music morsels July 2006 

FEATURE ARTICLE - Communication - Essential to Your Music Career
by Mark E. Waterbury

Communication. Plain and simple, this is one of, if not the most important element in every relationship. Professional, personal...without communication most relationships are doomed to failure. Since the music industry is rooted in relationships, whether you are a musician or business professional, communication is absolutely essential. Without it, your career can grind to a halt or never reach its maximum potential.

Musicians should be well-versed in communication skills. After all, when you perform or record music, you are communicating your feelings or stories through your music. So there is no reason why musicians cannot effectively communicate with their bandmates and professional team on a regular basis to make sure everyone is on the same page. For example, if you are working with a booking agent while still booking shows yourself, you need to immediately let the agent know if you just booked a show. Few occurrences can upset an agent more than to land you a gig only to find out that you had previously booked that date. If you have a publicist, it is wise to keep the lines of communication open about anything happening that they can publicize. If you have a manager or label who are overseeing most of your bookings, publicity and other career aspects, then frequent communication is a must. With the importance of deals in a music career, it is also wise to have communication options open with your professional team even if you are out of town. Something may happen such as an interview that has to be conducted with expediency, or a deal that needs your immediate approval. You really need to be available for contact 24/7 in case something comes along that is beneficial, but also time sensitive. With today’s available communication technology, this is easy to do. Make sure you have constant contact capabilities for all of your band members, too, in case a possible deal or show involves a unanimous band decision.

Just as in a marriage, romantic relationship or friendship, communication is also necessary on a personal level for your music career to survive. While this does not necessarily mean you have to let your bandmates or professional team know every detail of your personal life, it does mean you have to get problems, concerns or questions about your music career out in the open. You have to talk out issues and not hide them and let them build up until they may explode into a problem that is too big to overcome.  No one is going to agree with everyone one hundred percent of the time, and everyone will have some issues to deal with, so this type of communication is paramount. Personal relationships can go up in flames from not communicating in this way, so you can bet your career will as well.

Unfortunately, a lot of musicians think that great music is all that they need. If that music does not get into anyone’s hands, then it could be the best music in the world and still not do anything for you. When you are trying to get your music exposure, labels, booking agents, music supervisors, radio music directors, and journalists are some of the most obvious entities you want to send your music to. Speaking as someone who has been both a journalist and publicist, I have seen both sides of trying to get media coverage for bands and what surprises me from the journalism perspective is just how few musicians follow up on their submissions. Most journalists, agents, music directors and the like are very busy people and to get noticed by them you have to bring something a little extra to the table. By following up either by phone or email, you are at the very least communicating that you are serious about your music. Even if you have to leave a message on their answering machine, it is better than not attempting to follow up at all. Granted, a lot of these people may not call you back. You still have to be persistent without being intrusive and try to get at least some answer from them.

It is an understatement to say that communication has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell patented the first crude precursor to the telephone in 1876. You can pick up a phone in Atlanta and talk to someone in Australia like they are in the next room. PDA’s, email, computer video conferencing, there are so many devices and systems in place today to make communication easier. Unfortunately, some people use these devices to avoid communication instead. Most professionals working for musicians realize that they have to be persistent and use all forms of contact to make deals for their clients. Still, many people hide behind their answering machines and emails, often causing frustration. Professionals have to be creative as well as persistent, although the people they are trying to connect with have to learn to use communication more effectively themselves. While most indie bands and companies are not likely to speak with editors and top flight national magazines or decision makers at major labels, there is no reason they can’t hook up with the more independent prospects. Granted, there are a lot of busy people you have to deal with. Club bookers often multi-task and also cook, tend bar, or do other functions at the club. Indie publication editors sometimes do almost everything involving the publication process and they may have a regular day job. Yet if someone is taking the time to contact you to pitch theirs or their clients’ music, you should at least take a second to communicate with them. Indie musicians and business professionals of all types need to communicate more to form a stronger overall successful independent music atmosphere. Just as some bands or musicians don’t make it with their careers, it seems like every week another music club closes or indie mag ceases publication. If they are ignoring people who are contacting them about their music without even looking into them at all, they may be missing out on a band or musician or company that can bring something big to the table. I wonder if there are club booking agents kicking themselves by ignoring phone calls from Nickelback asking for a gig in their early days; or editors lamenting what it could have done for their publication if they had taken that call to interview Coldplay when they were starting out. Chances are if someone is being persistent in following up with you they have more to bring to the table then a band who sends you their CD and then forgets about it. You should at the very least give them some consideration. If you decide you are not interested, it only takes a few seconds to respond via email. You can’t really complain about someone who continues to call or email you if you do nothing to answer them or put a stop to it. You really should look at all options and possibilities because you never know who or what is going to increase the success of your career. This is extremely important whether you are a musician or business professional on any level.

I hope you all gleaned something from my communication efforts in this article. Whether you are a musician, manager, editor, agent or whatever, communication is beyond important for the enhancement of your careers. It is essential to hone your communication skills and communicate with everyone possible that has even the slightest chance of helping you. With all the avenues of communication available today, there is simply no excuse not to communicate.
Division of Serge Entertainment Group