This week’s post is actually a guest blog, and comes from the incredibly talented and always insightful Sarah Spencer. After hearing so many similar complaints echoed by women in the music industry, I asked Sarah if she could offer her unique perspective. She not only found the time to put her unique voice to this issue, but did a great job in the process. To find out more about Sarah, check out www.sarahspencer.com – Dan
Steamed Tomatoes: How Predatory Men Ruin it for Everyone in the Music Business
by Sarah Spencer
There’s this thing going on in the world that’s been happening for some time, and it’s called “douchebag men in the music industry”.
The music industry douchebag is an archetype as old as time itself. He’s been around since the beginning of written language. He shows up in pivotal points in history, like Lou Pearlman with his affinity for ponzi-schemes, or Chris Brown being a violent, misogynist asshole.
The music industry douchebag initially enters a certain career path when he’s enticed by the promise of money, power, possible notoriety, and of course, surrounding himself with beautiful women. Who will most likely do anything for him. Especially if he has money, power and possible notoriety.
Notice I said possible notoriety. Because The MI Douchebag seems to think that these mystical women of lore equate “I’m famous.” with “I’m hanging out with this guy who says he’s rich and powerful and will make me famous.”
Whoops, JK, women like that do exist. Whatever, that’s another post entirely.
Yes, we all know him well. He’s the guy that you meet at the mixer who invites you back to his studio after the party. He’s the producer that expects to get to know you a little better before he starts introducing you to his influential friends. He’s the manager that loves your sound, here, have this shot, let’s talk about getting you on stage at this festival back in Rhode Island that trust me, it’s killer, the Rhode Islanders come from miles around, and here, have another shot with me, what are you doing after this?
Chances are that if you are a female working in the music industry, you have run into the music industry douchebag many a time.
Unfortunately, these are the men to leave a sour taste in our mouth (ew, poor but appropriate choice of words) and kind of ruin it for all the other professional, respectable men out there.
I recently had an experience with a pair of music industry douchebags about a week ago.
I was performing with a good friend of mine in downtown Nashville who also happens to be a female artist and songwriter. It’s tourist season right now, so the venue was packed and we had a fun rowdy audience. The show went well, and the venue was going to comp our meals for us.
The second my pretty young blonde friend stepped off the stage, she was immediately pulled into conversation by a man in a cowboy hat and a beer fest T-shirt, talking about how he wants to represent her at his new management firm.
Of course, my friend was humble and much obliged. Even if he set off some red flags for douchebaggery, he was complimenting her and her songs. I left them to their conversation and went to grab a table.
Some time passed. I posted a few photos to Facebook, checked my notifications. The waitress brought over menus and glasses of water. I texted my fiance. Then I looked up and realize that my friend was still engaged in conversation with the gentleman across the room. This gentleman had somehow turned into two gentlemen.
This conversation with two somewhat inebriated men took a little longer than what was comfortable, but my friend was eventually able to pull herself away by letting them know that she and I were going to have some “girl time” at our table. No harm no foul. She was able to cut them off from their drunken passes at her. This happens often enough, she knows how to handle it.
When she came over to our table, she went on to tell me that they were starting their own management company out of state and were looking for artists for their roster. How cool, they were breaking into the music industry! They were in Nashville on business to scope out some talent.
Then the douchebaggery started.
After our meals had arrived, our two new friends decided to come sit at our table, despite the obvious but maybe not so obvious “girl time” remark. (Although really, what’s not to get?)
OK, they were a couple beers in. We’ll give them some leeway.
Then the first guy in the cowboy hat proceeds to move to the table beside us which is filled with young women. He then proceeds to lift up his shirt, exposing his abs to the giggling group of young ladies.
Behold, the music industry douchebag in his natural environment.
Why this makes me SO steaming mad.
OK, OK. Things get a little rowdy on Broadway. People are drinking and having fun. If you’re a tourist or looking for a good time, this is typically the kind of activity you’ll find on lower Broadway. That’s cool.
What is absolutely not cool happens next.
The two men begin to clearly flirt with us. Waitaminute, weren’t they here on business? Weren’t they scouting talent? … weren’t they JUST talking to my friend about the potential of representing her and working together?
I’m sorry gentlemen, but I thought you were in town on business?
They then tried to sell us on playing at some sort of music festival out of state. They told us how much they love our music. Then they ask us what we’re doing tonight. They ask us for our phone numbers. They ask us if we want to have a drink and go out to the karaoke bar with them.
Let me spell something out for all the oblivious jerks out there: This is insulting. And here is why.
We are not flattered.
Your “special attention” does not make us feel special. It makes us feel sleazy. We’re here to work. We showed up, played. We didn’t come out here to party or get picked up by men at the bar, and that should be apparent by the fact that we were just playing on stage for 2 hours. Some girls genuinely do enjoy being flirted with, but we were clearly giving you all the signals that we were not into it.
You led us on.
You told us one thing, then did something else. You told us you were in town on business, looking to make connections with artists. Although it was clear from the get-go that you had been drinking and already had a pretty good buzz when you started to talk “business” with us, we humored you. But it was clear after a hot minute that creating lasting professional connections was not your end goal.
You insulted our craft.
This makes me madder than hell. See, when you gentlemen told my friend and I how much you loved our music then started flirting with us, it didn’t take us long to realize that you must not have actually liked our music. If you actually liked our music then we would have talked about music. This is the equivalent of telling a girl she has beautiful eyes in an attempt to get in her pants. You don’t really love staring deep into her eyes. You’re just telling us what you think we want to hear. We’re not falling for it. Please vacate my personal space, thank you.
When a man combines compliments with come-ons, it tells us hard working ladies that you think we’re desperate. That you think we’re attention seeking crazy females who will do anything for a chance to make it big in the music industry. That we value ourselves so little we’ll jump into bed with the first guy who says he wants to manage us.
Sad but True
Scenarios like this are a common occurrence in the music industry. If you are female this is all-too-familiar. Maybe this happens to men to, but I have yet to hear about it from any of my male musician friends.
The music industry has a long history of blurring lines between professionalism and a rockstar mentality. Musicians often get mislabeled as irresponsible, entitled, immature people who can’t actually hold down a real job. The age old stereotypical musician is someone who likes to be the center of attention, party all the time, and play music.
It is sad but true that all too often, female musicians fall into this stereo typical way of thinking.
Because of this, Female musicians are sometimes seen as ditzy attention seeking whores. Girls who love the limelight. Girls who love to party. Girls who are loose. Girls who will sleep their way to the top.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In some cases, this is true.
But the majority of musicians who truly set out to build a business around their work are incredibly disciplined and hard working. That’s because it takes incredible discipline and stupid amounts of hard work in order to get anywhere in this industry. You can’t party and screw around all the time and expect to get anywhere.
A Small Ray of Hope, Behind Many Dark, Douchey Clouds.
There is a way to navigate the industry without having to sleep around. You can learn the signs of the music industry douche bag and do your best to avoid him. But you will never have a career free of him.
He will be at every mixer, every venue, every show. Your best friends will fall for his charms. They will get hurt over and over again because they don’t see his true motivations. Men and women in your office or on your team will be duped time and time again by the music industry douche bag.
He absolutely ruins it for everyone. Maybe that’s why there are so many steamed tomatoes in the industry today.
Sarah Spencer is a singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN. By day, she is works as the lead designer at a creative agency. When she’s not focusing on the web, Sarah spends her evenings writing songs and playing writer’s rounds around town. Her humble labor of love, SongFancy.com, serves as an outlet for thoughts and inspiration about the craft and business of songwriting.