No good deed goes unpunished.
Just a quick blog post so I can get this out of my head and on paper (on screen) and finish the paper I have due tonight at midnight for grad school.
Today I had the very unfortunate experience of the classic saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
If you know anything about me at all, a large percentage of my life has been devoted to helping other people. A large percentage of my current life and most of my devotion to helping other people these days is in the world of live music in the city of Nashville.
Running a professional Blues music jam every Tuesday night for the last year and a half, plus attending live music events like jams and other people’s gigs in town for the last almost 9 years has afforded me the incredible and honorable gift of an extensive network and database – on paper, online, and in my head – of some of the most wonderful, world-class musicians, many of whom I am incredibly pleased and blessed to also call my friends. I’ve never suffered for needing a sub for a show with my band – even at the last minute – as the case required a couple times!
As a result of owning this incredible treasure of names and talents, quite frequently I am called upon to provide suggestions for musicians or my opinion on a musician’s talent, character or nature by artists and managers of many different levels of power, success and popularity in the local music industry. I always let them know that I am very happy to “vet” players if they would like. So reputation with me and for me goes a long way. I am known to always tell the new players to town that, “The assholes don’t last long.” No one wants to be on a tour bus with a jerk-face or alcoholic for 14 hours. A recent star from American Idol told me specifically that he would rather hire a mediocre musician that was a “great hang” than hire the most talented musician in the world with a bad attitude.
That brings us to yesterday. A lovely singer/songwriter friend, mother to a brave American soldier, arranger of frequent house concerts to promote other musicians, reached out to me asking if I knew of someone who could join her on one of her out-of-town gigs on a particular instrument – a paid 24-hour turnaround. When the players I knew off the top of my head said they were not available for her show date, I created a Facebook post requesting recommendations that I cross-posted in several of the most appropriate and popular musicians groups in Nashville.
Unfortunately, this post did not seem to meet the standards of one musician in particular in one of these popular groups (with 13,000+ members) who took it upon herself to aggressively attack and threaten me publicly and privately, despite the fact that I have been Facebook friends with her fiancé for the last year and a half. While I understand better than most that there are musicians who are taken advantage of by certain individuals, organizations, venues, and festival arrangers in the music and performance industry, my being a fellow musician, (not to mention a fellow female musician in the same city, and decidedly NOT an industry professional,) there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for this person to transfer her extreme anger and visit her rage upon me. While quite upset and triggered myself, I attempted to keep things civil with her. She continued to harass and argue with me – and my friend, the hiring artist – all afternoon lecturing us on how evil we were via private message. There was no reasoning with her because she was not listening, which is often the case when someone is indignant and full of rage. While I did absolutely nothing to provoke or deserve her anger, she felt it necessary to take it all of it out on me, who was really just doing a simple favor for a friend, trying to get another local musician a paid gig. Win-win, right?
No good deed goes unpunished.
In fact, unfortunately for this inappropriately behaved young musician, her “good deed” of “speaking up” for fellow musicians being taken advantage of, has backfired on her as well, punishing her too. All she has really done is proven publicly that she has a real bad attitude that will continue to not get her hired. (Her ridiculous rate request was more than twice what my whole band gets paid for a four hour local show.)
So, if you’re a young musician in the city of Nashville looking to get paid for playing an instrument, writing a song, singing a song, or giving some sort of a live music performance, I would suggest to you that you do not attack the people offering you a paid gig opportunity. I would also suggest that if you are looking for paid work as a musician, you will have to dig for it. You will have to “waste your time” asking a lot of questions when you don’t have enough information about a gig offer. You will have to actually spend time looking into and researching thoroughly every opportunity that comes your way. Just like interviewing for a day job, you’ll want to know about the company that’s hiring you and if you want to work for them, if they are going to value your contribution to your satisfaction, and if they can actually afford your reasonable going market rate. You’ll need to figure out what a reasonable going market rate for your services is and to be ready to offer a quote upon demand for any inquiring potential hiring agent. Due to the informal nature of these transactions, you’re going to want to build up a great reputation of following through on the value that you have been paid for, otherwise your job opportunities are going to dry up real fast. Reputation is everything in Music City – in the South. People talk.
Let me tell you from experience, in Nashville, unless it’s happening, “It’s not happening.” There are a lot of different kinds of “talk” in this town. Recently, I met a musician who uprooted his entire family from another state to come do music in Nashville with a band who then only gave him the runaround upon arrival. It happens all. the. time. You must be diligent in your due diligence. Get references for yourself and from the people you work for. You can not assume that every offer is a bad one or a poor one. Find out the truth before you accept or don’t accept. That is part of your job as a professional person, as a professional musician.
There is a gig for every musician at every level. You must figure out your worth and be able to provide a quote for someone who doesn’t know what your services cost. No one knows better than you, what the value of your services are. You should know what your services’ fair market value is and what you need, to do a show. Stand your ground and don’t take anything less than what you deserve. People ask me all the time why I don’t play more around town. It’s not just that I “can’t get hired.” It’s that local venues often won’t pay the reasonable market rate that we ask. They can always get someone cheaper. Many musicians will play for “exposure.” Don’t be mistaken about the law of supply and demand among musicianship in Music City. Someone will always play for free in your place. And if you find that an offer is below what you need for you to do your job professionally, move on. That gig is not for you. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to attack the person who is offering it. They weren’t looking for you in the first place.
So I’m leaving my original Facebook post up in that local musicians group having blocked my attacker, and her poor unwitting fiancé, because, although the thread may paint an unflattering picture of me, to a certain extent, from some peoples’ perspectives, those who know me will understand me, and people will also know – all of them – that they probably really don’t want to hire the extremely unprofessional player with the nasty attitude who unnecessarily went after me today.
So don’t shoot yourself in the foot – either at a jam, on a stage, or especially on social media which is an electronic log that will live for as long as there is electricity. That’s my next good deed of the day to potential music/buyers looking to hire a player. (I’ll probably be punished for that too!)