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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For Singers: On Being a Bitch

Hi there,

Since it's the season of goodwill, I thought I'd talk about the importance, as a singer, of being nice. Niceness is underrated. People almost have an expectation of diva-ish bitchy behaviour from female singers, especially if there's more than one of them on the same stage. I ran 'PopTarts', a weekly female singer-songwriter night, for almost 10 years - dealing with female artistes en masse - and I completely disagree that un-niceness is the norm. I was always impressed at the warm camaraderie between the singers and not only do I think it's the right way to be, I think it's good for your career.

I do a piano bar-type gig once a week, largely attracting international tourists. It's quite common for visitors to come and get their photo taken with the piano player and I, at the end of the night. Recently, a family came up to the piano and I got my best smile ready. Instead of posing with us, the mother glared at me, snarled 'excuse me' as she pushed us to the side and deposited her 20-something daughter at the piano. Mother instructed daughter to place her hands on the piano as if playing and then directed her (also snarling) son behind his camera phone, in what became a mini photo shoot. 

 Just after they left, my boss approached us laughing. Apparently this family were his guests this particular night. He had invited them because the mother had enquired after the singing gig for her daughter. The venue hires singers every night of the week so he is always interested in new performers. When my boss sat down with them for a while, during my performance, he asked the group what they thought of me. Apparently they stuck the boot in. There were harumphs and comments like 'oh she's very average'. Perhaps this is what they really thought, but is this the way to get yourself a gig?

Well you'll be pleased to know it didn't work. When the mother asked Bossman when her daughter would be able to start, he said something to the effect of, 'you can have the gig when this singer is finished with it and that could be another 20 years, so don't hold your breath.' Didn't she realise she was not only putting me down, but also criticising the judgement of the person that had hired me, ie Bossman himself? The Maitre d' told me the group had been disparaging of me to him as well! So with all the staff talking about it, and laughing at what they considered their transparent efforts to land the gig, they had managed to absolutely guarantee that no kin of theirs would ever work at that venue.

In any industry, people want to work with nice people, right? It makes life run more smoothly. Anyway, everyone knows Santa strikes naughty people off his present list, so here's to nice!

Merry Christmas everyone,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Four Extra Inches? Always Say Yes

Hi there,

A muso friend receives an email offering a too-good-to-be-true career opportunity. What is she to do? My advice is 'just say yes!'. What if it is actually the real deal? You're going to say no because it's too good? When an unknown Madonna got offered her first record deal, did she say 'Nah, that's exactly what I want but it seems way too good to be true so I'll pass thanks!'

I got a strangely-worded email a few years ago asking if my band and I would like to come to Malaysia as guests of a world-famous cognac company, to perform as part of their publicity campaign. It would entail being treated like rockstars, staying in luxurious accommodations, doing gigs in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Oh, and how much would you like to be paid for the privilege? And did I mention we need you here in a week? The email lacked punctuation and had no signature at the bottom - it certainly didn't look corporate. What was being offered was almost dream-like. I had a little laugh when I received it, but instead of pressing the 'delete' button I employed the 'R.Fukert' attitude and replied. I came up with a figure I thought would be pretty generous on their part and promptly forgot about it and went on with my real life. 

The next day I received the paperwork to sign, including the generous figure I had proposed - really! Of course I got the contracts checked out and then we all had to scramble for visas and re-organise our lives for the next couple of weeks. But that trip still goes down as one of the most rockstar experiences of my life. As well as everything they had promised, they put on a huge press conference, with us as the star attractions. I did a photo spread for Malaysian 'Cosmopolitan' magazine and there were larger than life size banners of my face in the centre of the city. Sitting down one tropical evening - with drinks provided by the sponsor of course - I had an interesting conversation with our host. He was the one who had sent me that initial email. He asked me if Australian bands were perhaps not very internet savvy - a very large percentage of the emails he had sent to bands apparently went ignored. I'm sure it was because the bands had assumed the email was of the same ilk as those offering 'up to four extra inches'.

So now my credo is, 'just say yes - until you have to either sign something or pay any money'. Of course you have to be careful if it involves contracts or cash, but until then...why not go with the flow and see if it leads to an exotic rockstar experience?