I made an important discovery today. Readers of this blog may know about my unrelenting passion for the racket sport of squash. So great is my enthusiasm that a few years back I took the official course to become a qualified squash coach. One of the guys I coach said to me today that as a result of the things I’ve told him he’s now beating people he used to lose to. He’s taken what I’ve said on board and worked on it over many games, practice sessions and lessons. The results are, if not career making, very rewarding on a personal amateur level nonetheless.
In my day job of running an artist management company I often speak with artists looking for management. If I like the band, I end up offering advice, guidance and suggestions as to what to do next. A lot of it centres around writing better songs, making better records and playing more small gigs. Granted, the message is decidedly unglamorous and positively work ethic oriented.
Incidentally, so is squash. At a tournament in which I played last year there were also proper athletes in the main draw competing for professional ranking points. They slept on the floor of the squash court over the three day tournament, because they couldn’t afford a hotel. It’s a little bit like a band touring on the toilet circuit.
Anyway, I digress. Giving management advice is a little bit like giving coaching advice. A coach or a manager can only say what the other fellow should do, he can advise on the process of how to affect change. In order for progress to take place, it’s up to the other the fellow to actually do it. He has to do things differently to how he’s done things before, so that he starts getting what he hasn’t been getting.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
How surprised would you be if I told you that many artists who approach us don’t actually want to do anything like write better songs, make better records and play lots of small shows? They will say: “We understand what you’re saying and we basically agree, but we’re not looking for that. What we’re really looking for is management. Could we just have a bit of that, please. Without the other stuff.”
I would understand it if it was coming from a successful artist with a career to manage. But when it comes from a struggling band who approached us to get a career happening, I wonder what they think management is. Magic? Sorcery? The ability to make people like music by sheer force of will?
It’s no good pointing out that nothing is happening in their career because the songs are average, the recordings are poor and they’ve not done enough gigs to make them a great live act. The management advice of encouraging them to change these defects is ignored. Instead, they want… management.
It’s as if I went to squash coach saying that I want to become a better player, but I refused to work on my basic drives, drop shots and volleys. I suppose I could really really really wish hard to become a better player.
Incidentally, I spent a few days last summer training with one of the best coaches in the world. While I was practicing 101 stuff, he said one thing that changed the way think about how I play. He said not to hit the ball so violently. The word ‘ violently ‘ made me re-evaluate my game.
I wonder if there are any words that would make a young band re-evaluate their game. Got any?
Ah, but then again..
“I am not young enough to know everything.”
- Oscar Wilde