E-Gherming – The New Music-Biz No-No!

By Rand Bishop

As in all businesses, the most important and essential contributors to our success in show-biz come from the personal relationships we develop and maintain over the course of our careers. Someone put it very succinctly when he or she said: “It’s not about who you know; it’s about who knows you.” To take that very truthful statement a little bit further: It’s not just about who knows you, it’s about who likes you, who trusts that you can take the bad news with the good, and who can depend on you to give your all and perform at a truly professional level every time you’re called upon to deliver the goods.[private_freebie]

Yes, Willy Loman was right. Not only should you seek to be recognized for your individual gifts, you should strive be “well liked,” too. Sure, there are some notorious A-holes who have somehow bullied their way through to the top and remained there using tactics of manipulation and intimidation. These insecure egomaniacs surround themselves with “yes” people, subservients who live in constant fear of losing their jobs, their connections to, and/or their influence over the cult of personality. But, I think most folks agree that is no way to live. Life’s too short to spend it burgeoning a rep as a greedy monster or, worse yet, as a lap dog to a mean-spirited master. For the most part, the folks who have sustained creative and/or business success are the ones who are capable of at least painting on a charming veneer. It may only be skin deep, but they usually refrain from exposing the self-serving cad hiding below the surface. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every successful person in this dog-eat-dog game is actually a jerk. There are a whole lot of genuinely nice, caring, compassionate people in the music biz, too.

This leads me to a friend request I received just the other day from a gentleman whose name I did not recognize. Chad (not his real name) and I had dozens of mutual friends, so I felt safe accepting his invite to connect as Facebook pals. Curious, the nomenclature of much of the Internet social network: “Friends,” not “connections.” As if we all are capable of carrying on thousands of friendships, most of which are with people we will probably never meet in the flesh. Anyway, I accepted Chad as a “friend.” Within hours he sent me a FB message: “THANKS FOR BFING ME , CHECK OUT MY SONGS”.

I don’t know if other music-biz pros feel the same way, but here’s what really irks me: getting an email, or a post, or a personal message from an aspiring songwriter or recording artist instructing me to “Go to my reverbnation (MySpace, personal website, whatever) page and listen to my stuff.” The presumption that I have the time or the inclination to click a link and spend a half hour wading through a half dozen songs by someone I’ve never heard of is, quite frankly, disrespectful and offensive to me. Arrogant? Maybe, but it’s true. I’m busy. My time is at a premium. And, lots of songwriters pay me their hard earned cash to coach them, and offer my constructive criticism. “CHECK OUT MY SONGS” is the equivalent of walking up to a dentist at a cocktail party and saying, “Hey, Doc, take a look at this? Is this an abscess?” This is precisely the same brand of obnoxious as the overly ambitious newbie who aggressively corners a top producer or publisher at a conference and forces a CD and/or a business card into his or her hand. This kind of uncouth behavior has a very unattractive name: “gherming.” And those who practice it are deserving of the moniker, “gherm.”

So, I warned my brand new FB pal, Chad, that “e-gherming” was uncool and suggested that he stop doing it, to which he responded: “CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL, IT IS WHAT IT IS”. Now, remember, I don’t know this guy from Adam. Well, I know a few guys named Adam, and I know Chad is not one of them, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I have no reason to give Chad any slack, because he’s already made a rather toxic impression on me. Then, he followed up quickly with yet another post: “WHAT THE HELL IS E-GHERMING, I NEED TO KNOW, SO I CAN NOT BE COOL”.

I explained to Chad that “CHECK OUT MY SONGS” was not the way to get an industry pro interested. In Nashville, you can’t swing a cat without hitting another aspiring songwriter. (Not that I’m inclined to cat swinging, or any other kind of swinging for that matter.) Nearly everybody has a bunch of original songs and nearly everybody is trying to get those songs heard. However, as I detail in my new book, The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success (Alfred Publishing, 2010), getting your songs heard is not enough. Songwriters only find success when they get their songs heard by somebody who cares, somebody in a decision-making capacity who wants them to succeed more than any other writer. You want your songs to be heard by somebody who can influence the outcome, but who is also motivated to like your compositions more than the thousands of others competing for the same slots. Chad had already become the raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth by blatantly offending me. In return, I had given him some solid, constructive advice on how not to immediately torch a potentially beneficial bridge. Was Chad receptive to my free career counseling? Absolutely not.

This was dear Chad’s response (spelling intact, asterisk is mine): “bull sh*t I dont care who you are , i never said i had any tast,if i did i would not ask you to be my freind” This of course begs the question as to why he wanted to “friend” me in the first place. If he doesn’t really care who I am, and if he is also aware that he has no discretion in regard to his friendships, then why would he want me to “CHECK OUT HIS SONGS?” What, after all, would me listening to his stuff accomplish? After dashing off a response that included my off-the-cuff observation that Chad must be a very self-destructive fellow, I terminated our day-old “friendship” post haste.

Chad has more than 1,000 FB friends. Perhaps he treats his other online pals with more diplomacy and greater respect, or maybe they are more forgiving of his insolence. Maybe those other folks even find his lack of social skills charmingly rebellious. I ain’t got time for that stuff myself. And, I’m quite sure that most true pros in the music biz feel the same way. We want to associate ourselves with talented, hard-working, humble, yet confident people, who are willing to do anything and everything it takes to create and build their own success. A big part of “what it takes” is patience. When you meet somebody you think just might help you get another rung up the ladder, don’t push it. You start by making a positive impression. As you walk away from that first chance meeting, you want that person to be thinking, “What a nice young feller, I wonder if he writes great songs.” What you don’t want to do is to send your new show-biz acquaintance rushing to the nearest rest room to scrub off your aggressive, obnoxious stink. You certainly desire to make a memorable impact, but you want that recollection to be a pleasant one. The goal is not to score a walk-off, grand-slam homer on your first swing, but to be invited back into the conversation the next time. Relationships take time to develop and cultivate. Then, once established, they require periodic maintenance and careful nurturing.

The Internet has vastly expanded our networking opportunities, offering more and greater potential to make new connections all over the world. To abuse that incredible opportunity for whatever reason is beyond foolish. Presumptuousness, rudeness, and disrespect broadcasts a person’s propensity for stupidity, cruelty, and self-destruction to a worldwide audience and can taint that person’s reputation permanently. Once it’s there, you can’t run away from it. I have made some huge mistakes in my life. Several of my gaffs became somewhat notorious in certain circles. The most notable was probably the day I offended Clive Davis so blatantly that he immediately withdrew his offer of a recording contract with Arista Records. (An account of this blighted chapter from my checkered past is detailed in my book, Makin’ Stuff Up.) I try to be much more careful these days. Popping off in an email or impulsively posting something in an online forum can lead to a firestorm of negative energy pointed in your direction. Take it from me. I’ve faced the flames of scorn more times than I care to discuss.

Relationships. Cultivate them. Do not disregard the people in your life who might potentially open the door to your future success. Before you flash out in anger (or to protect your fragile ego) take a deep breath. Swallow your pride. Try to be nice. We pros like nice people, considerate, respectful, gracious, and grateful people. There, there, Chad. Sorry, you blew it with me. I’m sure you won’t lose any sleep over it. But, then again, neither will I.

Grammy-nominated songwriter/author Rand Bishop’s new book is The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success. Please visit http://www.randbishop.com/ for details on all of Rand’s books, music, and questionable history.


About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.