my personal experience. In 2015 I was in a concert for one of the artists from our own label, Flipside. As the owner of the label and producer of the particular artist, which I happened to personally be his artist manager too, I decided for this one concert I prefer to do the sound engineering. Half way through the concert, a young artist came to me. “I’m looking for the main guy of the label this artist is signed to.” He said, and then very arrogantly he continued “I think I am better than this artist and I can make the guy to sign me. Do you know where I can find him?”. So, I answered “Okay, let’s meet next week because as you can see, I’m busy doing the sound”. He was kind of unhappy with my answered and said “You are just the sound guy. Shut your mouth and show me where the manager is”. I was too busy at the moment to explain for him to teach him to have manners, so I just gave him my name card and said “Okay, this is the guy. Give him a call”. Next day he texted me and we sat appointment for next Monday.
When he entered to our office, his face was priceless seeing my sitting behind CEO’s table. So, I explained for him why we are going to reject him even before listening to his music or talk to him about what he can do – and I think by now you would know my reason too!
Overestimate your worth. I told a new writer to call COMPASS one time. I saw him several weeks later. He was visibly angry – at me and at COMPASS because it had been two weeks and no one had called him back. He couldn’t believe the “lack of respect” that showed, and he went on and on about how horrible they were. I simply asked, “Have you made them any money?” “No”, he replied. So, I asked him why he thought he should be a priority for a return call. He didn’t really have an answer. You have to remember that the people you are contacting didn’t ask you to call them, in most cases. You are wanting something from them, not the other way around. So, be patient, humble and kind. Unless you are a really hot writer making a publisher or PRO lots of money, they have 1,000 other people like you calling them on a daily basis. Politely try them again if time goes by without a response. But, don’t behave like they owe you. They don’t.
Overestimate your music. I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time someone told me “I have X number of songs that are better than the ones on the radio.” I’d be even richer if I had a dollar for every time the songs were NOT better than the ones on the radio. I’m convinced that this is the single biggest issue holding people back. Believing that your songs are amazing when they are not will stop you dead in your tracks. People who believe that don’t work at getting better. They think they are already there, writing hit songs. That delusion also causes them to appear ignorant and arrogant when they do get a chance with a real professional. If your songs really are better than the ones on the radio, people will know that from listening to your song – you won’t have to tell them.
Don’t do those 5 things and you’ll pass a lot of people trying to get out of the ditches they dug with those bad choices. Remember, if you want to do this as a business, treat it like one. Professionalism is much more important than what you probably think. To many, music business sounds like a fun and casual industry but trust me, you have to have military kind of punctuality and discipline, lawyers’ kind of presentability and traders’ kind of drive and energy combined to survive in this industry! The moment you start to take it as casual or joke, that’s exactly where you are starting to kill your music career.
Leave a Reply.