It’s not personal…It’s business.
It’s a phrase that’s heard a lot in the music business. So what does it actually mean and what is the appropriate context? Here’s what it means (and what it doesn’t mean) to us.
First let’s talk about what it means. Rejection is a big part of the game. Talk to anyone at the “Top” and ask them about the times they faced rejection; you might be surprised to hear that almost everyone has faced rejection from venues, management, program directors, and radio promoters, and A LOT OF IT! When an artist isn’t booked, or picked up, or spun, I can guarantee that 99% of the time, it’s not personal; it’s business.
These people are making business decisions, and are trying to do what they feel is best for their company; they don’t have some personal vendetta against you! In fact, a lot of times it’s the opposite: they like the band on a personal level, but not their music. Or they might really like your music, but don’t feel like it fits their market.
Some people will dig your band, and some people won’t. Some people will think that you’ll be successful in their market, and some won’t. Some people will think you’ll draw a crowd, and some won’t. THIS IS A REALITY THAT YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN TO DEAL WITH. YOU’RE NOT EVERYONE’S CUP OF TEA, YOU WON’T BE SUCCESSFUL IN EVERY MARKET, AND A LOT PEOPLE WILL NOT LIKE YOUR MUSIC!
I can almost assure you that you’re going to find rejection, before you find success!
There are a thousand bands out there trying to make it. There are only so many stations, venues, promoters, management companies etc…These people are often flooded with tons of emails, and phone calls a week. They have to make a hundred decisions a day, and time is not something they have an excess of; so you’re likely to hear an honest and straight-forward answer, without a whole lot of explanation.
Sometimes these blunt and direct answers can hurt, but keep in mind, that HONESTY IS WHAT YOU WANT! Your time is valuable as well, so you don’t want to continually devote it towards someone who has no intention of picking you up, spinning you, booking you, etc…If that’s their intention, you want them to come-out and tell you “no” or “we’re not interested”. Thank them for their consideration and try again in the future.
Some people will go beyond that and offer you an explanation or (constructive) criticism. YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TAKE THAT CRITICISM, WITHOUT TAKING IT PERSONALLY! This is probably the hardest part for musicians.
If PD’s tell you why they’re not playing your song, or a venue tells you why they don’t want to book you, the WORST THING YOU CAN DO IS GET DEFENSIVE AND ARGUE WITH THEM! Don’t burn that bridge! Give some honest thought to what they have to say, and move on! It’s not personal, it’s just business. They’re not trying to be mean, they’re just being honest! They’re telling you what you need to fix or change, and there’s a decent chance they know what they’re talking about (but not always). Whether you think they’re right or wrong, thank them and try again when you have new material.
You’ll find that the success of people in the music industry isn’t about how they respond to success, but how the respond to rejection and criticism.
By no means am I telling you to consider criticism from anyone. The drunk guy in the crowd, friends, family, etc… will probably never give you great criticism; but feedback from experienced industry personnel can be extremely useful! It can be tough to take criticism and rejection, but if you can’t do it, then this probably isn’t the industry for you! Don’t read in to it, don’t over analyze it, and don’t let it get you down! Learn from it, grow from it, and DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL!
In saying that, I think it’s also important to discuss what the phrase doesn’t mean. I think the phrase gets overused sometimes as an excuse to not be cordial. It definitely doesn’t mean you can be a jerk, just because the industry is super-competitive and time is limited. It doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want without consequences, and it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be disrespectful. That IS PERSONAL!
We feel fortunate to work in the TEXAS music scene, and feel that isn’t as common of an occurrence as in other scenes. We meet people all the time that do it right! We’ve been blessed to find venue owners, talent buyers, PD’s, radio promoters, and management that are a pleasure to work with and talk to! Doing it right, goes a long with us, and we’re sure it goes a long way with other people as well!
No matter which side you’re on in this industry, don’t take the business side too personal, but also don’t forget that not everything is business!
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.