It being Election Day here in the U.S., a day devoted to the concept of collective decision making and balancing subjective choice with objective counts, now feels like the perfect time for just a few words on the subject of interpersonal and logistical differences when you work in the music industry; stressing the significance of an area I believe to be often acknowledged as expectantly ubiquitous but unfortunately left to its own devices.
Musical creativity : Music business
Jam sessions : Studio sessions
The rise of so much collaboration, cross-genre experimentation and so many guest appearances on unexpected platforms, (See tomorrow’s Country Music Association Awards with the inclusion of Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor.) has become a staple of such commonality, that hardly a gasp of genuine shock gets uttered anymore. Lines have become less hard and fast, walls are less obtrusive and by virtue of the fact that delineating the royalty payments for songs can now involve upward of four to seven parties at any given time, singularity in the music business –both in the sense of musical styling and in construction of music– has clearly had to make room for new norms.
What is interesting to think about in lieu of all these connective mentalities, is the fact that the more one opens up in a work oriented setting, the more the chances are something said or done could cause feathers to fly. Yet, amidst a radio single here, a shared concert billing there and the classic, claustrophobic tour van, there isn’t typically an avalanche of headlines detailing discordance among artists that are working together. Occasional, ugly band breakups do come up in wider public view –the beginnings of the story behind punk band Single Mothers and the infamous fracturing of Paramore come to mind– but the otherwise lack of talk about what it means to work with (potentially) so many people, on an art form that is so individually preferential, stems from one of a few possible reasons:
- Nothing bad is actually happening
- If there is something going on, people involved are keeping things under wraps
- Things are not subjectively interesting enough to attract a flock of pop culture press
Among those three variables, number one is really the only sure fire positive explanation. After all, no news is good news, right? Beyond that, lack of awareness about something dicey doesn’t mean it’s not happening. (If a cymbal falls on the floor and no one is around to hear it, does it still crash?) Why would we only want to read about bands after they have suffered a major blow or after some incriminating text, photo or phone conversation gets leaked to show one person swearing off on another and breaking the metaphorical door on their way out?
Shedding some light on basic principles of communication and empathy seems like a prudent but under addressed area of importance for aspiring music industry professionals, as well as the artists that exist alongside them. The move to have more talk surrounding these skills, perhaps at the university level, might be something to consider integrating into more music programs. A lesson on how not to text your engineer post-mixing about a tracking change is an extreme example to be sure, but, generally speaking, learning how to navigate that kind of relationship, –one that an artist would conceivably encounter many times throughout their career– among many others like it, might be worth deeming more than important solely by way of a, “You’ll see when it happens to you” kind of implication. (Just imagine any time post-high school, when a student says they never touched trigonometry again but wished someone had explained the inner workings of doing taxes.)
If you’re working with someone on a project that feels personal to you –and it doesn’t get much more personal than music– it’s important to remember that while emotions and sentiments are irrefutably yours to own and shape into a musical vision, like any undertaking involving concrete work, there are objective aspects to consider when making functional decisions and interacting with cohorts.
The same can really be applied to social exchange in general.
It can certainly be hard to distinguish when, or even how, to turn the dial of dialogue from emotional to factual, since emotions flowing freely in a room can lead to some of a band’s most unique music and the music is what everyone is there for. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for having the wherewithal to mentally compartmentalize the part of the process that involves making music from the mapping out of one’s music.