harmonicprogression

Boundaries and Integrity: It's A Jungle Out There

In Best Practices, Music Business, nashville, Networking on October 5, 2009 at 11:26 am

DirectionThe music industry is a people business.  If you want to work with someone, they have to know you or know of you.  It should be your job, along with actually making and showcasing your music, to become familiar with people and this town.  That being said, what I have not made clear is how to protect yourself and keep your integrity intact.  Since moving to town I have warded off unwanted advances, strip clubs, racial prejudice, and drugs – all coming from people I thought wanted to “write” with me, “help” me with my career, etc…

My first example of a toxic Nashville relationship came when I was new to town and eager to fit in.  I invested a great deal of time into someone who has been here a while, wanted to write with me, and seemingly knew the “ins and outs” of Nashville.  They took me around to the honky tonks, used my vocals on some of their original music, and we even wrote a few songs.  I became a fixture in their home and I was their biggest cheerleader.  Looking back now, I fear they may have misread my eagerness to talk about music and put myself into industry situations as an eagerness to get to know them.

The first of many red flags was the day they said to me, “I am not writing with you because you are a good writer, I am writing with you because I like your voice.”  This does not sound that harsh, but in the context of how it was said it just didn’t sit right with me.  I actually started to have second thoughts about moving here and thought maybe I was not a good songwriter and I should just stick to singing.  They paraded me around music row showing off my vocals but looking back now all of that was to make them look like they knew “people.”  During one such meeting on music row, when they left the room, the record executive told me to watch this person; their m.o. was to get people under their wing and keep them there as long as possible with no real intention of  helping their career.  This advice heightened my senses and make me more aware of the situation.

All of the late nights and long days helped to wrap me up in this person’s life.  I thought, “Man, I am actually making music and doing the Nashville thing!”  But why was I spending all of this time with someone who was not sincerely backing my efforts?  I thought I had actually gained a friend, a co-writer, and an advocate in this town.  Towards the end of the “musical honeymoon” I began to see through the wool over my eyes and I slowly pulled away.

I share this to say at some point or another everyone gets in over their head.  You want to believe that people are out to help you.  You want to believe that people really do like your singing and songwriting.  Sometimes they really do.  But as long as people are in the equation, you can rest assured there will always be the possibility of mal-intent. You can not ignore that feeling inside of yourself, no matter how many connections the person has, no matter how many cuts or awards they might have.  If they are treating you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, I would hope you run, run as fast as you can and remember why you came here.  Rude jokes, uncomfortable situations, inappropriate behaviors are not standard in Nashville.  There are plenty of professional people that encourage music and get the job done on the “up and up.”

No matter how much you want music, I hope you want your integrity more.  I am not writing this with the “woe is me” victim mentality.  I am admitting that I was “green” to town and I didn’t know what was standard procedure vs. being taken advantage of.  You should find people with sincere hearts and stick by them.  Surround yourself with wise counsel and you will be able to protect your boundaries.  Someone once told me that if a career in music is meant to be for you, there is nothing you can do to make it come faster and nothing you can do to stop it.  You don’t want to end up as breaking news on Entertainment Tonight or as the featured entertainer of E’s True Hollywood Story.  In your eagerness to harness the passion for music, be sure to listen to your gut and keep your integrity intact.

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  1. Hi Deborah,

    I can tell you are a conscientious, bright young woman. I was sent your latest blog and pretty much tuned out on what you had to say because your grammar is so poor. If you want others to read your work and take you seriously I would highly suggest doing a better job at using pronouns that agree with one another. Sorry to be so blunt, but when you put yourself out there you have to ready for honest feedback

    Stephen

  2. you are doing a great job…keep up the good work!!!!!

    • Thanks for your honesty. I usually check and double check the blogs; I even have a friend that helps me edit it as well. You know when you stare at something for a very long time you think it says what you are saying in your mind? Two heads are better than one though, thanks for your comments. I hope my grammar hasn’t turned you off completely. What happened was, halfway through the blog I decided to protect the identity of the person I was referring to and I did not go back and double check the pronouns after that bright idea 🙂 Thanks for reading so closely… have you gone through any others? Did I redeem myself in other posts?

  3. I am proud of your diplomatic response!! Great job on the blog too. It is always an interesting read!

  4. Good ole character, people who have it, lead authentic lives, but it also helps them to detect the souls who are lacking. Keep up the good work. As for the quality of your blog, I was so interested in the content, I didn’t even go into critique mode.

  5. You made me smile Barry… thanks for being a faithful reader. I am just so encouraged when people actually read it and interact with me. I want to be helpful. What is the use in me learning all of this Nashville info. if I can’t help people avoid the pitfalls. Have a wonderful day!

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