Manners Cost Nothing

I’ve worked with a few people in the past who’ve taken what I view as a very negative approach to the music business (and indeed, the world in general): a sort of ‘take-no-prisoners’, very, ah, self-centric approach to things. Why, a previous acquaintance of mine even used that cliché phrase ‘I’m not really here to make friends.’ Whoa there! Settle down sport. This isn’t an action movie. This is real life, and however you try to dress it up, you’re going to need other people.

It’s not even just a cynical commentary on business, though an ability to network efficiently and know the right people can get you pretty far. Being friendly to other people can simply make life much easier and more pleasant. Doors open up for you, and they’re doors that are made of awesome stuff like bacon and gold. Here are a few ways to spread the love, most of which may not even get you arrested.

  • American comedian Jimmy Durante once said ‘Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.’* Be nice to people serving you in coffee shops, supermarkets, bars and, well, pretty much everyone. We get it, you’re a massively ambition-driven go-getter full of so many words like ‘synergy’ and ‘consumer-centric paradigm shifting’ that they’re coming out of your ears. Great. Go you. That doesn’t mean you’re above a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ to the people around you. You start with something that basic and maybe you’ll be able to break up the monotony of your day with a pleasant conversation or two.
  • It’s not all about you. If you’re trying to build a network of contacts, you can’t just hand out a business card and wait for the rest to happen of its own accord. Take the freelance musician biz – do some scouting yourself and, if you find a gig or something that you can’t do for whatever reason, pass it on to one of your contacts. Big other people up and you’ll often find that they’ll do the same in return. Example: in case you’d forgotten, Down for the Count’s big live gig in Winslow, On The Town, is coming up soon, and you’d be a fool to miss it. Now, with any luck, they’ll give me a bathtub full of money. Right?
  • Now this one may come out of left field a bit (was that a baseball idiom? What is happening to me?) but being nice to people can actually just make them like you more and make your presence more tolerable. I know, right? That is some mind-blowing stuff right there. But it’s important – if people don’t like you, they’re not going to want to work with you, they’re not going to want to be around you and they certainly won’t go to the extra effort of not spitting in your coffee in the morning. Just a heads up.
  • Just try and smile a bit more. Finding even that difficult? Listen to music you find awesome, read something entertaining, do some sort of menial task that nonetheless revitalises you with that ‘job well done’ feeling. Britain is possibly the worst country in the world for spotting happy-looking commuters en route to whatever toil they’re engaged in today. Seriously – the average Tube train is a veritable picture of despair. So buck the trend and go around looking like you’re actually have a pretty good time – people will generally either think you’re crazy (and really, aren’t we all a bit crazy?) or will be buoyed, however mildly, at the possibility of a non-miserable journey.

It’s important to remember that being nice is not the same as being a doormat. Try and avoid being guilted or emotionally blackmailed into doing something, saying something, or being something you’re not. If someone’s trying to take advantage of your good nature – and there will be those who will try and take advantage, it’s how people are wired – you go ahead and slap that bitch up call them out on it.

Anyway. That’s enough moralising for one evening. For those of you keeping score, the Martinis CD is still in the works, and you definitely should all come to On The Town – it’s going to be fantastic.

* That quote has also been attributed to Wilson Mizner, another American wit, in case you were wondering.

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Political Storms

Scouring the BBC website just now I happened across their article on the debate currently raging over whether the country should have a referendum on changes to the electoral system. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

One. The main problems that nay-sayers seem to have with it (at least which I can see from the article) are rather selfish (at a party level that is) at best. A Conservative MP apparently expressed fears that an ‘outright Conservative government’ would never be in power again; Labour has brought to the table the idea that rejigging the constituency boundaries might ‘disproportionately’ hurt their figures in Commons. No specific Liberal Democrat comments appear to have been recorded, though I suspect that if they had as much of a vested interest in keeping the system exactly the way it is as the Tories and Labour do, they probably wouldn’t sound much different. The idea that a change to the electoral system might allow the British electorate to be more accurately represented within the body that governs it seems to have escaped them, possibly swallowed up in a tide of self-interest.

Two. Ever since the general election there has been more clamouring for change in the electoral system than I, personally, have ever heard. That the numbers of seats in the House of Commons that each party ended up with is so incongruous with the number of votes they received is absurd. Electoral change has already been talked down from real proportional representation to the alternative vote system, and at this point many MPs are still trying to quash the idea altogether. This is an issue that needs to be decided by the people whose electoral relevance it deals with, not those who have such vested interests in keeping themselves in power.

Three. The idea that MPs should decide the method by which they remain in the House of Commons is utterly illogical. It’s like letting students decide their own exam grades. I know we have a parliament to decide on matters of state, but this strikes me as an issue that, if decided by any means other than the will of the people (which is to say, a referendum), could be seen as dangerously illegitimate.

As far as I can see, politicians are, by nature, going to be wary of anything that looks to pull the rug out from under their feet. Any sort of change in the electoral system looks like it could do just that. Change like that could be beneficial, or it could be dangerous. But it would be fair.

This has been: My Two Cents.