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Don’t Be A Dick

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

When I was a freshman in college an uncle of a friend of mine was the caterer for John Mayer’s tour. This was around the Heavier Things time so he was touring arenas, but not a superstar celebrity by any means. The uncle hooked me up with two “meet and greet” passes. I was a huge fan at this time; I could play half of his catalog on guitar and I covered a couple of his songs in concert. I even wrote a review of his concert in my high school newspaper two years prior (on his first national tour when he came to my town and played for 600 people). I raved and gushed and told everyone at my high school that he’s going to be a big star and you need to get to know him immediately.

Then, two years later, at the meet and greet after the show, there was me and my roommate, and about 15 girls (on the brink of tears) who won passes from a radio contest. John Mayer skateboarded (I kid you not) into the room, shook a couple hands, took a couple photos, signed a few things and was out of the room in less than 3 minutes. I went out the door to give him a package including the high school newspaper article, my demo CD and a personalized letter and to just shake his hand and tell him that he was a huge influence on me. I stood right behind him and said “hey John? Excuse me John? Hey John could I shake your hand? Can I give you this?” I was the only one in the hallway with him and was only about 3 feet behind him. Without responding, he hopped back on his board, sped off, and I was pissed.

After that moment I turned on him and told everyone how much of a dick he is and how he doesn’t care about his fans. Granted I blew this out of proportion and I had no idea what was going on in his life at the time, but to my 18-year-old self, to get the cold shoulder after all the support I gave him, I was personally insulted. I stopped listening to him and even bonded with others on our mutual hatred for him.

I’ve since matured and don’t feel this way about him anymore and am still a fan, but personality trumps quality no matter what level you’re at.

Attitude is everything in this business. Personality is a big part as well. If you want to manage your career on your own then you need to be able to schmooze like managers and just be likable.

+Be A Supportive Member of Your Music Community
+The Hardest Part About Being Your Own Manager

Everything early on seems unattainable and mysterious. Like that guy you see opening up for your favorite artist. You think “he must have an amazing manager or label or agent that put it all together and it’s all completely untouchable.” I’ve been that opener with no agent, no label, no manager, no nothing. Just me. Same goes for everything else. Nothing is unattainable if approached right.

+I Think You’re An Asshole, So I’m Going To Tell You, Asshole
+The Opener

The way most local bills are put together are by bands getting their friends’ bands together to play the show. This is pretty much how it works top to bottom. Some of the biggest acts in the world pick their touring musicians or opening acts by the people they like to hang with. Sure, some tours are organized by the label or management, but most of the time it’s friends of the band who get to go on the road.

Now I’m not saying kiss the ass of every star you meet or everyone in the industry, all I’m saying is be someone who people like to be around. Naturally, most of your friends will be other musicians in your town. If one of your friends’ bands explodes or is even just a bit more successful and wants to put a tour together, they’ll come to you and ask you to join the tour if they like you. If you’re the biggest act in your city but are known to be a dick then no one is going to want anything to do with you – regardless of your supposed clout and draw.


+The Opener

Don’t ever have an air about you that your shit don’t stink. Even if at your last show you brought out 4 times as many people as everyone else on the bill, you’re not hot shit. You may think you are, but if a high turnout to 1 or even 3 shows in a row blows your head up so much that you’re carrying yourself differently and think you’re above everyone else in your scene, prepare yourself for one serious reality check. The world doesn’t revolve around your tiny music scene and even if 100 college kids think you’re hot this month may not next month. All the other musicians in your scene will never forget how you treated them and word will spread fast that you are a dick and no one will ever want to play a show with you or work with you in any respect.
+Be A Supportive Member Of Your Music Community

You want your reputation to always be “easy to work with,” “humble,” “friendly,” and anything else positive. You can still have your originality, but even (especially) big time managers and agents aren’t going to want to work with you if they hear that you’re difficult; venues won’t want to book you; labels won’t want to sign you, and the list goes on. It’s impressive how fast word gets around. If you’re at a level where you’re starting to get talked about then there will be an attachment to it – ie “Have you heard of XYZ band?” “Oh yeah they’re complete assholes! And their music sucks hard!” You never want that. Even if they don’t like your music, you want “Have you heard of XYZ band?” “Oh yeah I hear they’re really nice guys and they’re music’s ok.”
+I’m a Tool and I Have Accepted That

In such a small scene and especially when you’re just starting out personality trumps quality. You could be the best band to hit your city in 20 years, but if you act like it people won’t give you a first listen; they’ll just write you off and move on with their life. And moreover, if people actually become big fans and then find out you’re assholes, they’ll turn on you so fast and passionately tell everyone they know not to go to your concerts – no matter how big you are.

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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Audrey Nuna’s Path to a Major Label Deal with Her Manager/Producer Anwar Sawyer

Anwar and I talk about being a producer/songwriter and writing thousands of songs and even how he got his publishing deal. We also talk about developing Audrey Nuna.

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