Friday, February 1, 2008

Random Music Writing #5

Lesson #5: don't name drop.

There can be this urge to make things equal, to make the playing ground level. The person you're talking with has some level of celebrity. Most of the people I talk to are not in the top 100 or the top 500 of any list. A lot of them are club performers, who play regionally and will never do better than make a middle-class living.

It's easy to use what you've done as a kind of weapon, to try and force whoever you're talking to take you seriously, to coerce them with your own awesomeness. The urge is to hit them over the head with how important you are because of all the semi-famous people you've spoken with or met. This is particularly tempting when you're talking to a slightly self-important asshole who doesn't really want to say anything. He'd rather you just print the press release verbatim and tell people when to come to the show. He thinks you're a podunk writer for a podunk paper and he's way too important to do much beyond show up for the show.

Try not to laugh at him, but you don't have to impress him. Remember, it ain't about you. Dropping names can chill the interview and turn it into some kind of performance.

That said, sometimes you get asked to qualify yourself. When I spoke to John from They Might Be Giants, an interview I was particularly glad to get, he called me out on that point and actually asked me who I'd spoken to. I don't know if he was trying to gauge my value or baiting me into some sort of scenario.

I gave him two people who don't even play music, but are arguably more well known than he is. That seemed to do the trick. I have no idea what the pay off was supposed to be, but we went back to our conversation and it was a good one.

I've spoken to a lot of famous and semi-famous people. Some of them were very friendly, but none of them send me birthday cards or buy me dinner.


All Click said...

Some great advice here in all of these 5 posts!

I spent a while in the music biz as a musician and hated everything about it apart from getting on stage and writing and recording the songs.

I was always friendly to anyone who wanted to chat though!

eclectic guy said...

the whole business of interviewing is tricky and your posts makes me want to get my self-esteem all out of whack and get back in it! Hooah!

i wish you could post some of the more awkward moments from your interviews. that wouold be frickin funny.

primalscreamx said...

Awkward moments... um... heh, yeah I can do that. There's usually about one per customer... the worst, is interviewing someone on the fly whose music you've never heard.