I’m splitting this post into two different parts. There are many reasons I’ve preferred working alone as far as every creative piece of work I’ve done. I’m going to start with music though because I think starting from the beginning will really show you why I struggle with people. Not all people, but the ones that only want a piece of the pie, but don’t want to help bake it.
Ten years ago, I was a musician and had a hard time keeping a group together because of everyone else’s personal goals. I’ve always been a supported of my peers wanting to pursue their dreams, so I never batted an eye when my friends decided music just wasn’t for them. For me, the band was my life though. I was the manager, the marketer, and the writer of all the music, I just needed guys to fill the spots so we could perform across the state.
Eventually, we had about three to four gigs booked a month and our brand was getting popular. We even had calls from clubs in South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee wanting us to come out and perform for their customers. It was a great feeling to have people believe in our work and want to be a part of what we were trying to build. The only problem, we were running into some of the bad apples in the industry who were just focused on the financial gain and not so much on the well fair of the artist. If you’re an artist, you already know the feeling. We’re always starving and enough is never enough.
I want to say my worst experience as an artist was with two different entertainment companies. At the time, my local friends were talking about companies that assisted in the bookings for bands around the area. They would call up the venue and put all of their bands they’re helping into different clubs. I will say, I thought the man that was helping us was my friend because he was so passionate about our music and even invited us for dinner with his family. We talked a lot about the goals our band had, and where we wanted to go as an act. The problem was, it was all an act.
When we finally decided to try him out, he was visible at every event we were performing at. Even the shitty ones, where we had three drunk fans dancing in front of the stage and everyone else just didn’t give a flying shit about who we were. Well, we were excited that he was so into our music and wanted to help us. He even gave me plenty of tips to build on the foundation of what our group inspired to be. Then, when we finally worked with him, it all went down hill. Thankfully, we never signed a contract though because I did have a weary feeling about him from the start. I don’t know why, but the vibe was very awkward later on into our business dealings.
He signed us up for about four different gigs in a month, and the way we were paid were through ticket sales before the date of the gig. We never earned any money at the door or from the liquor sales. It all got dumped into his pocket to pay the owner and his fees because we couldn’t afford him. Well, I started paying attention to his plan and watching how things were playing out on our ticket sales. Hell, we drove out to Atlanta one night and left with only twenty-five bucks in out pocket. Now, splitting that between three people just didn’t sit well with me, or the other guys.
I ended up having a conference call with him and discussing the future of our relationship with him. The weird thing was he wanted to bring me along as an assistant to watch how he works these clubs and artists. The only problem was, I was hearing things that sparked concern for me. There were even moments where he’s be out messing around with underage girls behind stage. It was extremely unprofessional, and I cut ties with him immediately because I didn’t want my brand linked to a guy who could’ve possibly been locked up for some of the shit he was doing.
Well, after him, we ran into another entertainment company run by a group of women. They had about three bands that they specifically worked with and were trying to build their name the best they could. The only problem was, they were doing the same shit the last guy was doing. Not so much making out and messing with underage girls back stage, but they were screwing us over too. We were getting paid between Five and Ten bucks a gig, and it got to the point we couldn’t do it anymore.
Want to know the worst part though?
Well, with this company, they had us performing a gig at a venue called the Masquerade in Atlanta. We were required to sell at least twenty-five tickets because they had about ten bands performing. Apparently, the headliner decided to bail the week before and didn’t have the necessary sales to pull in a decent crowd. We had a pretty amazing fanbase though and sold about seventy-five to one hundred tickets. The problem was, the company came to us three days before the gig and asked us to sell one hundred and fifty tickets because we were now headlining the show.
There were no ifs, ands, or buts. It was just a thrown at us like we were some hotshot band just strolling into town for a surprise appearance. We weren’t that kind of band though. We were local and our fanbase was small. People bought our tickets, but would never show for the performances because well, life happens, right?
Anyways, when the performance came around I was scared shitless because we couldn’t sell the extra tickets needed for the company to pay the venue. They were livid with us and literally trashed our name to the owners of the Masquerade. It was probably one of the worst performances we ever had because when you have someone scowling at you the whole time like you’re a piece of shit, it hurts. It hurts really bad, especially when you are a small band trying to make it in the big picture.
When the performance was over, the lady from the entertainment company came up to me and told me we were blacklisted and banned from playing at that club ever again. She even went as far as telling us no one would ever book us because this venue is an influencer in all the other venues in Atlanta. I believed that at the time because I was young and didn’t know how to handle the rough side to the business. The band got into the van and we sat there discussing our options. We were scared to death because we didn’t want this to be the end of our career. This was the life blood to our joyful days at the time. Then, for someone to want to rip that away from us really left a wound.
I called the venue the next day to discuss what happened and try to patch whatever damage was done the night before. It’s funny how karma works though because when I talked to the owners, they were actually pleased with us. They even went as far as to say that company should have never threatened us like that because they support all local artists, even if they ticket sales don’t add up to cover the costs. When I explained what happened though, they explained the no company should give a local band three days to sell one hundred tickets. They were more frustrated than I was about it and decided to add us on to a performance the next weekend without a required number of ticket sales. It all worked out for the band because I reached out to the owners of that bar, but I can’t help but wonder how many bands know to reach out.
In any artistic profession, there are always shady people who want to hope on the train and pull in a cut of an artist’s earnings. It’s something all of us have to deal with, and it’s a sad truth. This was my first experience as a musician to learn how cut throat people can be, and how having the right people is the key to building a strong foundation for any kind of work. Never think that one person is going to build you up to the point where you will become famous and rich because it is almost hardly ever the case. The only person who can really build a future for your work is you.