There’s a time and a place to let that freak flag fly and if that place is not onstage or in front of a camera, it’s not the right place. All societies and groups have unwritten rules for properly interacting with each other and the entertainment business is no exception. The environment may look different (less kakis and polos, more black t-shirts and tattoos) but there is still a business etiquette to follow. Business is about building relationships and there are guidelines to work within each relationship in order to make it successful.
I spoke with Thomas “T” Jenkins III, CEO of Conscious Mind Records to get his thoughts on the best way to handle your (entertainment) business.
The 1st step in building relationships is to know who to talk to. If you don’t know then ask. Don’t spend all your energy sending press kits to a bar owner for a gig if they outsource to a booking agent. Otherwise you waste your time and theirs. And make sure to tell them what you can do for them instead of just asking for something. T of Conscious Mind Records said, “I run a business…I have to have a product I can sell.
Make sure all band members know who is allowed to speak on the band’s behalf. An Orlando band booked a rare acoustic gig but because the bassist didn’t have an acoustic, he couldn’t play. So he emailed and canceled the gig without the rest of the band knowing. The venue was getting a cancelation email and an email confirming details from different band members. No one will work with a group that brings that kind of confusion and drama.
When trying to make contacts, How you approach can be as important as Who you approach. T said, “I prefer people get at me through someone that personally knows me. If they can’t do that, then they need to have a package ready. When they approach me cold, they need to have their music and themselves at the top of their game – READY. If I ask you to sing right there, be ready. You only get one shot.”
There is a fine line between following up and outright stalking. Have patience. “Wait 2 weeks before calling or sending another email. If nothing, then wait a week and send another. If there’s no response after that – that’s your response. I may want to listen to the music but it can sit in the car for a while, so follow up is good. Just space it out.”
To avoid confusion and set expectations, indicate in your conversation or email, how and when you will follow up. It’s always nice to ask if they have a communication preference. If you ask for or give a time line of communication there is less of a chance it will be seen as unwanted or annoying.
Respond to all requests. Even if that response is, ‘I can’t address this right now. Please give me a few weeks.’ People feel slighted when they are not acknowledged. Even if your response denies what they ask for, that you responded at all can earn their respect.
WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY?
Even if you’re selling out hometown clubs and have 5 thousand LIKES on Facebook, no one knows who you are. It’s ok if someone doesn’t know your name. It’s not personal. In the beginning of conversations say a quick reminder of who you are and what you do. i.e. ‘Sue, booking manager for…’ If you are communicating thru emails, keep it semi formal. If you get to casual too quick and assume they know who ‘Sue’ is without any other indication, your email could end up in the trash bin. Don’t make them re read your previous emails.
When you tell them your function don’t assume they’ll know what you want from them. If you want something, ask for it specifically. Saying, ‘We should work together!’ is a good start but should not be the sum total of your pitch. Being specific increases the chances of getting what you want. “Offer to do something. Impress me. Don’t just ask for a hand out. I get a lot of people who just want record deals. They’re still in that mindset.”
KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS
Shocker: Artistic folks sometimes run late. That doesn’t make it ok. Big stars can be on their own time but unless you’re that star, it’s not your time to waste. At risk of sounding school marmish, punctuality is a mark of professionalism in any business. It speaks directly to the issue of integrity to honor your commitments. Yes, it is possible to have integrity and swallow a roadside turtle on stage. (I wish I could unsee that…)
A No Show can kill a career faster than winning American Idol. (See Ruben Studdard) A good excuse may make it excusable, but not acceptable. Find a way to do what you say.
If you do get some face time, treat it like relationship building it is. If you ask, you pay. (hear that ladies?) If it’s coffee don’t take up an hour of their time. In any case, the meeting should be focused on the conversation, not the location. “The Trick is to not be so flashy,” said T. “It has to be real. When money comes into the equation it can separate the artists/product from the artist as a person.”
LOOSE LIPS ARE ONLY GOOD ON GROUPIES
In contrast to traditional business fields, in the entertainment business, there is an increased likelihood of openly seeing alcohol and drug abuse, and infidelity. T thinks, “To each his own. If it’s hurting me or my business, so be it. We’re all adults and are accountable for our own actions.” Got dirt? Heard a rumor? Keep it to yourself. No one will work for you if they think you’ll talk out of school. Even if its them that are engaging in poor/illegal behavior, it’s you who will be seen as untrustworthy. “That behavior is taking a chance. It can put their reputation and career in jeopardy. We try to keep Conscious Mind’s artists out of all that.”
HATERS GONNA HATE
Not everyone will like what you do and that’s ok. (Say it with me now!) It’s not like your last romantic break up. You don’t have to bang your head and wonder why. Like romantic relationships, focus your energy on those who like you. Don’t hate the haters. Just move on.
FREE COSTS MONEY
Someone pays for all that SWAG. Ask sparingly and politely. I once overheard a radio DJ demand a free CD at a merch table because he, ‘didn’t pay for music.’ He got one but the band called him a dick when they heard about it from their merch girl. A better way would have been to ask and find out who the person who can authorize that is.
How you ask is important but so is location. “If we’re at place, displaying our stuff, go ‘head and ask. The worst you can hear is no. If you see me walking down the street, it’s probably not the best time. Consumers always reach for something free. I do give-a-ways as advertising. There’s a value I get back.”
SAY THANK YOU