Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dread and the Client Drop (or How to Work with Others)

This week, I performed one of my least favorite tasks: notifying an artist I won't be working with them.

Contrary to popular belief about managers, agents, A&R people, and other music executives, it's not something I ever relish or look forward to. Although I will admit to sometimes feeling a sense of "good riddance" if someone's been a real pain in the bleep.

I mention it because the artist made a key mistake you'll want to avoid in your own career: we're dropping the artist from our radar because the artist is too difficult to work with. (To protect the artist's privacy, I'll change the details.)

"Difficult" isn't bad in itself. Frankly I worry when someone blindly follows everything I tell them without question, because it means they can't say no (which leads to other problems later on).

What matters is the degree of "difficult."

State your case, and defend your art. But pick your battles. You can be hands on without being a bleep. If you're paying someone to advise you--especially when you've contacted them for help, not the other way around--don't argue with everything they're telling you. Artists who do are exhausting to work with, and people go out of their way to avoid working with them. (I once had a client who once spent 45 minutes arguing with me on the placement of a comma in his bio...Even after I showed him the entry in Strunk and White's Elements of Style and an English textbook. True story.)

Let me give you another example: Getting someone to redo some seriously off-pitch notes that are prominently heard in a chorus shouldn't take the band, a producer, an engineer, myself, and ten rocket scientists from Teledyne an hour to convince them. (OK, I exaggerated on this one. But close...)

And that's just one chorus, of one song...Of an entire CD. (Can we say expensive studio time?)

I don't claim that it's easy taking criticism, letting others into the process, delegating, or dealing with control issues. But we all go through it, no matter what we do for a living. It's all in how you handle it.

Assuming you have good people working with you, at some point you have to relax a little and let people do their jobs. Otherwise you're wasting your money, and their time. (Not to mention the time of everyone else who's working on the project.) If you can't trust them enough to let yourself relax a little, either you haven't done your job in hiring people you're comfortable with, or you're having trouble with control issues.

It's sad, because this artist is talented, and I'd really like to see them succeed.

But it ain't gonna be with me. Nor the previous other people who tried to manage them...Is it any surprise that the more successful the artist, the easier they are to work with?

©2006 Randi Reed