If you’ve been playing music for a while, you’ve probably heard this response a few times from bookers, promoters, radio DJs, agents, labels, and managers– “No thank you.”
As the adage goes– No means NO. But “no” doesn’t have to mean that the conversation ends.
3 steps to making the most of a no!
1) Stay strong-
Rejection hurts. You’ve gone from high expectations to dashed hopes in a matter of seconds. But if you’re gonna stay in the game you’ll have to develop thick skin. Learn to not take rejection personally. Remember that a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean that the person on the other end dislikes you or your music; they simply might not have room on their books for you at the moment.
It’s a crowded marketplace, and persistence wins the day. So, at all costs, stay polite. Remain calm. Put your game-face back on, and…
2) Ask them the tough questions-
What an amazing leaning opportunity this is! Someone has told you “no” for a very good reason (in THEIR minds, at least). Now you get to ask them why.
Again, be respectful and polite; say something like, “Thank you for considering us and checking out our music. I know your time is limited, but if I could just take up 30 more seconds and ask– What lead to your decision? What could we do differently in order to get booked/get signed/get press/etc in the future?” (Frame this question, of course, in language that is natural to YOU.)
You’ve asked a tough question; get ready for a tough answer– an answer that might sound something like:
– You don’t have a big enough draw yet.
– Your music isn’t really radio-friendly.
– We’re a bluegrass label. We don’t really do the singer/songwriter thing.
You might not like the answer, but you’ve cleared the mystery around that “no.” If the opportunity is still one that you’d like to pursue, the expectations have now been clearly stated. Meeting them is up to you.
It’s also quite possible that you’ll be HAPPY with their answer– maybe they’ll be quite helpful and say something like:
– Oh, well,… we’re already booked out through the end of the year, but I’d be happy to book you further down the road. Do you know what your tour plans are for next year?
– Yeah. Well, I think you’re a great band, but your sound doesn’t really fit our label. However, my friend Dan runs a label that’d be more of a fit, and he’d probably love you. Here’s his website info.
People in the music industry don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands, and it’s not their job to sugarcoat the “no” they give you. So make it YOUR job to dig a little deeper; you might like what you find out.
3) Follow up-
If a booker says, “Try us again when you can get 100 people out to every show,” or a manager says, “Check back in when you sell through your first pressing of CDs,”– well, check back in!
If someone is kind enough to refer you to a friend or business associate, contact ’em!
You can’t control other people’s decisions. If you could, you’d get everything you ever wanted in life and the world would become a very boring place. But you CAN control your response to other folks’ decisions. Next time a door is slammed in your face– compose yourself, and have the guts to figure out why it closed so quickly. Simply ask what you can do to open it again.
-Chris R. at CD Baby
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