When building relationships in this industry – whether with fans, clients, or colleges – it’s all about communication. It’s also important to remember who you’re speaking to, as the way you communicate will change depending on your audience.
You wouldn’t speak to your fans the same way you would speak to someone you’re collaborating with on a song, or at least you shouldn’t. It’s not about changing who you are, but rather understanding what message you’re conveying and how you’re conveying it to a specific target.
If you fail to switch your tone, intention, or delivery method as you toggle between these various audiences you could be at best losing their attention and, at worst, losing their trust.
For example, you may very well make a dedicated fan’s day by sending them a quick DM on Instagram to ask them if they’d like to be in your next video and your message would likely be energetic and a bit self-promoting – after all, this is about your music and they’re your super fan.
However, reaching out to an industry professional and trying to connect with them by making it all about you and how they could be lucky enough to be a part of your music career may not go over as well. Changing your tone and word choice can make all the difference between building a connection and burning a bridge.
10 years ago, when I signed my first client as an independent label owner, I failed to realize that I couldn’t communicate with them as colleagues and needed to be more aware of where they were coming from as artists who had just finished their album. I’ll save you some trouble and cut to the chase – it was the beginning of the end for our relationship.
My business partner & I had signed a band and agreed to help them finish and market their debut album.
Over the holidays, while I was away with family, I received files of their tracks to review. They were going to get mastered and they wanted our feedback.
Without consulting with my business partner, I let my excitement overtake me and I started typing away on my phone in in the backseat of my family’s car; after all, that’s what hustling is all about, right?
I jumped right to it:
“Track 1 vocals should be done over.”
“Track 2 is great, but your diction could be more clear, and the drums need to stand out more.”
“Love Track 4, but it shouldn’t come so early on in the album, let’s move this to the end, and I’d rethink the instrumentation on the bridge.”
There were a lot of notes. A lot. I took my role as executive very seriously and I had a vision and I made it known. I LOVED the album, but my business hat was on pretty tight and I was short on time, so rather than wait and take my time to gently suggest what I was hearing, I spoke as if I was speaking to my business partner about editing a blog post.
The moment I hit send was the moment I lost their trust in me. It was only a few months later that we ended our relationship with the band.
While my email was not the sole reason we parted ways, it definitely changed the dynamic and here’s why:
1. I forgot about the people behind the music. I treated as if I was taking someone’s research paper and red-lining my corrections. This wasn’t a paper. This was art. This was something they had poured their blood, sweat, and tears into and I was extremely sterile about it.
2. I forgot to come out of the gate smiling. I didn’t lead with a litany of things I loved about it. I didn’t lead with how amazing I thought it was. I just went down a bullet list of “fixes” with no thought to first talking to my partner and coming from a place of “what would you think about…” Instead, I made demands.
3. I put too much “false urgency” on it. False urgency is treating something urgent that is, in reality, not urgent. It was the holiday break and there was no looming deadline we were rushing towards. However, in all the excitement, and with a need to feel important and “on call,” I got the email and I jumped on it. I didn’t sit with it. I didn’t enjoy time with my family. I didn’t call the band when I had more free time to go over it. I didn’t realize it but, because I chose to answer it right away, the stress of cutting into family time and the guilt of knowing I was being rude while on vacation allowed certain feelings to seep into my tone (although I was totally oblivious to it) and those that received the email picked up on it right away.
4. I took something that was super important and diminished it to an email. When it comes to art, or anything that has emotional layers to it – get offline. Have the talk in person. Call the other party. Don’t allow your words to be misread or misconstrued. We all place our own insecurities on what others are trying to say and when the words are written we are given more freedom to put our own spin on someone else’s intentions.
So before you have that important conversation (whether with a client, colleague, fan, etc.) check yourself.
Are you in the right mindset? Are you thinking of how they will take what you have to say? Are you discussing it in the right environment?
Are you speaking their language?
There’s no fear about burning bridges when you remember there’s another human being on the other end of your words and you understand the role you play in that connection with them. Always remember connections over contacts and you’ll find your relationships bloom with a lot less struggle.