Etiquette within the music industry is very important.
It's a skill that has slowly been forgotten. This isn't a blog about trying to go back to better times or romanticizing a golden era, but one of the things that I think sets people apart from succeeding and failing in the industry is etiquette.
Technology has allowed us to do a lot of great things in the industry, but it also has accidentally let many people off the hook from having to establish and form relationships as well as learning how to work and deal with clients. One of the main things that I notice in my mentoring where people have weakness is in their communication with clients.
I look at how people respond in email, social media, and other forms of communication and I can quickly see where people shut down or where the project started to go from a potential win to a lost. Most people have the talent, they may even be a good fit, but they lack the communication skills and respect that most large clients are looking for.
If you want to work in a professional industry then you must learn how to communicate like a professional. Your work may sound professional, but that's only one part of the equation in succeeding.
If you work with a label, you may have to communicate with the artist, A&R, managers, and a number of other people. This immediately complicates things but is just part of the industry. Learning proper etiquette in how to deal with all of them in perfect harmony can be a tricky. People on the upper level of the industry in my experience are looking for someone that communicates in a way that paints a picture of the project done, succeeding. You have to take the doubt and worry out of their minds and make their life easier. You have to be willing to respect their wishes even when you may disagree. You may have to make changes to the song sonically that you feel are "wrong" and not allow it to become an issue or a personal attack.
All of this is done by learning how to speak properly and have good etiquette.
This does not mean you roll over and become a doormat, but it does mean you have to learn consideration.
Having good etiquette requires you to acknowledge contextually the rules that exist in a society or industry. When you have good etiquette, you show respect and consideration for all people involved in a situation.
What I have found form learning etiquette is that it helps me feel more comfortable in situations, in that I know how to behave. If I am at lunch with someone who is leaps and bounds above me in the industry, I know not to use that time to figure out how to sell them. I know that relationships take time. I know that as much as I would love to have my name attached to so and so artist or producer, if I am not a good fit or the timing is off, it's a lost for all parties involved. Etiquette requires you to really approach people in a selfless way.
If I am at lunch and this person brings up a project that they love, it's not time for me to tell them everything that's wrong with it sonically to try and prove I have some superior knowledge.
Etiquette requires you to shut up and listen and not point out why you could do it better.
Etiquette requires you to ask why they love it, what did they enjoy about it, what did they learn from it.
What you say and do is who you are. If you communicate and act in a way that is sloppy, messy, disrespectful, and selfish, that is who you are. No professional or potential client who is working hard will want to work with you. If you show up to a meeting late, unprepared, hungover, sleepy, and act brash and boastful, anyone who is a professional will be crossing you off their list. I know this because I have seen it happen over the last three years in Nashville time and time again.
How I practice etiquette is by truly focusing on my client. What do they need? Will I be the best fit? What can I learn about them before I meet them or work with them? Why are they considering me over another mastering engineer? What hasn't sold them on me yet? Is there anything I can see in myself that may hinder this relationship? What is this person familiar with as a final product? What makes this artist perform the best? What makes this artist or client shut down?
All of these things circle around etiquette. By asking these questions you are showing respect, kindness, and consideration for the person. They deserve all of that anyway because they are a human, but second they deserve it because that's how you make great music together.
If you're looking to work with someone new, you better take the time to learn why you're a better fit then the current person they use. If you're looking for someone to intro you to another person in the industry, you better know exactly why you want that intro and why you need it now. If you're pitching your music to a publisher, A&R, blog, label, you better make sure you look like someone who has all their business in order and a product that can make them money. No one has time to babysit. Anyone who is "famous" as much as they may seem like an idiot or a child, at some level has maturity and a work ethic that has gotten them to where they are. Don't let jealously be a reason why you don't like an artist or producer. Also, don't trash anyone at a show or club or gig or meeting, this will always come back around.
Etiquette sometimes requires you to say no to a project even when it would look good on the resume or discography. If you're not the best fit for it then you should pass on it. Not only should you pass on it, but you should pass it on to someone you know who would do a great job. This not only gains respect, but also shows that you still care about the potential client. This always comes back around. I can testify to that. Maybe you're not a good fit for the first project, but the next one they come to you, or I have had that potential client that I passed on refer someone else to me because they know what I am really great at. All of this is etiquette.
It takes practice to learn etiquette. This is not something you can become an expert in over night, but it is something you can apply immediately. If you really are serious about working in the music industry on a level that is above the amateurs, etiquette is a crucial tool to learn.
Learn from my mistakes. Learn etiquette.