The Best Seat and Fastest Way to the Circus
The other day, I was introduced to another engineer by a mutual friend here in Houston, I won’t mention either parties name, however, I felt sorry for my friend as she was embarrassed by the actions of her friend. As she introduced us, this young man wouldn’t look me in the eyes, nor did he acknowledge my presence. As if it wasn't already awkward enough, I reached out and shook his hand. After our exchange of gesture, he immediately retreated turning his back to me while starting another conversation with her. Needless to say, I was astonished! Afterwards she apologized for her friend’s actions. Nevertheless, this incident reminded me of a story my former mentor told me.
My mentor, let’s call him Berry, before becoming an producer/engineer was an up and coming country singer, or rather, a road scholar on the path where dreams come true. In the late 70’s his band was hired as the house band in a downtown club located in Nashville. There happened to be a young man who bussed tables at this club who always bugged Berry, ranting about how he was going to be a “big star” as so many say. As the story goes, this young man was supposedly a terrible singer, in which he was frequently ridiculed and his dreams were always in need of defense, as the members of the band would joke about his lack of talent.
Of course, Berry said in this day he was young, stupid, and arrogant, as he already had a recording contract, which may have added to his already large ego. This led him to an idea to humiliate this young man. One night, Berry decided to allow this fellow to sing a couple tunes in his place giving Berry a much-needed break. Being this boy’s first performance in front of an audience, he was nervous and subsequently, he choked. Berry laughed in his expense saying hurtful things, as if it wasn’t already embarrassing enough for the poor lad. Years went by and this young man landed himself a major label and was on the road to success! He had written a huge hit!
Now at this time Berry’s career was good, but not major label good, if you know what I mean. As if destiny called, Berry received news that both of them would be performing at the same festival. After arriving at the festival, Berry began heading to his old friends trailer in hopes to kindle a working relationship, however, his old friend wanted nothing to with him and wouldn’t see him. This young man went on to record many hits for many years while Berry was left behind, which may have been a result of his lack of professionalism towards others. God only knows how this story would have turned out for Berry if his ego hadn’t gotten in the way. I too, am guilty of occasions of arrogance, which in retrospect is the primary reason I wasn’t able to land a job.
I was in the running for a position with a small sound company in Oklahoma. They were providing the production for an event and I was hired to run FOH for an artist that day. I had my resume in with this company thinking I had it in the bag! However, I believed I was superior to all their current engineers.
The entire time I was making remarks to the artist about the companies engineers and how I was so much better. What I didn’t know is that they were good friends with everyone on staff, including the owner. I’m sure word got around about my lack of professionalism; thus, I was no longer in the running for the job.
Setting your ego aside may be the best thing you can do in this industry. Everyone has one, yet you don’t want to have the largest, as the one with the largest ego comes off as the biggest jerk. And no one wants to work with biggest jerk! No matter whom you meet in this industry, it’s best you show every musician, artist, engineer, producer, or fan, respect. Refrain from all negative remarks and remain positive about anyone and everyone you meet because each person may lead to your next paycheck.
A friend of mine, who has become very successful in the industry recently told me that "people just want a cool guy to hang out with, and that's the best seat and the fastest way to the circus". The music industry, like any industry, is all about networking. Music is subjective by nature and what you think is good, others perceive to be atrocious, therefore, you may be a great musician, artist, or producer, but someone is always better equipped for the job. Showing everyone respect will earn them your trust which may lead to better opportunities and the job you've been dreaming of. Remember, you never know who might be the next Micheal Jackson and when that happens, you want to be on their good side!
As always, I encourage all of you, to go out and capture matchless performances through the art of recording!