I believe that everything we do should start with “relationship”. Now when I say relationship, I mean a true and honest relationship, based on meeting the needs of others and always serving before selling. Relationship is the cornerstone on which everything in the music business relies. But like I stated previously, it must be genuine.
I have worked in the music business for over 7 years now, and the best piece of advice I was ever given when I first started was to “buy a lot of lunches.” In other words, it is good to be in community, always building a network of friends and colleagues. Over the past 7 years, I have gained a large network of people with whom I am in fellowship. These people are pastors, musicians, radio programmers, concert promoters, industry folks, and retail employees. All of these people have different rolls in the Kingdom of God, and all of them have different needs and wants. Everyone’s jobs are different and specific.
Radio programmers are concerned with their “listeners” and keeping people continually tuned into their station.
Retailers are concerned with sales – how they can meet their sales goals and expand their market share.
Concert promoters are concerned about putting people in the seats and selling out concert halls.
Churches are worried about the spiritual growth of their congregations and keeping their core values intact, regardless of the event.
Publicists are concerned about getting their artists’ stories told and their cds reviewed by publications.
Record label guys are concerned with selling music, raising the platform of their artists, and recouping back the money spent on marketing and creating a cd.
All of these are valid and highly specific concerns, but that is not all that goes into each of these people’s lives.
These folks also have families, favorite sports teams, unusual hobbies, spiritual needs, and personal goals. When you truly understand that, a relationship can start to take form.
People are people and want to be treated like a friend rather than a conduit to help you meet your own personal and professional goals. They want to be cared for and not counted on in a statistical line.
In order to really make headways in the music industry, I genuinely believe that a person needs to be an excellent communicator and a lover of people. Each occupation in this industry is based on content and relationship. You have to have a great song for it to be played on radio. But someone at the record label has to have a strong relationship with the radio station for them to trust that the song is worth supporting.
Trust is the key component to relationship. A radio station, music buyer for a retail chain, or church staff member has to have a “trust” built up with the artist or their representative in order to gain significant headway. If there is no trust, then there are minimal opportunities. Trust is important because the person on the other end of the phone needs to know that if they invest in you or your artist, you will do your best to protect their interests and not just your own interests.
A church needs to know that the music is appropriate, the message fits with their doctrine, and that the spiritual needs of the church’s congregation are the biggest priority.
Often times, I will spend weeks, months, and in some cases, years developing and nurturing relationships, so that when I need them the most, there are groups of people that will be in my corner.
Frank Sinatra said it best, I believe, when he said, “A friend is not an imposition.”
So here are a few key ideas that can be taken away from this small blog that people may find helpful:
1-Always start a friendship with someone for honest reasons. A.k.a. – Don’t use people. You will lose, and the other person will eventually walk away because of the disingenuous relationship.
2-When booking a show or visiting a radio station, always walk humbly. Remember you want them to do something for you, albeit book a show, play your song, or purchase your music. Find ways to partner with each relationship in areas they are passionate about and in which they are already involved.
3-Know when to punt and step back. I have great radio and retail relationships in which I do not push too hard. Know the strength your relationship and the other person’s personality, and you will find the “line”. If someone cannot do something for you, be wise, and do not pressure them. They will respect you for it later.
4-Don’t always talk business. Many times I take my industry friends to lunch for no other reason than that I like their company. I don’t want anyone to feel like I am taking advantage of them or only hanging with them if I need something.
5-Write thank you notes and learn to apologize quickly if you are in the wrong. Be real. Be thankful. Treat people well.
6-Learn the appropriate times to utilize a relationship. Once a friendship has formed and someone enjoys the product you have introduced (i.e. music, cd, concert, etc.), know when it’s okay to ask them for help.
7-Over Deliver and Under Promise. When you perform for a church, make the evening special, and give all of your attention to what you are there to do…love people and perform your craft well.
8-Keep up with people after you have spent time with them. The relationship should not and does not have to end after you have performed a concert, given a presentation, or released/set-up a song or record. Make sure that the communication lines are not only open, but ongoing.
9-Figure out what people love, and then participate in it with them. I do this by keeping up with people’s facebook pages, commenting on things we have in common, or even taking people out to play golf or basketball. Figure out what is personally important to each person, and then participate.
10-Make sure that whatever you do, you do it with integrity. Trust is one part of relationships; integrity is the other side. Make sure that when someone finally trusts you with something, you do your best to honor them and the people they represent.
It’s always better to serve than lead.