Both Sides of The Desk

I've been a songwriter all my life, so I can say without question that when a writer has to leave the cocoon of creativity for the uncertainty of marketing, something snaps inside and creates someone you wouldn't necessarily want sitting in your living room, slurping sorbet.

The irony is that as songwriters, we are born without "hustle muscles", but in order to succeed, we have to develop them. Since having them is unnatural, there is a tendency among us for overkill. Once we pop on our marketing hats, we often overdo it - and become a little too aggressive, thereby defeating the purpose of the marketing campaign in the first place.

Having experienced life both sides of the desk, I thought it would be helpful to share my insights with you.

First, as a songwriter, when I'm feeling my most sensitive, I'd rather re-tile my roof than call a stranger. So I tend to be nervous, and easily offended. Then the calm, poised, elegant, confident, creative, successful, witty person I'm trying to project on the phone disappears, with the unhappy result that I become too pushy or aggressive, personalize an abrupt "no thanks", and then get hurt. To cover the helplessness I feel, I get angry. If being too pushy hasn't killed the potential for a good result, the anger will cement it. Guaranteed.

So as sensitive souls doing the job of insensitive ones, we have to prepare ourselves before making phone calls, to make sure we stay calm, businesslike, charming, and don't get upset. If the guy says no, make it okay. Try "I hope we have another project down the line that will work for both of us". Don't call him a jackass, even if he deserves it, and don't send him a pig, C.O.D. I know it's tempting, especially when there are so many looking for good homes in Beverly Hills, but cancel your order.

Because by saying no, the man on the other side of the desk has told the truth. He has not strung you along or dangled you. His answer was quick. It wasn't what you wanted, but he was truthful. Accept it and move on.

It's excrutiating when you want a "yes" as badly as we all do. But it's important for you as the caller to make the "callee" feel that next time you want to pitch something, you're someone he wants to talk to and do business with.

Here are some do's and don'ts I recommend:

l. Never send an unsolicited CD to anyone. Record companies, legitimate publishing companies and managers are legally prevented from accepting anything that is not requested material. That is my company policy, too, and yet I get over 100 CD's and mp3's files a day, inspite of the big bold letters on my page saying please don't do this. By sending music to someone who can't legally accept it, you're creating a problem. Not only will your CD be dumped into the trash, you project yourself as an amateur who doesn't know better, and is someone to avoid in future. Nothing will turn off a perspective business associate quicker than someone who doesn't respect what the other party wants and needs in order to effectively do business from his side of the desk.

As songwriters, we tend to think only of what we need, when we need it. But if we give some thought to what a potential business partner needs, it can make a world of difference in the results we get.

2. Always try to introduce yourself to a stranger using a legitimate referral from someone you both know. Like this: "Hi - Anna in your Amsterdam office loves one of my songs and thought it would be perfect for Nashville. Rather than send the song to you from Holland, she suggested I contact you directly." This does two things:

a. it validates me because the person I'm calling knows Anna.
b. it validates the song because Anna wouldn't have her job if she didn't know a hit.

But don't ever make up a connection that doesn't exist. If you're found out, that will immediately kill the deal.

3. When you want something from a potential business associate and he tells you the circumstances under which he will do what you ask, and you try to squeeze him to change his position, it is very off-putting and usually, deal-breaking.

Case in point: If your dentist says she charges $120. for an office visit, that's the price. It isn't negotiable. There it is - take it or leave it. Were you suffering from a toothache, you'd be delighted to have the dentist's help at ten times the price, right? But songwriters who feel helpless in other areas of their lives, often try to manipulate and control situations, and as a result, alienate the very people they need, killing any potential for a successful business relationship.

When a company policy is "no unsolicited music and/or lyrics", respect it, I do. Nobody has had "no" said to her more than me. And yet, I still have a house full of gold and platinum records, not the least of which is a double platinum one that arrived three days ago. I've had to learn as you do, how to get what I want so everyone in the situation wins. Hopefully, people know when I call that I'll conduct myself graciously, so the business association will be a positive one for both of us.

Work on your hustle muscles. But make sure you're creating situations that work on both sides of the desk. Don't push or manipulate so hard you go over the edge, taking your dreams with you.

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Molly-Ann Molly-Ann Leikin