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Every musician has a weakness when it comes to their own work. Praise their wise lyrics, high-end production or great instrumental performance and they'll do anything for you. | Photo: Boudewijn Huysmans (Unsplash)
Every musician has a weakness when it comes to their own work. Praise their wise lyrics, high-end production or great instrumental performance and they'll do anything for you. | Photo: Boudewijn Huysmans (Unsplash)
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TOP 5 Dirty Tricks to Fool Any Musician

How many crooks have you met during your musical career? You know, those types who wander around show business and try to feed off artists without really helping them? Today we'll look at all this from their perspective. Imagine that you need to persuade a musician to play a free gig, sign an insanely disadvantageous contract or hand over all their songs for a nickel. Let's take a look at the TOP 5 dirty tricks to fool any musician.

Ouch, this is gonna hurt, certainly at least my soul. As a practising musician, I have experienced as many traps in the music industry as you could possibly encounter. All the disappointments, unfulfilled promises and sometimes blatant lies have accumulated within my consciousness over the years and created a huge burden that I would like to get rid of by sharing it with you. At the same time, I hope that the following—written in a tongue-in-cheek style, viewed from the opposite side of the picture—will help someone who is at the start of their music career to avoid such mistakes.

1. Think big & act accordingly

Do you know the effect of a million-pound note? If not, I highly recommend watching the film with Gregory Peck. It presents a simple principle which proves people are willing to trust someone they believe has tremendous value and power. In the film, the main character owns a banknote with a ridiculous million-pound value and he quickly becomes a celebrity. The fame suddenly opens all the doors for him, nothing is a problem and paradoxically he does not need to pay bills or for services and receives everything for free. Everybody wants to impress a man with such a position, right?

Flea from the RHCP shared a similar story from his life. When he was a young up-coming (and broke) musician, he couldn't afford to buy a decent instrument. He tried to approach some brands and music shops to help him out, but with no success. Nowadays, as a rich and famous rock star, he is flooded with free offers from guitar makers and music brands. 

The same principle works for musicians—if you want to be the million-pound music manager, be as convincing as a music mogul, and show off your deep pockets and knowledge of the music industry. Pretending to have this status is quite easy. All you need is a professional-looking website, a meeting in an expensive restaurant and a fitting suit—or an expensive tracksuit (depending upon who you want to impress). Few musicians can resist the chance for success or association with someone who at least looks like an accomplished person. Then you just need to say what you need from an artist and I bet you'll get an enthusiastic "yes."

2. The empathy card

This is a cruel and cynical approach and not everyone has the stomach for it. However, musicians work very well with someone who can hear them out, understand their struggles and their desire for free artistic expression. Let them cry, listen attentively and nod often in a gesture of deep understanding.

When you think the time has come, start with the short speech: "I feel you. Completely understand. Yes, as you say, you need to make the new record your way. Artistically free. We only live once, right? No limits, no restrictions, focus only on music and authenticity. Nevertheless ... Yet ... Just consider ... I have a suggestion ... However ... The latest survey shows ..." The conclusion is the essential part, when you suggest that the artist does the exact opposite of what they were talking about. They are so mesmerised by your sudden change of approach and weakened by your unending empathy, that they're in the palm of your hand—the job is done!

3. Compliments

You have to praise a lot, I mean really, a lot. Be always positive, enthusiastic and almost annoyingly cheerful about everything your musician produces. A musician's soul tends towards pessimism, excessive self-criticism and underestimation. Every musician, therefore, appreciates enthusiasts in their inner circle. They need that one clown, that "always sunny" guy or the easy-going fella.

However, you should be aware that this attitude will put you in an idiotic and childish bracket. Nonetheless, your artist will still be very happy with you, as they desperately need someone who is stalling and cheering every time they get an idea. Swallow contempt and the role of a fool, because when the right time comes, it will all turn around and you'll get what you need.

4. The great critic

The opposite tactic is the role of sophisticated criticism. It requires a great portion of self-confidence as you have to state clear and strong opinions about your musician's work. You're acting as an expert, someone who knows everything about how it works in the show business. Musicians are broken souls, looking for the truth and searching for beauty. Actually, they are never happy with their art, and that's exactly your area of exploitation.

Throw some meaningless phrases like: "great songs, but the production is from the nineties," "wonderful lyrics, but where is the emotion?" or a gold one "I can't imagine the target group for your style." The stunned, uncertain musician is easy prey and will follow your advice willingly. Almost every artist has a keen intention to do better.

5. The media and admin king

Most musicians hate self-promotion. The never-ending stream of fresh content for social networks, video invitations and promotion skits, pictures from backstage, onstage, offstage, anywhere & everywhere, answering comments and messages, you name it. All this takes artists from what they truly love to do—the fun things like composing songs, recording in a studio or going on tour.

Put yourself into the role of the saviour. Give them the feeling that you can arrange huge numbers of fans instantly, hundreds of millions of likes and comments, and of course, the front page of prestigious music magazines is guaranteed (only, you can't promise any specific terms, right? Wink, wink).

Musicians will give you their right hand if they feel that someone can get the job done. All the annoying matters are sorted for them: advertising, organising, administrating, paperwork, mailing and hustling important phone calls. Tell them that from now on, their only worry is to get up slightly before noon, to have fun composing new songs and to meet up in the evening in the studio for an afterparty. And they'll love you forever! And with love comes loyalty.

Just one last tip on how not to be fooled

I hope you took the above tips and cynicism as a useful exercise in giving you a reality check.

To finish, I would like to tell you that there is no golden ticket (and to remind myself too, because despite many years in the music business I am still as naive as I was). So far, only intuition has helped me to make crucial good decisions. Try not to overanalyse things and make your decisions based on a straightforward premise: that you make music because you enjoy doing it and it makes you feel fulfilled. Music is a beautiful adventure and it will give your soul all the nourishment it needs. 

If you are too focused on pushing your fame and glory, you may easily fall for one of the many music business fraudsters. It won't happen because the crook is highly sophisticated or because you meet some cunning villain, but rather because you're trapped in your obsessed mind forcing you to believe obvious lies. When you want to make it work so much, your wishful thinking can blur your rationale.

So always ask yourself two simple questions before any important decision: "What are the motives for my decision? Why do I want to do it?" If your motivation is love or joy, then you'll always make a good decision.

I wish you endless sources of inspiration and to be surrounded by the very best people!

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.