Music Business Etiquette

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Think music industry etiquette doesn't matter? Think again. There may be some things about the music business that make it less uptight than other industries, but word of mouth is a large part of what makes the business tick - and when an industry runs on word of mouth, how you treat the people you encounter counts. Now, I'm not saying that you need to bring a host(ess) gift to your next business meeting, but there are a few things you can do to avoid becoming THAT guy/girl. Here are a few music industry etiquette tips to help you stay on the right side of your fellow music biz types.

1. BCC Is Your Friend

When you send an email to a group of people, use the BCC (blind carbon copy) field. If you don't, everyone who is copied on your email list can grab the email addresses of everyone else - and not everyone is going to be cool with that. Using BCC says, hey, I appreciate having this line of contact for you, and I respect your right to decide who does and doesn't have this address. This is true of both industry email lists and fan email lists.

Of course, accidents happen. If you accidentally CC rather than BCC your email list, apologize. It still might not make you the most popular kid for a little while, but at least you have acknowledged that you understand that you have compromised the privacy of the people on your list.

2. Use Follow-Up Sense

You're waiting for some feedback on your song/business prop/etc. And you're waiting. And you're waiting. And it's just not coming.

Frustrating? Oh, absolutely. But there is a line between following up territory and restraining order territory. Don't cross it. Unless the entire world will collapse if you don't get an answer on something by 6 PM, if you're calling or emailing multiple times per day, you're probably going overboard. Likewise, don't track down home numbers, etc, and try to catch people out that way. If you make multiple follow-ups, a simple, "I know you're busy, but..." and a "please let me know if you need more info" make gentle reminders that you're waiting for news. Stay polite, annoying as it may be.More »

3. State Your Business

The first time you make contact with someone, give yourself a proper introduction. Don't assume they know who you are, and don't do things like (one of my personal faves) send an email that simply says something like, "let's work!"

Of course, don't start at birth, either -. "Hi, I'm so and so from such and such" plus a few details and maybe a website link work fine. Then, explain why you're reaching out, be it booking a show, soliciting advice or just because you like what they're doing and wanted to open a line of communicaton. If you're hoping to meet up or have a phone call to discuss something, say so and suggest a few times. Be clear and concise - you're more likely to get a response if people can actually understand what you're after.More »

4. Keep Your Appointments (And Buy The Coffee)

If you make an appointment with someone, keep it or reschedule it. Bonus points for being on time or calling if you are going to be late. It is just good manners, period. Plus, not showing up for a meeting makes you look irresponsible, unreliable and scatty. 

Likewise, if you request a meeting with someone to ask for advice or pitch something to them, consider springing for their coffee/drink/meal if at all possible. It is a gracious thank-you for their time. Of course, money can get pretty tight in the music industry, but if you can do it - go for it.

5. Put It In The Vault

The music industry is a very small place. You may have the goods on a lot of music business deals gone wrong, not to mention the personal goods on what so and so did on tour or why so and so got booted from the band. Tempting as it may be to blab - zip it. This is doubly true of your own deals gone wrong. You may feel incredibly slighted by your band break-up or management collapse, but take the high road when pressed for details.

Two good reasons to button your lips? Well, one: gossip is a two way street - you probably have a few stories of your own you'd appreciate someone keeping close. Two: being a big mouth says, "if our working relationship doesn't work out, I will violate your trust, too." Doesn't exactly instill confidence. More »

6. Take Your Lumps

Not everyone is going to like everything you do. Whether their displeasure is expressed by declining to work with you or in review form for all to see, don't even think of sending an outraged email or getting them on the phone to confront them. Yes, maybe they DON'T get what you're doing, maybe they're the only ones to have ever complained - just let it ride. You can't bully someone into liking your music. There is no accounting for who likes what, and you can't predict it or change it. If there are "fair enough" points in a bad review, take them. Otherwise, your time is much better spent focusing on the people who are into what you're doing and making peace with the fact that there is no such thing as unanimous in the music biz.More »

7. Respect the Free Stuff

Free stuff, like guest list spots or promos, don't just fall from the sky. They may be free to you, but someone is paying for them. Getting to go to shows for free or getting free music are great perks of working in music, but try not to send your favorite band into bankruptcy by treating your 25 closest friends to a free night out at their show. Be reasonable when requesting guest list spots and other free things.More »

8. Thank You

Did someone take the time to respond to your request for advice, give you a recommendation or introduction or help you in some other way? For goodness sake, thank them.
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