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Are you a 'Gracious' Musician?

As an independent and totally self-managed artist, there are no other managers or publicists to shield and deflect crazy groupies, requests for inappropriate musical collaborations, awkward Facebook friend requests and all the opinions of your non-musical friends who just decided that they want to become your manager.  At this point you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I a gracious musician?’.

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines ‘Gracious’ as:

a. Kind and Polite: full of tact, kindness and politeness.

This is a characteristic that hopefully you acquired while growing up, unlikely you will learn in school, but is one of the most important characteristics any person, especially musicians should work on developing.  It can make or break a musical career when absent, and when present, garner you the most support you have ever had.

How does this translate to my life?

Do you remember that person who sent you the long Facebook message about how much they loved your music, and you didn’t respond?  Or maybe you just said, “Cool”.  Or the person you cursed out not so nicely by email, when they forcefully share their opinion?  Well now that email or Facebook message is permanent, and you can’t take it back.  The gracious musician doesn’t do that, and here are the reasons:

1. You are your business - And by being a business it means the customer is ALWAYS right.  You function as that senior manager that actually cares about the face of the company, and not the disgruntled employee working for a little money.  Pick your battles.  Learn to back away and just say, thank you.

2. People Need to feel validated - Oprah Winfrey reminded me of this in her final show.  She said that everyone from the garbage collector to the doctor wants to feel validated.  The same thing applies to your supporters.  They actually like you, which is why they critique your work.  They watch your youtube videos, and their comments actually are the most valuable thing you have.  Know your strengths, but listen to your supporters to learn about your weaknesses.  Thank them for taking the time to check out your stuff, even if you disagreed with what they had to say.  Your ability to sift through the noise, take the good, and smile and nod will differentiate you from the rest.

3. The Conversion Factor - Like a good business, every good customer service experience will be validated by someone telling someone else.  The conversation will go something like this,

“I emailed X artist and told them all the things I didn’t like about their new song, and you know they listened to me?  I think that’s so cool and humble of them.  I’m gonna buy their next album”. 

From a business stand point converting one non-believer to a believer is one of your many goals as a working musician.  By no means am I asking you to be a fake hypocrite, but you don’t need to be the defensive person that jumps on everything with a justification.  When you become famous, that’s gonna leave you with a lot of things to justify.

4. Don’t Stoop to their Level - You really don’t need to show your ugly side to the supporter.  So this is where being a person and a product becomes difficult.  This feeling of being mute.  Your music is one of your voices, and you are not mute, but you don’t need to be a raving angry lunatic, especially on Twitter or Facebook.  Be the bigger person.

5. They Only See a Snap Shot - Probably the most important take away point is that the supporter rarely has the time to know everything about you, unless they are the die hard fans, and the die hard fans rarely annoy you because they love and validate you so much.  Everyone else gets pieces of you.  Only you know everything that is going on.  Only you can connect all the dots in your head that they can’t see.  Remember that as you write you gracious reply, because all their suggestions are only to help you become better.

Stay humble.  Work hard.  Be gracious.  Trust me it works.

I am Mario Evon, Jamaican Reggae-Soul Singer/Songwriter.  Graduate of Berklee College of Music in Music Business/Management and Songwriter.  Music Business Consultant, Stage coach and lover of life. 

Reader Comments (12)

this is one of the best articles I've seen here in a while.

yeah, it's hard to do sometimes, but it'll pay off in the long run. and we're all in this silly biz for the long run aren't we?

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterHowlin' Hobbit

You are spot on, Mario!

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterTavonna Miller

There's a lot of great points here, Graciousness, humility and gratitude are the cornerstones to great fan relations. As someone who's been in a few bands that were catapulted into the spotlight, and have a few friends who've been through the ringer in that dept as well, it can

Once you're out in the open, and have presented yourself as an online "entity", it's very easy (and many times enjoyable) for people to start to define you and build expectations around you...however they like really. Some artists handle this graciously, other are threatened by it, as it's an attack on one's personal identity, some teeter somewhere in the middle.

My advice is always to start slow. Antony Hagerty got some advice from Laurie Anderson once, She said "picture yourself as a house, you meet the press (and general public) on the front porch." Essentially, there's a public self and a private self, business and personal. There's nothing wrong with protecting part of who you are, and retaining a degree of privacy.

You don't need to create an alter ego and change your name, but sometimes that's best for people. Transparency is what some people are most comfortable with, while a degree of anonymity serves others best. The only catch is that one really doesn't know what works best until you experience it.

That said, there may come a time when you just can't answer every message and every email. That's just what happens when you're part of the day in day out grind as a professional, whether it be touring, making records, doing press, etc. Perhaps some of the fans you once corresponded with won't like this, but it's a reality.

If this does happen, I always recommend keeping track of your true blue, grassroots fans. Make sure they always get a piece of your attention. Perhaps putting together a separate mailing list that caters to the critical mass of folks that were there from the beginning and helped you get to where you were. It's not a personal message, but it's more personal than a twitter update..

November 3 | Unregistered Commentergaetano

It's phony and disingenuous, what you're preaching here, and especially boring. It goes against what an artist should be. Lennon and others spoke their mind, and didn't care who they offended. It's only good advice if you want a bunch of business-consumed timid acts out there. I prefer honesty.

November 3 | Unregistered CommenterFT

This isn't phony or disingenuous at all. It should apply to everyone in every business! I'm a club owner and talent buyer and it applies to me. I often want to be "honest' and tell some people their bands suck and they are delusional and I'll never book them in a million years - but what would that accomplish? Everyone has fans - no matter how bad they are - and maybe you suck and not know it so you'd better be nice to anybody who is a fan! I also can make the choice NOT to book somebody if they are an a-hole - I don't care how good they are. I don't want them to be phony, I just want them to be good business people and nice human beings.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterDR

Hey FT,

Some people are optimistic and like people, so they're being honest.

I find that my friends and people I meet are very inspiring. I've learned quite a bit from so many people that I've met, and many folks in the industry have become life-long friends.

A lot of people loved John Lennon. I don't recall him ever singing "All You Need His Hate," do you? Gosh, what was the name of that song?

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Anne, I think I remember you from Velvet Rope. Maybe managers have to act that way but artists, not necessarily. As for Lennon, ever heard his song How Do You Sleep ? That has a whole lot of hatred in it.

November 4 | Unregistered CommenterFT

Thank you Mario. Great points....and good to remember. I like the "Snap shot" comment. The interesting thing is..... it is all about perception....and though we may care about how we are perceived.....we have no control of it. That's where that humility comes in. Thanks again. susan

November 10 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Picking

But Lennon was approachable; (maybe too much so) he didn't slag his critics unless they were professionals and presumably able to take the heat. He may have challenged his audience, but he never disrespected them, and he was, above all, a gentleman. In no way is this incompatible with being an artist, though same may have found it boring.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Well said. I, for one, will not collaborate with rude people, and will not support any artist if I find them behaving rudely to myself or others. On the other hand, I will go beyond the call of duty to support those who are civil, respectful, courteous. This is not just for music, but all my interactions with others in the world. Give your attention (and business) to those who treat you, and others, well.

- Versus

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterVersus

A topic for another post: How to deal with the truly rude (as opposed to constructive) critics? The occasional abusive critic or person in the crowd, etc. Anyone who puts their work out for the public will eventually have to deal with haters. How does one graciously manage such situations, without losing face, taking the higher road? That would be a worthy topic for an article and the comments would certainly be of great interest to many.

Artists tend to be rather sensitive and very personally invested in their work, so criticism can be exceptionally hard to take, especially when presented without any tact or consideration. - Versus

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterVersus

Thank you for this excellent advice and very timely reminder!

November 25 | Unregistered CommenterKsatriya

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