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The Business of Relationships

Article by Rob Phillips // May 20 2014
The Business of Relationships

It seems the more time I spend in the music business; the more I learn that your ability to work well with others can be paramount in your success as a working musician. This industry, and perhaps any industry for that matter, is undoubtedly a “business of relationships”. That is not to say that you don’t have to be technically proficient in your ability as a player. However, I can not stress enough the importance of being “cool” and easy to work with. We’ve all encountered those people who are downright unpleasant. Rarely do those individuals move forward. Below are some pointers (that I have learnt through my own experience) on establishing yourself as a professional, respectful, and reliable collaborator. 

Start with “In my opinion” 

Musicians are generally sensitive people, as many artists are. If you are asked to comment on a particular passage, the intonation of a group, or some other subjective concern, try starting your response with “In my opinion”. Doing so forms an understanding between you and your colleagues that there could be many possible solutions to any given problem, and that you understand your opinion is just that... an opinion. 

Try and give the leader what they want. 

When an artist or bandleader asks you to do something specific, you should do it. That is to say, if what they are asking for is physically possible, say yes! In doing so, the bandleader or musical director gains confidence in you, knowing that if they need something changed, you will happily do your best to accommodate them. This will go a long way in establishing yourself as an efficient worker. As they say, time is money! 

Never say anything bad about anyone... ever.

Easier said than done, but there is a reason for adopting this challenging rule. Negative comments can subconsciously break down the trust between you and your colleagues. Those you expose your negativity to may then become suspicious of what you’re saying about them behind their backs. If a conductor or other person is making you angry, vent your frustration with a spouse or someone that you have established a high level of trust with, and not your fellow band mates. 

Do your homework.

This section has less to do with communication, and more to do with working up a good sweat. Like I had mentioned earlier, time is money, and a rehearsal is not the place to be learning new material. That is for you to take care of on your own time. I am always blown away when musicians, completely new to a project, come to a first rehearsal with all the parts already prepared. This saves valuable energy. If you become known as the player who only needs two rehearsals before a show, I can assure you the phone will begin to ring. 

Learn the language of your band mates. 

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. I believe that was Elvis Costello ... or Frank Zappa. Either way, they are wise words. It can be hard talk about the complicated elements of music. There are so many different ways to do it. Some musicians have a theoretical knowledge of music, and prefer to use words like “suspension” and “appoggiatura”. Others have mastered their craft completely by ear. Regardless, neither way is the “right way” to talk about music. Therefore, in order to be an effective communicator, learn the language of your band mates and use it. 

The bottom line is this: as a musician, you are the business. This means that how you interact with others can have a major impact on your career. Furthermore, surround yourself with positive people who inspire you. Trust your gut. After all, this is a business of relationships.



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About the Author
Rob  Phillips

Rob Phillips is a professional session/studio drummer from Vancouver BC. Rob is a graduate of the Master’s of Music Degree in Performance from the University of Victoria. Though he is most at home in popular music, his formal studies have made him equally comfortable performing with an orchestra. Rob is currently focusing on building his professional experience as both a live drummer and session drummer working with Vancouver musicians, while also offering local and online drum lessons for beginner to advanced drummers. Visit Rob online at www.robphillipsdrums.com

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