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.