Music Tutorials

Opening a Door or Closing it – a look at a pair of business pitches?

Everyone hates an arrogant person. Being called arrogant is like a sort of social killer-punch. But I think we are a bit turned-around on what constitutes Arrogance vs Professionalism.

I grew up in the 80s when we really started to see this sort of cult of personality thing come through to the masses. I remember sitting at a deck-bar and watching some guy walk in with this over-the-shoulder mobile phone. That wasn’t an issue in itself, but that he always managed to waggle that shoulder so everyone could see how important he was that he needed to be contactable during a Sunday afternoon session when everyone else was groovin’ to the Reggae band or at home watching football. That was the arrogant bit.

Back then most of the arrogant people I knew (and in my brother’s circle that was most of em) actually had some cause. They were really good looking in their Don Johnson suit, a top insurance salesman, DJ at the biggest club. Or even all three at once.

But in the last 20 or so years, it really changed. Sure there are still a ton of arrogant people in fancy duds but the most arrogant people are playing a different, more insidious, game.

Splendor Demon Majesty

These days when we have everyone trying to be a Social Media mover & shaker, many fall straight into the trap of thinking that being arrogant is what makes a success.

Rap culture is the master of this approach. Diss all the other Rappers and spit about how your shizz is better than their shizz. How you pop a cap in their limp shizz. It seems to work. On an animal level at least. But business is not done on an animalistic level.

Cannibals don’t make good business partners.

The Rappers who make it are not those with the most arrogance. They are the ones who build something. Eminem is a savvy businessman.

Here’s the dilemma, I get offered “jobs” every few days where the doors slam shut really fast. Here’s a precis of one I got yesterday. He:

  • Tells me how they are really fussy about their sound.
  • Talked about the instruments they play and how happening they are about to be.
  • Asked 2 more times how many revisions I will do of their mixes until all 5-6 fussy band members are satisfied.

Theory says I should be following some “customers are always right”, “bend over backwards” sort of garbage and soothing all their fears so I win their trust & business.

Nah. I decline this every time. Sometimes straight out. Sometimes with a few words of why and some advice for next time they try to pitch.

Mostly I don’t get any response. Sometimes though I do and in those cases, it isn’t a polite Thank-You note I can tell you. Put politely, they call me Arrogant.

If you get declined like that, you may be right that the person who declined you is, in fact, an Arrogant Asshole. Or maybe you are that and the other person is actually being Professional.

And before you come over all about me being Rappist, I get it from New-Agers, Rockers, Poppers, wannabe Health Gurus…

Desperadoes Waiting For A Train

Did you notice what was missing in the above bullet points? If not then please pay attention.

WIIFM – that stands for What’s In It For Me?

In those points above the person asks for great work from me, on an open-ended clock. That is it.

What about who you are – your current work? How do I know if I am hip to your groove? Not everyone is great at everything. You don’t ask The Rolling Stones to write your next EDM Club Anthem. You don’t ask Deadmau5 to write a Blues Rock song. Maybe each of them could do that but would it be amazing work? No. People are not interchangeable. Look for what each person specializes in. I make it clear I specialize in Story. Ok, so that isn’t as simplistic as Rap/Rock/Country but it covers all of those so long as you are about Story. You know if you are or if you are only spitting cliches. So why are you not telling me your story like I asked? Which brings me to…

How about some respect? If it is clear that you haven’t read the first thing about me (on the link I sent which covers mix revisions), how am I to be confident that you will do anything I say as the job progresses? I will spend 10 mins at the very minimum to research you. Even if I don’t like your track in 3 seconds. That is only respectful. To be more open “it is just good business” as there may be something else I like or some redeeming feature. I won’t move until I feel I have a reasonably complete picture.

What about my fee? Do my children eat your (unlikely) fame? Does my ability mean less than yours? If you want amazing work from me but are not offering any money – and let me tell you $5 is not amazing – how can that ever play out? Would I be excited enough to do anything amazing for you? I ain’t your puppet-slave.

Is that not the very definition of Arrogance? That pitch shows me that you are thinking only about yourself. And in a DUMB way. Remember I define Dumb as:

When you are so self-interested that you
damage your own self-interest.

Is this the wise way? Let me show you a far more positive contact I just got from a student filmmaker:

Play To Win

Here’s a precis of his short note. He:

  • Addressed me by name (correctly spelled and with a capital B)
  • Gave a line about who/where he is not only physically but in his career.
  • Directly complimented my work and singled out a particular piece for a few words.
  • Offered to send over the work. He was worried that I may not find it good enough for some technical failure or other but still feels that the Story works.
  • Said if I am still interested once I have seen the early edit then we can talk about money.

Notice the huge differences with not only the number of points covered but that this filmmaker is eager to make sure I can see he wants me on board by showing he researched me and making sure I can see that there will be something of value for me in return.

The only slightly sour note was about signing an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). This is not a great thing to do as a Pro won’t talk, regardless of a piece of paper. A piece of paper that unless you are wealthy is worth nothing because “there’s no money in this deal” – you can’t afford to go legal and the scuzz-ball probably has no money to give you anyway. So why start a relationship saying “I don’t trust you”? Better not to.

I bet if I sign on to Score “Avatar II” I get to sign a raft of gag-orders but not to sit in a cafe to talk about the film and see a few pics of blue CGI people.

Overall this short message opened up a door, where the first closed a door.

Incense & Peppermints

Arrogance closes doors. Professionalism opens them. Thinking only about your own importance is arrogant – even if you do it in that Passive-Aggressive “just saying”, “hehe” way that Hipsters so love to pretend is easy going.

I just finished reading the Glyn Johns book “Sound Man” where he mostly talks about many of the people he met and worked with from the 60’s to the 00’s. A common theme there was that he spoke about how kind & caring a person was or how arrogant they were. I also noted how most of the people who tried to treat him poorly got cut right off. Even later in his career when work was more scarce. Glyn showed integrity and rewarded it in others.

I bet if Elvis was in town developin’ a hankerin’ for a sing and lobbed up at my studio, he’d not have been all, “so you need to do this for me coz I’m fucking elvis fucking presley you loser fuck hehe”. Elvis would have probably just quietly laid a few large notes on the desk and handed over an apple pie for Jane & the Girls. He mighta winked and said, “don’t tell no one”. And I wouldn’t, not till much later, when it didn’t matter anyway. The story was credit in Elvis’s pocket, just as it was for me.

If you want a complete walk-through on how to develop a Pitch (and handle yourself when shizz gets real) then I wrote one already.

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