|Feature Article..........Honesty & Honoring Your Commitments by Mark E. Waterbury
"Truthfulness is the main element of character." - Brian Tracy
Most of our articles directed at helping you with your music careers have been in one aspect or another preaching about what kind of commitment it takes to be successful in this business. This time we are talking about a different context of the word commitment, that is involving any commitment you may make for yourself, your band or your music business. The gospel to follow with making commitments is very simple...honor and keep them! Keeping your commitments is essential and also intertwined with your level of commitment to your career. It is part of being honest, which has unfortunately become a rarer trait in people involved with music these days. Not being honest and truthful with those you are working with to help further your career can be very damaging to you and them as well. These are golden rules for life in general, and they most certainly should be followed in your career pursuits.
"Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is." - Sir Winston Churchill
There are many commitments made in the everyday workings of a music career. When you agree to do a gig you are making a commitment to the club or event you are performing at. That gig will most likely have its own attendant commitments, such as sending posters, contacting your fan base and trying to get advance publicity for the show. You have commitments when you set up practices with your band, meetings with business professionals or interviews with the press. No matter what the commitment is you have to realize that if you do not keep the commitment, you may be causing difficulties for people who are helping you out and were expecting you to honor the commitment. Not only can this be a bit selfish on your part but it can possibly cause you to gain a reputation of being untrustworthy, a mantra that can become a hindrance to the success of your career.
"Truth indeed rather alleviates than hurts, and will always bear up against falsehood, as oil does above water." - Miguel de Cervantes
Of course there are a few mitigating circumstances that may cause you to break a commitment that are forgivable and understandable. Death in the family, severe injuries or serious illness to a band member, or other unforeseen force majeure do happen on occasion. Sometimes however some bands and musicians seem to use smaller perceived "catastrophes" as an excuse to avoid following through with a commitment. Let's use the simple club show as an example. When you agree to do a show several people depend on you keeping your word and your commitment to do it. The club owner and booker probably will incur some expenses due to your upcoming show, whether it is something basic such as making up flyers, to more full blown promotions including advertising and other avenues. Then there are your fans to consider. They may have changed plans or traveled from out of town to see your show. This is something you need to consider if you want to cancel a show at the last minute for anything that is not a major hindrance. When you put others out who have certain expectations for you to come through for them, they are probably going to remember you in not too good of a light for doing that. If a minor inconvenience prompts you to cancel a gig or other commitment, perhaps you should find another livelihood, because your are not showing the COMMITMENT necessary to further your career. Most inconveniences are minor if you have a passion and commitment to what you are doing. I have seen Nazareth's vocalist Dan McCaffrey perform from a chair because he had thrown his back out. I saw Steve Earle perform with a severe case of the flu and put on one of the best performances I have seen. In a non-music example, Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre played one of the best games of his life less than twenty-four hours after his father passed away. These people had far more reasons to not honor their commitments than the excuses some musicians and bands use to cancel theirs. Yet they honored their commitments, because they have passion for what they do and they know others are relying on them. That is the root of honoring commitments. Granted, people would have understood if Brett Favre had not played that game, but how do you think a club booker who is expecting you to perform and has promoted the show is going to feel if you cancel at the last minute because you got the sniffles? Or worse, how will your fans will feel?
"This is the punishment of the liar - he is not believed even when he speaks the truth" - the Babylonian Talmud
You really have to be cognizant of how you making a commitment will affect those you make the commitment with. If you set up a meeting with a business professional or an interview with a member of the media, you have to remember you are dealing with busy people. They may have to juggle their schedules in order to accommodate you. If you do not show up for the meeting or interview, or cancel at the last minute, you are inconveniencing them. They will have to juggle again if you want to reschedule your meeting or interview, and this may get tiresome for some busy professionals. In some cases, you may lose that interview or opportunity, and people may start labeling you as unreliable. They may make excuses the next time you try to set up a meeting or interview remembering that due to past experience they don't think you will be there - the old crying wolf parable. I know some of you are thinking, well what if this happens, or what if that happens and I can't get there? People who have true passion for what they are doing, whether it is in music or other walks of like, will do everything in their power to keep commitments because they realize it is essential for their careers. Slackers on the other hand do everything possible to get out of commitments. Plain and simple; if you have no intention of honoring a commitment, DON'T MAKE IT! If you have any doubts about a certain commitment, be honest to the other party about your doubts so they don't have to put themselves out at the onset, but don't keep them hanging forever waiting for an answer from you. Either commit to it and then follow through with it or graciously decline.
"When something important is going on, silence is a lie." - A.M. Rosenthal
Keeping your commitments and honesty are hand in hand; if you do not keep your commitments you are essentially lying. Lying and not keeping commitments can also be hand in hand. Once again using the gig example, if a booking agent is asking you if you are going to send posters, call your fan base and contact press to help promote your show, don't just tell them that you are going to do it to get them off your back and then not follow through with it. If you have no plans to follow through with a commitment yet you make that commitment, you are a LIAR. If you don't think you can follow through at least explain that to the other party so they don't have to rely on you and can make alternate plans to augment what you can't do. Some of this can be avoided by being up front with others, especially those working with you. If you know that you have a day job that precludes you doing gigs or interviews on certain dates and times for example, and you don't let your publicist or booking agent know about this it can cause problems. Because of voice mail, e-mail and assistants answering phones, it is often very time consuming for that agent or publicist to track down a music editor or club booker. When they schedule you a gig or interview and then they have to go back and reschedule it because of something that they should have known about in advance, you are inconveniencing them as well as the entity they are trying to work with for you. You also may end up losing that opportunity as a result. There should be no surprises of this sort between you and those trying to further your career. Keeping info other than obvious personal info from them is lying by omission, and can cause just as many problems as directly lying.
"The truth shall make you free." - The Bible, John 8:32
Teamwork has been preached in every article we have produced to try to assist you in your music endeavors. Keeping your commitments and being honest with everyone directly and indirectly involved with your career is absolutely essential in this business climate. Remember the story about Brett Favre? He had an incredible game, but another factor was that his teammates went out and gave their all for him on the night that he needed their support the most. You can build that kind of team as well, if you show your teammates that you are committed, honest, and reliable in keeping your commitments to them. That will be a huge step to winning the game with your music career.
I have a saying that says it all in a nutshell by Denis Waitley posted on my office door: Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.