Being Nice in Show business. Now this sounds like a joke. Nice in show business? Give me a break. We’ve all seen the movies where the artistic singer or sax player is having a hissy fit or being so wrapped up in their emotional tumult that they’re oblivious to the feelings around them. Screaming, crying, forgetting their lines… and then Celeste Holm stops her friend from bopping them over the head and says admiringly “But they’re so talented!”
Bette Davis holed up in her dressing room, refusing to come out until that bitch Joan Crawford is off the picture.
Or how about the Posse Protected superstar singer (Justin Bieber???) so high on themselves or specific drugs that they are barely aware that they actually have to interact with their musicians to play a song or their fans to be considered a human being?
All these scenarios are fun to see in Movies. But not so much fun to come up against in real life.
So, I’m venturing my wild opinion that you should be nice in show business. I’ve seen it work to my benefit a million times in this crazy zigzag career of mine. And in the scheme of things, isn’t life tough enough without one more jerk being let loose in this world?
So, here’s somethings I try to do.
I always try to remember the sound person’s name. It’s amazing how much better the sound will be.
Or ask the musicians I’m working with (I always pick drama-free ones) how they’re doing, how their family is doing. These are living breathing people who can make your life a living hell if they suddenly don’t like you.
If something goes wrong on a gig… and something’s always go wrong on a gig — I take a breath, count to three and yes… smile.
I’ve worked with Superstar musicians on drugs, going through divorces, drunk and sort of mean. Guess what? I don’t work with them again.
I asked Martin Page, the writer of a million hit songs including “These Dreams” for Heart and “We Built This City” for Jefferson Starship, to speak before one of my songwriting classes — and he basically told me that he wasn’t the best writer around (I disagree), but he liked people and people enjoyed hanging around him and working with him and that’s why he got so many cuts with such different kinds of people. Allee Willis, who wrote pop songs galore with such cool cats as Earth Wind And Fire (“September”) and Broadway shows (“The Color Purple”), is a fun person to hang with—and guess what? She’s incredibly talented. Remember when you write a song or put together a show you spend a lot of time together in small spaces with these people. You want someone who’s fun.
So, this is my earnest plea…
Be nice to your co-writers, fellow musicians and support staff during live gigs. Your producers and engineers are your friends.
Show Biz ain’t for Sissies, it is hard and cruel and it can spend your money faster than a crazy girlfriend with a fondness for diamonds. But the stress of it is no reason to be an asshole.
If you ask most of the people I’ve dealt with in Show Biz about me, they are going to say I’m nice. I’m proud of that. Most of it comes naturally, I sincerely like people and I’m proud for their small and large victories. But some of it is awareness that “nice” makes every other aspect of the business go down smoother.
On sessions for my last CD, “The Company I Keep,” I had the whole thing filmed. The camera was up my nose for the whole process. There was this one song (there’s always one song) that just wasn’t going right. The camera caught me being sullen and bratty to my producer. I know it! It’s on film. Yes, I can be uptight with the best of them. Somehow, when I saw that footage, it was worth a few years of therapy. Seeing myself being a jerk, I thought “Wow — that’s not making things better.”
Since then, I’ve figured out ways in the studio to be nicer. You can too.
Nice to me is sexy and needed and will bring you closer to success. John Clayton, master Bassist and arranger and producer and teacher, has superb people skills and he’s at the top of his profession.
You can be, too. Leave the drama for your art!