Before I start, Thanks to Craig Spann for the topic 🙂
I teach Music Business at Mount Gravatt Tafe and within that class there are a few young kids (guys and girls) who are into punk and hardcore music and actually even manage bands and promote and put on All Ages shows. The amount of unprofessionalism that I hear coming back from the bands that they book and promote on these shows shocks me. I have luckily only been exposed to a few acts of unprofessionalism over the years, but I hear about these bands weekly from my students. I heard about a band who stole another band’s gear on the weekend, I heard about a band who trashed the backline that wasn’t even theirs, etc. (Now, I chatted to Phildelphia Grand Jury once and they said they trashed heaps of gear that wasn’t theirs, but always paid their debts straight away – keeping good relationships in the music industry even after doing that, that’s a huge undertaking. They have just broken up and there was an outpouring of “Oh, that’s a shame, they were a great band”, not “Those bastards broke my shit and acted like idiots in my venue!” Well Played, guys.) It’s the acting like a rockstar on AND off the stage that will start to kill your reputation, or outright slaughter it.
I’m not saying DON’T go nuts on stage, and play your heart out. Just don’t be a knob when you come off stage. To the sound guy, to the punters, to the bar staff, to other bands, to other bands’ managers, to anyone! Be helpful, genuine and give a lot of yourself to your fans. Take the time to chat with them.
It seems to me that professionalism and activities like networking are fairly dirty words in the music industry and that’s unfortunate. Everyone just wants to be about the music, maaaannnn. That’s great, and yeah, you should definitely have a great live show and great recordings and the best possible songs you can play. But behind all that there is a lot of relationship management, a lot of administration and emails and a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of doing favours for others and proving that your band can bring a crowd and put ona great show and being savvy about what shows, venues to play and bands to play with!
In terms maintaining your relationships in the industry, treat industry people like you would your friends – don’t hound people for things and acknowledge that relationships are not one-sided. There is give and take involved. You don’t have to check in each day with them, but definitely a check-in every now and again for a chat is required, even if there’s no actual business to be done.
One of the biggest tips I can recommend is picking your targets and knowing WHEN to ask for that favour to be returned. When you have a release, or when you are going on tour, or when you have something important to drop, that is the time to ask for it, not every other week and when you are just doing a gig for a bit of coin in your hometown.
I guess I am lucky enough that I have worked in a professional capacity as a Teacher, but seriously, it doesn’t take much to put together a good email or proposal to someone. Make sure you proof-read your email or get someone else to look over it. Also, MAKE SURE YOU INCLUDE THE NAME OF YOUR BAND AND A LINK TO YOUR MUSIC. I had someone contact me yesterday wanting a gig and didn’t even let me know the name of the band or what kind of music they play wanting to play a gig with a band they didn’t know of. Do your research and know what you are asking for. You will do your band a lot more damage than good if the outward look of your band is unprofessional.
All in all, the key to maintaining professional relationships in the industry is all about not acting like a dickhead on or off stage, establishing professionalism and catching up with industry people periodically and talking shop over a coffee or beer. It’s not hard, seriously, have a crack. It takes a bit of time away from your music initially, but it becomes second nature.
Don’t think that “business meetings” are the devil, because duh Duh DUH!!! Your band is a business. Sorry.