I am feeling super proud of myself. I finally finished lyrics to a song that was really stumping me. Hooray!
The song was written by Ross, not me, so I guess I didn’t feel a huge connection to the spirit of the song. (Sometimes this is good license to go a bit nuts, though). The song is a change of pace from our usual 80s/90s Siouxsie/Cure/Nirvana influenced alt-rock. It sounds like it could be a Kings of Leon track. I wasn’t even sure if it fit in with our genre, but then again, it’s good to keep your options open and try new sounds. I do like the song, so I took Ross’ advice and wrote it from a male perspective. Which I think is a first for me. I enjoyed filling it with fun wordplay, eg. “Out on the road/my neck is red as a rose/I’m the king of the low/Duke of the hazard, oh”. I think I even put myself in the shoes of a man for it, a man vowing to do good and imagining a future beyond his roughneck life. It was actually fun to write.
So…to get on track, the topic of today’s post is networking. I was chatting with my friend Steve tonight about one thing I always feel uncomfortable with in my musical career. It’s widely recognized as arguably THE most important thing in the music world: networking! (Surprise, surprise)
I feel like I have had dismal luck with networking in the past. I have made good local, friendly, grassroots connections before, but always seemed to fail when trying to take us to the next level. (I’m talking about my previous band here, I haven’t attempted any of this with my new band yet.) I told Steve that I feel like one of my character flaws is that I can be a bit of a professional “user”. (Damn Moon in Capricorn!) When it comes to something I want, I seem to automatically switch off the ability to see someone as a person, and instead see them as an ‘opportunity’ waiting to be mined. I realize this is a disgusting way to see someone, and don’t condone it. I try not to act from this impulse at all, but it is a tendency that I recognize in myself.
As I have mentioned, seeing someone this way never leads to ‘success’ . Even if you are super polite to someone you are attempting to ‘use’, I think they subtly pick up on your intentions, whether you state them or not. They may not realize this consciously (and usually even I have no idea I’m even doing it!), but it makes them back away, energy-wise. Or forget to call you back. Nobody likes the feeling of being ‘used’; people sense it and get annoyed, or else just forget about you.
I realize how important connections are with other musicians, managers, venues and music industry workers. I would really like to find a way to engage with them that doesn’t feel like I’m mining them for info, or trying to wheedle an opportunity out of them. I’m not doing it out of a hard-nosed, “hahaha, I’m gonna use these bastards” frame of mind; it’s just that I really really really want certain opportunities, and some people have the authority to say yes or no to me. I am also aware, though, that there is a side to me that hates asking for help, and likes to do everything myself. So perhaps I am also subconsciously resenting the people I am asking for help. They have the power of saying yes or no, and I just want them to say YES and tell me what I want to hear! (Moon in Capricorn again!) God, how neurotic. How can I circumvent this?!
I think one of the first ‘spiritual’ books I read confused me. It pretty much said things like, “design your life so you don’t need anything from anyone. Ask for help rarely, but even then, remember that you do not need the other person or their opportunity”. I have always felt like asking for help was somehow a failure. In my growth, I’ve realized that’s not necessarily the case; but still, that first book has stuck with me, and I can still see wisdom in it. I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of ‘owing’ someone something. (I hate being in debt. If I have borrowed something, I need to give it back ASAP, and I get pissed if people have my stuff for a long period of time)
It’s hard to find helpful material on this; I’ve been googling away and haven’t found much. Just using my own instincts, I guess that it’s important to remember that you LOVE what you do, and remember why you want to do it in the first place. I want to share music with people that touches their emotions, entertains them, and helps them in their lives. That is my bottom line. Pretty altruistic, right? Of course, I also want success and to make a living off what I do. But that isn’t the real why of why I do it. So I guess it’s important to convey that love to whomever you’re talking to – focus on the love of what you do, and remember that it isn’t wrong to ask for help. Whoever you ask probably has something to gain from what you do, also. Never ask for something for free, always try and offer something in return. If it’s not appropriate for it to be money, then maybe offer some sort of musical service, or a helpful favor in return. I’m not just thinking in a grim “eye for an eye” way either; it simply feels ‘spiritually’ right to offer something back to someone who helps. Even if they don’t take it up, it’s nice to have offered.
Another thing to remember is to see the person you are asking for help as a person with their own feelings and agenda. What you want may not fit in with what they want. Therefore, it might be necessary to compromise. Or hell, they might even flat out say “no”. Which isn’t the end of the world. The opportunity simply wasn’t meant to be! The thing is that, while there are a lot of wonderful individuals in the music business, there are also a lot of REAL users/sharks/assholes in there too. I have met quite a few of them. Many have said no to me, and the ones who haven’t have usually been pushing some weirdo agenda of their own. I guess, in all honesty, I wouldn’t want to be in business with these sorts of people anyway. So it’s a good thing it didn’t work out with them.
All this being said, I really value the connections I have made in music. My connections that have lasted have all sprung from spontaneous meetings (or online meetings), and have been borne of a mutual friendship and love of music. I would genuinely do any favor for these lovely people, and wouldn’t feel abashed about asking them for help.
In a Q Music workshop last year, I heard some great advice that I took to heart: “Even though you’re in a band, never stop being a fan of other bands”. This is such an important statement. It’s so necessary, both in a creative and professional sense, to keep going to gigs, and keep meeting other bands. Seeing new (and old) bands perform will energize and inspire you. There’s a reason every musician has influences. We feed off each other; we learn new things and try new things by seeing each other work. And meeting other bands can naturally lead to great professional opportunities. If you meet another band who you click with, personally or musically, you can do shows together down the road. Or at the very least make a great friendship that may even lead to collaborations, or simply learning from each other. Musical friendships are the best!
The music community can be wonderfully supportive and caring. I guess you can choose your attitude. Do you choose to see it as a cold, dog-eat-dog world? Or a nurturing, forgiving environment that helps you grow? I make a vow to see it as the latter!
Lastly, if you are really struggling to find opportunities, there’s something to be said for making your own. If you can’t find any bands to gig with, contact venues yourself and ask to be slotted in. Or put on your own show somewhere by renting a venue and inviting everyone. If you can’t scrape together the money for a bigwig producer, find someone studying sound engineering and volunteer to be their guinea pig. If you can’t find a label to sign you, start your own, or distribute through bandcamp or cdbaby. Not getting out there? Write to music blogs, newspapers and street presses. And most music publicists offer publicity packages. There are so many avenues for indie musicians these days. Of course, all of this involves networking to an extent. But when you are coming from a place of being responsible for yourself and your own career, it can feel like you’re putting less pressure on people to ask for help.
There is so much more I could say on this topic. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself from just writing this post. My mental blockages about asking for help are really stupid! It probably sounds silly, but it is a real fear of mine to ‘use’ people. However, the fact that I fear ‘using people’ must mean that I…don’t actually want to use people. So why am I afraid?
Maybe I am afraid that even ‘asking for help’ is ‘using people’. Possibly, it is simply this fear that is coming across to people I approach. I will have to be mindful of this next time.
Have a wonderful day, thanks for reading and see you next time! xx
Edit: I wrote this late last night, and upon waking this morning found a great blogpost from The Daily Love sitting in my email inbox. I love how this blog often lines up with my current concerns. Check it out, good advice on dealing with your perceived ‘flaws’: http://thedailylove.com/the-journey-is-about-being-more-human-not-more-spiritual/