In today’s continuation of my chat with music industry veteran Andy Lykens, we discuss his free, eight part email series on how to get started in licensing in a little more detail. Excerpts from our conversation are below, they have been edited for clarity and readability.
So you’re on the business end of the music world, your emails are mostly about building relationships and how to get your foot in the door, and really I think reminding people of the skills they already have. One of my favorite ideas is the one of re-framing the question or the conversation and your own attitude.
Yeah, that was a huge thing I had to learn. I mean, talking to my dad is like talking to Eeyore, you’re just like, “how are you dad” and he’s just like (in a dreary voice) “I’m okay”. I actually have to give complete credit to my wife for getting better at this because she’s amazing with people. I remember when I started at Imagem, I already had a bunch of contacts and I hit the ground running. It was almost a little too easy because they had a great catalogue of these amazing songs so getting your foot in the door was a lot easier than it was when I was at the music library, that was much tougher. But when I would go to a meeting internally, I really wouldn’t say much at the meeting, I really wouldn’t talk about what I was doing and I realized, “oh, they don’t actually know that I’m doing good work. They think this stuff is happening and it’s coming in and I’m not responsible for it.” So I totally switched the way I presented myself in the meetings and the next thing I know it was like “oh my god you’re great, this is amazing.” It’s true, it’s the most basic thing when you talk to people if you are positive and embrace and are proud of what you do, people will react.
That leads me to the next thing, the yes principle. In one of your emails you talk about the yes principle and you give an example, like if your cousins friend needs a band for their wedding just say yes, and do it even it’s a room full of accountants. But you know for me, when I was reading that I was thinking of an issue that has come up more than once on the CMN listserv of doing free events; for me personally there’s this really fine line because I feel like as an independent musician I have to assign my own value, so how do you think about doing something for free?
I think the biggest thing to keep in mind when somebody asks you to do something for free, you can always get something out of it that doesn’t cost money. You’ve got to make it valuable for yourself, for instance, you can say, well can I get the email addresses of everyone who comes? [Then when you do], you can say, you know I had a great time, email me for a recording of today’s show or here’s my CD. You can do a lot of stuff with someone’s contact info, that is so so valuable. That is a big thing I learned, email address allow you the ability to continue to connect with people. The onus is on you to do that in an ethical way and that is not always easy and it’s not always fast. So I think, for me, if I were evaluating a free gig, I would try to think about who is going to be there, how many people are going to be there and is there a way that I could get some value out of this even though I won’t get paid. If the answer is no, then you have to decided is this my best friend or for charity? Even a charity you could maybe write it off on your taxes.