Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her — confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Recently, the attentions of a music writer have been turned on my band, calling us “sellouts” when he clearly has no knowledge of our actual situations. He seems to particularly have it in for us. I don’t want to write off his behavior as old jaded guy versus young enthusiastic happy people, because I do want to take the time to understand what’s happening here. But no matter how much I try, I can’t figure it out. Why’s he being so mean? What’s in it for him? Why does he care what other people enjoy or even promote?
Confused in New York
We used to have a saying around the decrepit basement office back when I used to do PR: “You don’t read your press kit, you weigh it.” Not everyone is going to like your work, let alone understand it. It’s an older generations imperative to be threatened and critical of kids today. Some are compelled to do this publicly as part of their job as critics or bloggers, even. It’s natural to feel undone by someone criticizing you from a public platform and getting it wrong, distorting things to be self-serving–such is the nature of so much media and online communication these days.
Do not let him rent out your brain for free, do not give him that power, do not elevate or escalate or validate his criticisms by getting in some BS Twitter-war with him. If you can, take it as a backhanded compliment: you work is unsettling people in power and your work is something other people are taking seriously. Keep your head down and keep plugging away, don’t try to manage anyone’s opinion of what you are doing. It’s fruitless. There is a good chance you are just the band that is caught in his crosshairs this week/month–he will move on and find a new target soon.
My new “band” is a very unique duo. We get offers to play parties and shows and we’ve only been together a month, and everything we do couldn’t be more effortless and fun. It’s perfect.
Except for The Lead Singer. I can’t get him out of the house to do almost any gigs! Are there some famous tricks used in the music industry to get flaky musicians to show up? (Tell them there are nude gals? Drugs?) He can’t be replaced, but he’s MIA! WTF?!!!!!
The future of the future of rock may be in your hands!
JBJ Dear JBJ,
Judging by the weed-theme of your band’s name and aesthetic, I am guessing your band bro is a major stoner or at least the kind that becomes forgetful and inert when high. Maybe he’s trying to pre-game some show/stage anxiety and overdoes it? My suggestion is to intercede–arrange to be with him, like go from “practice” or what have you to the gig–pick him up and chaperone his ass to the show. Or start getting paid for your shows in weed to lure him out.
All this sounds like a recipe for disaster, honestly, though. When people want something, the energy to do it or to participate comes naturally, so him being a no-show means he is not invested in this the way you are; it is rare that that situation can be fixed by incentives or goading. But maybe. People can also be paralyzed by the prospect of success or attention, the scrutiny and expectation that comes with it–and how to repair another persons self-esteem? Sounds like you have the weight of your bandmate on your back regardless. Or maybe he hates you?! Try asking him what’s up, how you can help, or otherwise directly addressing it. If he’s giving you some bullshit excuses, ask him point blank whether he wants to be in the band. You might not get the answer you want, but that’s better than another few months of thwarted dreams and resentment towards him, surely.