Lessons From BuckMoon Part I – You Can’t Cross A Burned Bridge

The Dread Return Of The Podcast

First a bit of housekeeping.  I’ve been cleaning up the audio from the panel discussions that I organized from the Buckmoon Arts Festival and I expect to kick off the podcast with a few of those over the rest of the summer.

First a huge thanks to all of the people who participated in the panels:

Bill Coffey
Mike Dimin
Jean Karutis
Yvonne Lieblein
Patrick Longo
Brian McElhiney
Mark Swain

As well as Mahmood Karimi-Hakak for the screening, Elahe Golpare and Afshin Katanchi for stills video and all the staff that pulled the event together.

You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

The following illustrative stories comes from those workshops.  Story #2 will be in a followup post.

Story #1:

There was a lot of back and forth with multiple people to try to get them on the panel discussions.  It was a big ask for everyone involved and I hope it set the groundwork for future collaborations, projects etc.

Trying to organize and run something like this with – what seems like an infinite number of variables (an unfamiliar room, an unfamiliar PA, no idea how many people are actually attending, coordinating with all the different people that need to be in place to make sure that panelists are relatively happy)  – is particularly stressful the day of the event.

The only way to manage that stress in any way, shape or form is to try to eliminate as many loose ends before the day of the show as possible and put extra work in well in advance of the event and communicate clearly to everyone involved.

In this case, managing one loose end involved contacting everyone on the panel and making sure that they would still be there and giving them a “one page” of day of event information – directions, food, etc.  Everyone confirmed they would be there but there were two panelists that indicated that they had prior commitments and would have to leave by 3 pm.  That was no problem.

The day of the event, after the opening presentation, I was helping set up the tables for the panel discussion and checked my phone and saw that an unfamiliar number had left me a voice mail a minute or two earlier.  It was one of the panelists who had confirmed attending earlier in the week but had a prior commitment later that day.  He was now calling to cancel his appearance 15 minutes before the start of the panel.  He said he’d gotten sick the night before and that he wanted to try to ride it out to see if he could make it in and now decided he couldn’t and that he didn’t want to get the other panelists sick.   He was sorry but ended the call with, “I hope you’ll keep me in mind for other events in the future and if you know anyone who needs PR services that you’ll send them my way.”

I remember looking at my phone and thinking, “What is this – high school?  I can’t go to class?  My dog ate my homework?”

Particularly for a person who works in Public Relations – I can’t imagine a way to handle that more poorly.

You can’t invite someone over a bridge you just burned.

For those of you starting your music business endeavors, here are some takeaway points:

1.  Communicate early and frequently.  People get sick.  Things happen.  People generally will work with you for whatever problem you have, but you have to communicate early and not leave people in a lurch.  As an organizer, calling me 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there is only marginally better than not showing.  Also when you’ve already told me that you have a family function later that day that you have to go to, the sick excuse seems spurious at best and doesn’t really cut it.

2.  If you do ever find yourself in that situation, follow up with people.  Had he contacted me the following week and said, “Hey I feel really bad that I couldn’t make it.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How did the panel discussion go?” it would have been a completely different discussion and at the least it would have added more legitimacy to his story.

The fact that he couldn’t be bothered to make a simple followup call or email just told me that he didn’t want to be there.  But as the person runs a PR company, they should be acutely aware of how badly they just burned that bridge.  I don’t always want to do my own PR.  I need help sometimes with things.  But as a potential client, how can I contact you for my project if my experience with you is that you bailed out on a commitment at the last minute and then didn’t follow up?

When you’re a professional, your professionalism will be measured by your actions.  If you don’t conduct yourself in a professional way, you won’t be viewed as professional by others.    It doesn’t always mean that it’s fair.  But it’s how it is.

(The odd exception to this is that if you’re independently wealthy, you don’t necessarily have to be professional as you can pay people to take on those services for you.  But in those cases, people only work with you because they have money and when the money’s gone, typically so are they.)

If you operate in the public eye you need to act like someone is always watching you.  That doesn’t mean being paranoid but, for example, you need to assume that if you’re inebriated in a public place and making a loud fool out of yourself, that video footage will show up online somewhere.

Conduct your matters with honesty and integrity. If you act unprofessional, you can’t expect a professional reference.

In the next post, I’ll tell another story from the Festival that highlights almost everything that’s wrong about how musicians navigate the music business (and it has nothing to do with file sharing or spotify).

As always thanks for reading!

-SC

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