If there is one thing I understand deeply after being in the music business for more than 30 years, it’s that relationships are important.
I had to practice drums a lot when I was young and still practice today. I had to sit in at many jam sessions. I had to meet and be open to playing with many musicians and many styles of music. Most importantly though, I had to build strong musical friendships with people in the music communities where I’ve lived.
I think being successful in the music business is 40% skill on your instrument and 60% having a winning attitude when working with other people. You definitely have to be good on your instrument in the style of music you want to play. Once that is okay though, the rest of your success depends on how you communicate with the band members, promoters, club owners and fans.
Thank you is the most important phrase you can speak, use it often.
When I am offered a gig, I say “Thank You.”
When the band leader or members give me charts I say “Thank You.”
When I am asked to change the tempo or play something specific in the music, I say “Thank You.”
When I talk to the audience on breaks or at the end of a show, I say “Thank You.”
When I sell CDs, I say “Thank You.”
When I am paid, I say “Thank You.”
When I leave to go home, I say “Thank You” to all of the band members and club owner/manager.
“Thank you” is powerful and can never be overused.
It’s all about the music
There are times when I am corrected for playing something incorrectly and I accept the criticism with a “Thank You.”
There are also times when I need to correct someone and when I do, I always think, “How can I say this in a way that will help us all make the music sound better.”
We’ve all heard about temperamental band leaders or band members that are mean when they give criticism to others. Maybe it’s when the venue staff brings roast beef sandwiches to the dressing room and we’re vegetarian, the guitarist messes up the same melodic phrase repeatedly or the rental drum set we have to play sounds like a collection of trash cans.
Whatever the problem, we ALWAYS have two choices in how we can respond. If we respond with impatience, hostility and anger, the problem will get bigger and eventually threaten the ability for the band to perform our best.
If, however, we are patient, choose our words carefully and work with others to solve the problem, the band grows closer and the show will not be affected by bad feelings.
All criticism should always be shared in a way that will support the music sounding its best.
Be a good guest
Just like when we visit somebody’s house, we want to be a good guest in whatever musical situation we’re playing in. If I go to my friends’ house, walk in the door, take a baseball bat and start destroying their furniture, they’re probably not going to invite me back.
I know this example may seem a bit extreme, but what I’m really trying to say is that if we behave the way we behave when visiting someone’s house, people will gladly invite us back to play more music.
Mastering the 60% is not difficult. Just be the kind of person you would like to play music with and everything will work out great!