Yesterday I sat in meeting with my two business mentors and realised that despite what I like to tell myself to the contrary, I am a fluffy-brained creative type, not a hard-nose businessman.
Both of these guys are very successful businessmen but in a grounded low-ego kind of way. When I say successful I mean they run multi-million dollar businesses and buy yachts and that kind of thing, but they aren’t, as the poms would say, “flash gits’. Consequently, I respect them.
I was actually with them to discuss business in the context of my day-job but talk soon turned to my music career aspirations, ridiculous as they may be.
My two hard-boiled businessmen friends genially began tearing my thinking apart with the conversational equivalent of pick-axes. With a knowing twinkle in my eye, I confidently leaned back on my chair only to discover that my Magic Difficult Scenario Escape Portal was on the blink yet again.
I scrambled for Plan B, realised I didn’t have one, landed on my back foot and began stuttering and hemming and hawing as they asked me brutal questions like “What do you actually want?” and “How much will you need to turnover each month to achieve that?”
Direct questions like this about specifics tend to leave me flabbergasted. I can see so many potential outcomes that I may or may not be cool with, that to choose one and start making up figures to support it just seems like an exercise in hypothetical nonsense.
And so I would start to answer with statements like “well, I want to build my music brand in a sustainable and profitable-“ only to get cut off with cries of “Waffle!”. The question was repeated:
“What do you actually want?”
I hemmed and hawed and came up with something apparently just as waffly and shoot-to-the-ground-worthy. This lasted a couple of rounds until eventually, in desperation, I threw up my hands up and said: “Look – I just want to tour the world playing music to large crowds of people who totally dig my vibe and I want to get paid enough money never to have to worry about money”.
“OK,” came the reply, “Now we are getting somewhere.”
“Do you want a band to tour with you?”
“Yes, in a perfect world … of course I am prepared to compromise-“
“No, don’t think like that. Focus on what you really want.”
“OK then, yes, I want a band to tour with me.”
And then the maths started. Of course, being a Bear of Very Fluffy Brain, I have no idea what all those numbers they ran through were or meant, but suffice to say they were large and would take a lot of work to achieve. However, I am actually quite cool with that; one thing I have learned (at least) over the years is the skill of remaining unflappable in the face of large numbers. A couple of arduous years in advertising sales eventually cured me of that.
So for a moment I thought, “OK, let’s do this…” and was starting to feel less like a Bear of Fluff and more like the cigar-chomping music-mogul of my delusions.
But then the curve ball…
“Are you prepared to pay the price to make the kind of venture we have just described a reality?”
“Err…” I succinctly replied.
“Are you prepared to hardly ever be home, to always be on the road and to never see your wife and children? This will probably lead to stress and potentially the breakdown of the family unit. Are you willing to risk paying that price?”
“Err…” I reaffirmed.
“Or do you think there might be another way to go about it, a way that doesn’t require you to wind up divorced and with children you barely know?”
By this time, having run out of “Errs”, I defaulted to my other Ninja Conversation trick: complete silence. This is a useful skill that even Bears of Very Fuzzy Brains can (and definitely should) learn – that if you don’t know what to think or say, just say nothing. You look less stupid that way … but you must remember not to gape like a fish out of water – that ruins the effect.
The truth is I have been living with the dream of regularly playing music before large crowds since I was 12 or 13. I even got to do it for a while, before my twenty-something immaturity comprehensively destroyed a Good Thing, at which point I reverted to dreaming and playing in front of small crowds, which is fun but not quite the real thing. (Kind of, dare I say it, like self-gratification as opposed to actually bonking the object of your torrid desires.)
To be continued