This is a guest post from Joy Ike. Joy is a full-time singer-songwriter who has been recognized by NPR's All Things Considered as "a truly compelling act to watch in person, with the ability to create an intimate setting in locations big and small." She is also the founder of Grassrootsy, a twice-weekly music marketing blog for independent artists. She believes the greatest tragedy in the world is having a talent and keeping it to yourself.
In this post Joy gives some great advice about what to do when you’re caught in an uncomfortable situation where you need to say “No”. Enjoy!
In my fairly short life, I’ve learned that maintaining good relationships with people has a lot to do with with how you respond to awkward situations or unwanted propositions. “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” So here’s a short list of some of those awkward moments and how to tactfully say NO!
“We can’t pay you, but can you still play the show?”
Response: Thanks for asking. Can you check back with me two weeks prior to the event? I try to make an effort to first leave my calendar open to gigs that can help sustain me financially…especially on the weekends. If that day is not booked nearer to your event, I may be able to play this particular event.
note: I’ve noticed that, if someone really wants to confirm you for an event after you’ve respectfully declined, they will proceed to ask you your booking fee. The above is a great way to let them know that you are serious about music as a “job”, not just a hobby.
“Want to write/record a song together?”
Response: That would be fun sometime. Honestly, I have to respectfully decline at the moment. I’m trying to be more strategic about the music I release and the projects I choose to take on. Perhaps in the future something can work, but right now its not something I’m able or ready to add to my plate.
note: its very important to carefully choose who you collaborate with. You cant just shell out song after song that you’ve recorded with various people. After a while you’ll have too much media out there .
“Can your whole band play this show?”
Response 1: Id really love for my whole band to come out to this show. Unfortunately I want to be able to fairly pay the musicians who play with me, and I’m unable to do that for this performance. Perhaps they will be able to join me in the future.
note: in most cases, the venue or event booker will understand. In a rare case, they will ask you how much you charge for band shows. Its a respectful way of telling them they’re not pay you enough for 3 more people.
Response 2: We’d really love to, but perhaps in the future. I try to space out how often we have full band performances since it is a huge commitment from my bandmates. We often keep band performances to summer music festivals and larger venues that demand a bigger sound. In between those, I play stripped down sets as much as possible.
note: this is an especially great way for singer/songwriters to decline bringing their band to an event that won’t be worth stringing 3 extra people to (i.e. farmers market, background music in a corner of a bar, house show).
“Will you promote my event through your Facebook wall and newsletter?”
Response: Your event sounds great…but I try to keep my Facebook wall and newsletter just for personal and music posts. People often ask me to promote their events on my wall, but I don’t want it to become too much of a bulletin board and advertising space. Sorry to disappoint but I hope your event goes well.
note: the more followers you gain over the years, the more people will post their own event on your page/profile, in the hopes that your fans will see it. I call it FB Spam. If that bugs you, be sure to consistently delete all attempts at 3rd party “advertising” on your page. It clutters your FB page and looks ugly.
“My band is coming through town in a few weeks and we’re looking for a local opener to split the show with us at XYZ. Can you play?”
Response 1: Hey guys, I checked out your music and your sound is great. Can I suggest a few bands for you to contact? My sound doesn’t necessarily compliment yours but i can recommend a band that is more compatible. And it will probably help your draw.
Response 2: Hey guys , I checked out your music and I really like it. Unfortunately since I play in my city alot, I am really trying to space out how often I do a local show. I can’t do the XYZ show because I have another local show a few days later. I don’t want either of the shows to detract from the other’s turnout.
Response 3: Hey guys, I checked out your stuff and it sounds great. I’m sorry I can’t play the show in a few weeks. XYZ isn’t a venue that works for my style of music. In fact, I think your show will be great, but if you’re ever swinging through town again, please hit me up and I can suggest some better venues for you guys. All the best!
note: you should always respond to traveling artists/bands when you can. They need your support and you will need their support when you go to their town. If a show doesn’t work for you, just tell them the truth. And if you can play the show, then play the show and help them by bringing out a few people.
So what do you guys think? Have you ever been put into uncomfortable situations and had to say “No”? If so, how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments.