Musician's work Ethics

Musician's work ethics (or lack thereof):


First of all, thanx to Scott for having me over here again, and special thanx to Colin Stevenson for helping me edit this article.

The sad part about “musician ethics,” generally speaking, is that they do not exist. I am saddened that I feel the need to write on this subject, but it is one that sorely needs to be addressed.

It is possible that I haven’t looked hard enough, but I cannot recall finding any job posting that includes the phrase "serious only" apart from musician-wanted ads. To make matters worse, in many cases, even the musicians posting such ads are not serious themselves!

I cannot remember any job interview in which my future boss had to ask me repeatedly whether or not I will show up on time (if at all), if I will show up ready to do the basic requirements for the job, or any questions as ridiculous as the ones that have become traditional during auditions for band members.

It is incredible that some of the selling points for a musician trying to get into a serious situation are that he/she will show up, be prepared, be ready to perform their job, know what needs to be done, refrain from creating drama, and be capable of working with others while treating them as equals. With that in mind, here are some basic ideas that might help musicians “play well” with others:

Working as a team, and avoiding "egomania" in order to stop other musicians from avoiding you:

I have never been at a fast food chain in which the guy cooking hamburgers acts superior to the guy working the deep fryer, or goes to other franchises trying to talk his/her cooking skills up in front of other line cooks. Imagine being at a restaurant in which you order a certain dish, and the server tells you: "Our cook doesn't like preparing that dish. You need to pick another one.” How ridiculous would that be?

Even in sports (where you can find huge egomaniacs) the players are required to do what is best for the team. Imagine Phillip Rivers calling a pass play, and L.T. saying: "No. I don’t want to block. I am going to run. If you don't like it, I’ll walk off the field now…" You get the idea.

We have all met musicians who feel superior to the rest of mankind (including their own bandmates). Ironically, they are usually not that good to begin with, which makes them even more difficult to tolerate.

Players who act like "rock stars" make playing and dealing with them a hassle. Other players avoid them like the plague. What could they be thinking? If you feel that you may fall into that category, even occasionally, I would advise you to try to reexamine yourself through the eyes of others. More than likely, people are talking about you, but probably not in praise of your skill. It does not matter if you won the "Local super music store guitar competition," hold three degrees in kickass drumming, or once toured with Elvis: If you drive your peers up the wall, they will not call again. I have been present when some of the musicians you admire (who are very easy to deal with in their work) talk about people like you as a joke. If you continue behaving as an egomaniac you will burn bridges with that behavior and become a joke.

Showing up on time and knowing your parts:

I have a friend who recently auditioned for a major national act. A lot of players auditioning showed up late and/or not knowing their parts. What were they thinking? An audition, for those doing the hiring, is a preview of what's to come if a musician is awarded the gig. It is meant to show not only that you can play your parts, but that you had enough respect for the situation, and the other people involved in it, that you learned your parts and are not wasting anyone's time (including your own).

In a serious situation, if you don't know your parts during an audition, you will not get the gig. It doesn’t matter how cool you look or, frankly, how well you may be able to play the parts if you haven’t prepared. I have seen people sent home in the most humiliating ways. Save yourself the embarrassment. There are no valid excuses. What the other players see are not the reasons why you are not ready, but the fact that you are not ready. If you are not ready for an audition, reschedule or cancel with enough time in advance. If you create a bad reputation, it will follow you around.

Well, this is turning into a rather long diatribe. I think I’ll leave it there, and save the rest for forthcoming articles. I truly hope you don't find this article offensive, but useful: the bottom line is that music is a business like any other. Professionals are recognized and rewarded.

Best of luck.

Alfredo Herz.

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