By Chris Standring - A&R Online
When I first started to think about writing this article, I shied away from the whole idea. After all, it didn't seem totally related to marketing music. But then I started thinking, this is actually THE topic to write about, not only because I have personally run into many memorable circumstances, but because developing personal relationships is now more important than ever. One reason perhaps is that, getting signed has become somewhat of an elitist endeavor, and a career path that is not always preferred by artists anyway. Furthermore, without the aid of managers, attorneys and professional people around us, we have to cultivate these relationships alone.
I am talking about social skills, in its basic form. It never ceases to amaze me but I run into many people, musicians especially, who seem to suffer in this department. It's possible that we have all spent way too much time in the woodshed, alone with our instruments. However, I think this is the romantic view. Personally I think most do not realize that they offend, or make others feel uncomfortable.
What I am really getting at here is the ability to make others feel important. This is the crux of the matter. The music business is littered with over inflated egos and insecure artists, who seem to think that the world somehow revolves around them. They relate to others in a purely self centered way and do not have the ability or interest to compliment others, only to spend time putting themselves on a pedestal.
Let me illustrate. I was at a party recently and ran into someone I hardly know, who proceeded to yap about how many albums he had played on, who he had been touring with and who he was about to tour with. I actually didn't need to be there at all, I could have been a brick wall. But he was trying to impress me by dropping names and telling me how good he was. I couldn't have been less interested because his only M.O. was to sell himself to me, or to anyone listening for that matter. He didn't know how to include anyone else in the conversation, he was fueling his own ego by holding court. This guy left absolutely no mystery about himself. He also made a grave error in my book, as do many artists who take this stance; He didn't make me feel important. Now don't get me wrong, I am not looking for others to sing my praises, not at all. Actually I can get a little uncomfortable with that. I think it would have been nice if he appeared a little less in love with himself and made an effort to at least try to be interested in one or two other people he was talking at.
I can remember many times throughout my very early career where I went out of my way to introduce myself to someone established in the music business, only to be given the "short" treatment (inferring, "I don't have time for you!") or totally ignored. I have never forgotten those people to this day and I always made a point of trying my hardest not to be like them. Conversely, I also remember moving to Los Angeles several years ago and introducing myself to quite famous artists who were just wonderful and went out of their way to be incredibly helpful. I have never forgotten those people also. Why? because they made me feel important and valid, just by simply giving me their time. Just because I couldn't do anything for them, gave them no reason not to acknowledge me. I think this is a wonderful human quality.
The music business is a tough business. We all know that. We also know that it can be ruthless and cold. However, everyone needs a little help now and then. You may be that person who might need help. You also might be a person who is regarded as established and in a position to offer advice or inspiration to others. All I can say is, BE COOL! Cultivating relationships is more important than it has ever been. Who knows who you will meet next that can elevate your career.
People love to gossip, it's human instinct. That means that if you are a cool person who is likable, personable and talented, your reputation will go before you. On the other hand, if you are narcissistic, highly egocentric and appear not to give a damn about anyone else, that reputation will also go before you.
Stop and think for a moment what your reputation is. How do you think others perceive you?
There is a myth amongst musicians, that if you don't hype yourself nobody will hype you. Well, I do think you need to network to get on in your career. I also absolutely know that if you talk to anyone and make THEM feel important, you will make their day and they will never forget you. Don't forget, people want to do business with those they like and respect. One of the reasons they like and respect someone is because they are clear in their minds that they are liked and respected back.
If I honestly thought about what the best advice I could give an independent artist to propel his or her music career forward, it would be this;
"Be cool to everyone you meet, but more importantly, make them feel important".
Chris Standring is the CEO and founder of A&R Online. He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to Mesa/Bluemoon Records. The music is marketed at NAC and Urban AC radio. For more info on Chris' recording career go to his personal website