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Stop Burning Bridges...
or Your Career Might Go Up in Flames!
by Sheena Metal, December 2006

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Nobody said the music business was going to be easy.
It truly is a jungle out there filled with: snakes, rats, rabid carnivores, sharks…well, you get the picture.
  In the course of your musical journey, there will be confrontations, arguments, misunderstandings, and miscommunications.  You’ll get jerked around, ripped off and disrespected.  So, you want to be a rockstar?  Welcome to your nightmare.

But this is also a business of good people, who’ll give you opportunities and chances and help you out when you least expect it.  That’s why it’s so important that you, as musicians and as a band, act professionally and respectfully regardless of the behavior of those you encounter.  You don’t have to be a pushover and of course, you have a right to defend yourself against the questionable actions of others, but the music community can be a very small town and the behavior you exhibit will follow you throughout your musical career.

On the flipside of that, there are musicians out there who, either knowingly or unknowingly bring negativity on themselves through their own actions.  Short temperedness, egocentricism, brazen entitlement, compulsive lying and just plain old psychotic behavior can brand your band as troublemakers and deprive you of important opportunities that you need to move forward in this business.

So, how can you make sure that you’re doing onto others as you wish they would do onto you?  What can you, as musicians do, to eliminate aspects of your personality that may be causing bad blood between you and the people you run across on your way to superstardom?

The following are a few tips that may help you to make sure you’re exhibiting professional behavior at all times:

Be Timely And Courteous---Whether you’re playing out live or emailing booking inquiries from home, there is never a substitute for courteously or timeliness.  At gigs, show up when you’re supposed to, be friendly, treat others with respect, set up quickly, end your set on time, break down quickly, be mindful of other bands on stage, compliment those around you and don’t forget simple things like, “please” and “thank you.”  When you leave a positive impression in people’s minds, you’ll be high on their list when it comes time to fill an open booking slot, recommend a band for a review, etc.

Make Sure Your Actions Match Your Words---It’s such a simple thing but you’d be surprised how many musicians seem incapable to doing what they say they’re going to.  If you book a gig, show up and play.  If you say you’re going to bring twenty friends and fans to your gig, do it.  If you reserve an ad in a local music magazine, pay for it.  If you write a check, make sure that it doesn’t bounce.  If you say you’re going to send out a press package or a CD, mail it.  It is true that many people in the music business are distrustful of bands that they don’t know, and with good reason in many instances.  Build your good reputation in the industry by proving that you will do what you’ve promised.  Start small.  Once you’ve gain people’s trust, you’ll see more and more doors opening up for your band.

Take The High Road---It may be tough but there’s nothing to be gained from returning someone’s improper behavior with a heap-load of your own.  That doesn’t mean that you need to let every industry slime-bag from New York to LA ride roughshod all over your music project but there are ways to deal with the negative behavior in this business without branding yourself with a label equally as negative.  Sending firm yet professional letters, making intelligent and informed phone inquiries and, if need be, taking legal action against those who have acted inappropriately are ways to handle unpleasant situations without drawing negative attention to yourself.  Public scenes, yelling and screaming, long-winded and ranting emails, threats and accusations and spiteful actions may make you feel vindicated but it may chase away the good people as well as the bad and that just sets your band back.

You Can’t Undo What You’ve Already Done---It’s much harder to undo past bad behaviors, or reverse negative reputations than it is to foster positive ones.  It’s best when starting out to avoid acting rash as a rule.  If you have a band member that is incapable of keeping his or her cool, perhaps it’s time to rethink his or her place in your group.  The entertainment industry has a long memory and a spiteful tongue.  Make sure when people speak of you, they’re speaking well.

This may all seem like such common sense that it isn’t even worth mentioning but you’d be surprised how many shows, interviews, tours, and record deals have never materialized because of burned bridges.  You may have talent and great tunes, but if your attitude sucks you’ll get passed over time and again.  No one wants to work with rage-aholics, egomaniacs or crazies.  Don’t let anyone think that’s what your band is about.  Sure it’s important to be creative geniuses but if no one likes you, you’ll be performing your masterpieces in the garage for grandma and her Pomeranian.  Get smart and treat people right and you may find yourself rockin’ all the way to the bank.


Sheena Metal is a radio host, producer, promoter, music supervisor, consultant, columnist, journalist and musician.  Her syndicated radio program, Music Highway Radio, airs on over 700 affiliates to more than 126 million listeners.  Her musicians’ assistance program, Music Highway, boasts over 10,000 members.  She currently promotes numerous live shows weekly in the Los AngelesArea, where she resides.  For more info: http://www.sheena-metal.com.

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