Although I was not asked a question relating to the following, a recurring theme came up in several conversations while at the NAMM show last week. I’d like to say first that I had no bad experiences with anyone while hanging at the show. I did hear some fans talk of a few negative experiences they had when approaching their heroes however. This got me thinking… maybe I was having interactions that were a lot different than some of the “big name” players have with people who they didn’t know.
As some of you already know, NAMM is one of the major musician hangs of the year. You have everyone who makes the gear, plays the gear, buys the gear for the stores and many who just admire the whole scene… all hanging out in a huge convention center in Anaheim, CA. I absolutely love the hang and love hearing some of my favorite musicians jam. I especially love the conversations I have with my peers and heroes.
However, there are always a few who seem to think that, in order to be taken seriously and perceived as having “made it”, they have to carry themselves a certain way. Basically, they vibe people and only give attention to those who can do something for them or are at least on an equal playing ground with regard to recognition.
I don’t care to waste much time complaining about anything. I judge people by the quality of their character and, if I’m not enjoying someone’s energy or they’re rubbing me in the wrong way, I simply turn off and put my attention elsewhere. That’s their business and it’s my choice whether or not to take part in their thing.
This did, however, remind me of an old rule of thumb I once heard with regard to touring musicians and how to treat the people around you and I thought it was worth sharing.
The way it was told to me was this: “Never give a hard time to those who deal with your sound, food or hotel room”.
Essentially, be kind and courteous to those who have control over your happiness in one way or another.
It’s a nice rule of thumb, but I prefer to take it much further and include everyone in the equation.
The saying is more in reference to certain situations you find yourself in while traveling as a musician. There will be times when a customs agent seems to have singled you out or the front desk clerk is being unhelpful or the sound guy is having a bad day. It is important in these instances, when you don’t have a choice of who is actually in control (or even perceives themselves to be in control) to really bite your tongue and keep calm and speak with a smile and with levity. You really do get more of the outcome you hope for with kindness and understanding of the others situation than you do stomping your feet and declaring your superiority.
But I’d encourage all of you to try and employ the philosophy of kindness, empathy and intentionality to all who cross your path. Whether you are playing stadiums or dive bars, those who appreciate your art are some of the most important people you can meet. Respond to their love, adoration or respect with honest-to-goodness attention, and give them your full attention. Even if it’s only for a minute or two before you have to split.
I can’t tell you how many people I heard at the show talk about being disappointed after meeting a hero of theirs only to discover that the person would blow them off, maybe take a picture but with a half-hearted lack of attention or wouldn’t even acknowledge them. Aside from the obvious side effect of losing fans and respect, the reality is that you actually hurt someone’s feelings by telling them in your own way that you feel that you are more important than them and they are of a lower class somehow.
From my perspective, the fan is a member of your family and you should be thankful for anyone who gives you a moment of their precious time to listen to your music, spend hard earned money on your music or go out of their way to tell you that they appreciate you.
Be humble people! There is always someone who is not as good, just as good, and better than you at what you do. And even if you are the best at what you do, who cares? We are all people and we all have talents with regard to something and we’re all doing the best that we can. Focus less on perceiving music as a competition and enjoy the community of it all. The musical community is so full of mutual respect and love for one another if you are open to playing a part.
If you feel the need to compete and dominate everyone in some way, the chances are that you will:
- Be replaced by someone cooler to work with and hang with, by those who hire you
- Lose the respect of your peers and fans
- Wind up a bitter, lonely and unhappy (awesome) musician
Who cares about the “awesome” part? That, to me, seems the least important aspect of it all. Do your thing and be who you are. Don’t front or vibe people… be cool.
If you’re a natural born jerk, then go with it, I guess. I think we all have a choice.
Be cool and embrace this wonderful community of musicians and music lovers.