Artists: Handle your business!
I have played music since the age of 5 and have done it professionally for 25
years now. Concurrently, at times, I have had jobs in the music business to
help supplement the inconsistency of life in a creative field. While “the business” has its
woes, it seems the biggest blow delivered to creative people is by themselves.
Yep, I said it. Why?
When it comes to business, it has been my experience that most artists live on
a plane of existence that has its own set of rules. Meaning, business etiquette
and how it’s expected to be done by the entire rest of civilization is, by and
large, completely ignored by artists. You will notice a somewhat sarcastic and
snarky tone because it’s an issue that frustrates me to no end. How can grown
adults buy into the theory that creative people have a license to act anyway
that they choose but are poor helpless victims when they don’t get what they
want?! I have a theory that I just know you are waiting on the edge of your
seats for, so here it goes…
Not to sound corny, but in my generation and previous ones, artists were
mostly disregarded as lazy, foolhardy, Peter Pan-esgue, freeloaders. Regardless of how hard you
actually worked, even if it paid the bills, artists were mostly looked down
upon. Whatever the motive, it was an unwritten rule that you were to grow up,
get married, take on a car payment, a mortgage, get a “regular” job, and
vacation with your family. Many of us simply didn’t fit that mold and many
still don’t. With some twisted variation of Newton’s Third Law (every action
has an equal and opposite reaction) some artists started to act accordingly
while others simply became defiant.
Out of this defiance was the idea that if society is going to set us apart, then
we will take that a step further. We will create our own set of rules for
everything. While that is honestly fine as far as I’m concerned, it is the
reaction of shock and disappointment that bewilders me. When people
behave completely in a way that is inconsistent with acceptability and don’t
get the reaction they wanted, where is the confusion? Why is there sudden
indignation and dismay?
I think part of the problem is that now, the majority of the people like artists.
There is so much celebrity worship that everybody wants to be “an artist.”
Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame. They do not understand that fame
and artistry are two entirely different things but the end result is the same.
People are fascinated by creative people. This isn’t the way that it used to be,
but unfortunately we have passed up, and on, the belief system that it is still
the old way of thinking. Therein lies the rub; when artists don’t reply to
emails or don’t behave in a responsible fashion while doing business, the
other party involved will not give you a free pass to behave like a jerk.
Because the rest of the working society actually values or at least envies what
you do on some level, they assume that you will treat them with equal respect.
I know for some, trying to connect the dots in this line of thinking is going to
be a long shot but its true. I have worked as a musician, a promoter, assistant,
booking agent, manager, and in just about every other facet of the music
business and I am here to tell you, everything that I’m saying is true.
The moral of the story? Artists, hold yourself to a higher standard. Show that
you can skillfully exist in both worlds with some amount of ease and comfort.
I promise that if you conduct your business with as much pride as you do your
art, you will be able to weed out the select bunch that you don’t want to work
with and attract a wide array of competent people that you do want to work
with. If existing in both worlds is intensely terrible and uncomfortable, you
may want to pursue your art as a hobby and not a profession, or work
diligently at getting a manager. Remember, the world is now FLOODED with
many self-professed artists. How you conduct yourself will be the first and
most important impression you can make on a new contact.
What are your thoughts on the subject? If you are an artist, what are you doing right or wrong?
If you are an industry person, what do you want to see more of from artists?