I have been approached several times in the last few months by musicians asking me to be a Mentor for their music & career. I should be flattered.
I am not because in every case the approach has been insulting.
Before anyone says
“why don’t you write a positive How To article
instead of being all negative like an un-woke hater?”
I have done that many times in the last 10+ years there are links below.
They didn’t help. Maybe a bit of a backhand will do a bit better. Probably not.
If I sent Elon Musk an email telling him how amazingly intelligent I am, coupled with links to a few social media outlets with little content as proof of how I am clearly about to become the next most-successful businessperson, followed by complaints about how expensive business school and website building is, but if only he would do his magic for me I would be ever so grateful which would make him feel great that he solved all my problems for me – for free of course – should I expect an answer, let alone a positive answer?
I would assume not as success comes after a proper foundation is built. While this request may look, on the surface, like building a backline by adding someone powerful to your team, the pitch is wrong. Very wrong if it does things like:
- Build yourself as a victim
- Make requests that feel more like demands for Free Work
- Trumpet how 100% committed you are to your self-anointed talent
- Fake your success
Every request for free support that I have ever received has featured at least several of the above killers, if not all at once. While Jered Threatin did indeed get some notoriety for his approach using all of the above, note how it never actually panned out into any success for him. If you TLDR’d the linked article, Threatin’s comeback show drew 60 people, many of whom left before the show ended. Proof that you cannot build anything of value from a valueless start.
Yet most of the people I see trying to achieve success in music online are simply following versions of the Threatin model as if it will work out better for them – when all the signs are that not a single person has EVER achieved success using this model. Ever.
A recent offer I got went like this:
- Three ways in which they could be identified as a victim, needing special treatment due to their special status. This is manipulative more than informative in a positive way. Too many acts answer who they are as a performer using socio-economic-demographic value judgments rather than anything definite, positive, or unique. While being a political act is a thing, chances are that you are something deeper. Find that. Express that. Bronski Beat may have been three very gay lads singing songs about society but they were a Soul/Pop/Disco act bringing joy & connection more than anything solely about their gayness.
- Attempts to prove how alike we were using two factors, one of which was already raised as proof of their victimhood. While finding points of commonality can be valuable, it has to be proven how commonality is valuable, not used as a lever to get free support. Worse, whilst trying to prove how aligned we are this person clearly proved that when they said they understood who I am they lied as they called for my agreement to something I commonly speak against. Proving that they have not researched me and are not sympaitco at all.
- Links to websites were given but were more scraps than a consistent growing body of work. There were definitely some interesting things that I would have liked to build on but there were a couple of things that totally undid anything positive for me (assuming none of the above had me on the back foot already – but I do my best to be very open to new acts). The worst was that a recent live event that took place in public was overdubbed with crowd noise when there was clearly no such crowd, let alone interest in his performance. As a performer, there may be potential but that cannot be counted on until it is really there. Saying it will happen will not do the same job as showing it now. Finally, with lots of things scattered all over the place – incl attempts to be a fashion website – with no real signs of fan engagement anywhere this is not reassuring.
- When I declined – without shutting the door – and gave some advice on how they might improve their prospects, I got a response full of abuse, including a) offers had been made to pay so how dare I indicate they were not ready to commit 100% to their music, b) I clearly didn’t take time to understand them and their talent, c) how wrong I am to refer to their victimhood using the wrong term. I responded that seeing they kept telling me how they were unwilling to pay another Mix Engineer they had been using, and can clearly see my fees, the vague amount dangled was not a clear offer, quite the opposite. Further, seeing they were leaping to school me on how I talk about my own Autism, we were done. Thankfully they left it there.
Maybe it is just a sign that people who do this are not the “real deal” and are simply too frightened to either have a real go at it or give up and go do something else they can commit to. I try to reply to give something helpful. Maybe in future, I should be less helpful where the person is clearly not trying to help themselves (helping themselves to my time is not the same).
If you are wondering how to approach people you hope to have on your team, and why the above can only fail here is the link again.
Making the Pitch – I know it is long but so is the road to success so better to be on the right road sooner.
Any approaches I get don’t have to match this formula exactly, it is not about being a perfect robot, but about knowing how to build value. If you can’t build value but ask for it in return, it can only insult which causes rejection.
How Can I Help?
If wondering what I do offer in terms of Mentorship or Teaching, I do a lot. The easiest to access are articles & videos. They have no cost but your time to read/view and think about how to put that advice in to action. I admit that is not always as easy as you hope.
Most commonly my “softer” services come as part of being my client for Mixing or Record Producer projects. This is the best natural relationship as we should already be committed to a project and I will naturally give advice wherever I can on how to make the most of what you have. The more we work together, the more I will tend to be able to help; i.e. one tiny job will never cover all you need to become an uberstar overnight.
I do also offer straight consultation advice but I will openly admit that a) people rarely want to pay for it without a physical result (like a mixed song) or b) are even happy to hear the advice when it arrives seeing my role here has to be to point out what is not already seen. Sure, saying nice safe things may make people happier short term, but I would also not have delivered what was really being asked for which is change.