With Influence Comes Responsibility

© 2011 Vinny Ribas

As an artist who performs in public, you want people to pay attention to you. That’s how they become fans. But in chasing this, whether you realize it or not, you put yourself in a position of influence. You are the man or woman on stage who is telling the audience how to think, feel, communicate with each other etc. And when people enjoy what you do, they want to know more. They follow you online. They want to know more about you so they tune in when you’re being interviewed somewhere. They buy your music, giving you another chance to reinforce what you want them to think or feel.[private_pro]

The truth is, the more popular you get, even in your local town, the more influence you have over others. It is my opinion that it is each and every artist’s sacred duty to insure, to the best of their ability, that they are using this influence responsibly and not abusing it.

Here are some ways that you are influencing others that you may or not be aware of. As you go through the list, take an internal look at the way you personally influence the people mentioned. Then make any changes you feel necessary to insure that you are a good influence and not a bad one.

  • Your music
    • Your lyrics and your music can both have deep emotional affects on listeners. Are their lives a little bit better, brighter, more optimistic, and happier for listening, or are you leading them into a deep, dark, sad place from which there is not return? You can certainly sing songs about loneliness and despair, but if that is all you sing about, you can bring people down who are normally upbeat and vibrant.
  • Online
    • Visitors to your website are searching for someone they can connect with at some level. If they connect with you, they immediately focus on the things you say and do, the clothes you wear etc. You are the leader, and they are your followers!
    • Visitors and fans on your social network sites are reading everything you write and passing it on to their friends. Be careful what you say because even a slight flip remark can start a landslide. Anything you say online can easily reach the eyes and ears of people who the remark was definitely not intended for! Also, anything you say or write can be taken out of context, or taken way too literally.
    • What you say in your blog can have a lot of impact on others. Your readers want to know your opinions on things like the gear you use. If you like it, they will buy it as well. The same goes for issues. Some of your fans will take your side in an issue simply because they believe in you.
  • In your day-to-day life
    • Your family is obviously dramatically influenced by what you say and do, and from multiple sides. First, I assume that they respect your opinions and follow your lead in a lot of matters. Secondly, they can be collaterally damaged. For example, if you are arrested, your family may be harassed by their co-workers or the other students in their school. People will also assume that your family shares the same ideas and beliefs that you profess. Protect them. Don’t put them in a position where they have to defend or denounce your actions!
    • Your friends outside the industry may be looking up to you because you have the guts to put yourself out there for the world to see. They brag about being your friend. Don’t ever make them regret it!
  • In the industry
    • You obviously have influence over your band members, especially if you are the band leader. They are looking to you for guidance. They are counting on you to make the right decisions regarding their careers as well as your own. They have put their faith in you that you will be able to pay them, pay them fairly and pay them on time. If you treat them well, they will do the same when they are the ones in control. But if you make their lives miserable, they might not be strong enough to keep quiet, or to not take it out on other people. And if they aspire to be in your position someday, they just might copy everything you did to get there, and everything you are doing now to get ahead.
    • You directly affect your manager in several very important ways. First, he or she is working hard to get you to where you want to be in your career. Be solid in your direction so he has a clear path. Secondly, he (or she) is talking you up everywhere to help you get ahead. Doing something foolish that destroys the good will that he has built up for you can not only damage your reputation, but ravage his as well! He depends on you to come through with the promises that he has made about you! He also depends on you for his paycheck.
    • Every time your booking agent gets you a gig, he puts his reputation on the line. If you (or someone in your band) messes up, his head is on the chopping block right next to yours. I had a major artist hat I booked and managed treat me so badly that I quit the music business for 15 years!
    • You get a street team because you have friends, family and fans that believe in you. They are willing to be your marketing team because they love you, what you do and what you stand for. They would be embarrassed and incredibly disappointed if they helped turn their friends (as well as strangers) into fans only to have you not meet their basic expectations.
  • In public
    • The waiters and waitresses who serve you at restaurants, the maids who clean your hotel rooms, the checkout people who sell you things at stores and all other people who serve you in one way or another are influenced by the way you treat them. Why? Because they look at you as someone special. Make their day by showing them respect. Never look down on them or make them feel inferior because of their less glamorous jobs. Remember that they will most likely tell all of their friends what you were like, good or bad. And both kinds of reports travel fast!
    • The same principle goes for people who recognize you and want to meet you, shake your hand or get your autograph. They want to look up to you. Never make them feel intimidated.
    • How you act in public can directly affect how the masses feel about you. Careers have been stifled or even ruined because of poor judgment on the part of an artist. Remember that especially in public, what you do or say and can seen or heard by people of all ages. Do you want to be someone that parents don’t ever want their kids to grow up to be like?
  • In the press
    • What you say in interviews, whether it is written, on the radio, on TV or in any other medium can reach millions of people quickly. And once again, it will be heard or seen by people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, religious beliefs etc. People don’t only want to like you, they want to believe what you say and have faith in you. That is why they buy your records without ever having heard it. You can change people’s perception of you, and of other ‘celebrities’ in an instant by violating that trust.
    • How you dress, regardless of where you are, influences the buying decisions of anyone who sees you. If you’ve got a hot new outfit, especially if it is tailor-made and not off the shelf, others are going to want it. And if you wear something that looks ridiculous or out of place (such as the proverbial cowboy hat when you’re trying to appear country), you not only hurt your own reputation, you can damage the brand’s reputation as well.
    • How you are portrayed in your own ads or ads for other products leaves a lasting impression on your fans and on the public. The products you endorse should also be a great fit and a product you feel good about recommending. Once again you are influencing buying decisions. Use that power wisely.
  • At your venues
    • How you treat the staff and management at your venues directly influences your ability to ask for a return date and/or to ask for more money. Not only that, if you treat them badly, there’s a good chance they will take it out on the next act that follows you. I know for a fact that many venue owners quit having bands perform because they were tired of dealing with drunken musicians, irresponsible musicians and prima donnas!
    • When you perform at a venue, chances are you have some people there who don’t know who you are or have never been to that venue before. Your job is to turn them in to fans. You need to cater to them and show them that you are there to entertain them (not just yourself). If you don’t, you not only lose the chance to gain a new fan, you also damage the reputation of the venue! They will leave thinking that place hires lousy bands.
    • Your fans come to see you because they love you and your music. If you fail to meet their expectations, they will leave terribly disappointed. You may lose them as a fan. If you do something extreme that goes against who they believe you are (such as swearing over the mic in an inappropriate venue), they may go as far as not wanting to be associated with anything that you’re associated with. That’s a heavy burden to carry.
  • Kids
    • Thanks to YouTube and social networks, it is virtually impossible to keep kids from seeing or hearing anything. You have fans, and fans love to share stories, pictures, songs and even quotes from you. So, there is a great chance that kids somewhere are going to see what was posted and shared. Keep this in mind wherever you are and whatever you do. What kind of influence do you want to be on them? Do you think you are setting a great example?
  • Fans
    • Your fans love you. They want to get to know as much about you as they can. They will wear what you wear, read what you read, watch the movies you watch and more just to feel closer to you and to get a better understanding of whom you are. What kind of path are you leading them down?

Remember, the world is watching you. Be someone that they can be proud of, and you will have a long and prosperous career![/private_pro]

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.