Why Listening Is The Most Underrated Talent in the Music Industry

A few weeks ago I was working with someone that was trying to convince me to do something I didn’t want to do, something I felt would jeopardize my career in the long term. 


Half way through our conversation, he began trying to sway me by rattling off a bunch of bizarre things that I didn’t think related to our topic at all. Only after I got off the phone did I realize why he’d been trying to reach me by talking about what he thought motivates me as a person. Here are a few things he assumed about me:


• He’d assumed I’m someone that easily goes with the flow, or swayed easily because I tend to be mild-mannered in group rehearsals. I’m actually one of the bulldog-stubborn guys you’ll ever meet when I think something is important enough to fight for. Just ask my wife. 


• He assumed it would be simple to push me into making the choice he wanted, because from a distance I appear easy going. I actually tend to fight back the harder someone pushes, rather than retreat. The way to convince me to do something is to give me options, and let me choose. Not make me feel trapped.


How could he have been so wrong about me? How could he have misunderstood who I am so much to think that any of the things he said would have convinced me to change my mind? 


It came to me like a slap across the face: he doesn’t listen. 


He’s only interested in what he’s doing, what he’s thinking about. He doesn’t ask questions to find out who you are, how you think, and what your needs are. The only thing my friend can do is imagine. Imagine what motivates me, what frightens or excites me, what makes me choose one thing over another. And because our imaginations are limited by who we are as people, this can lead to massive assumptions and misunderstandings about each other. 


Not listening is a fatal mistake in every business, but particularly in music. No other industry relies so heavily on relationships, oral agreements, and trust. Learn to listen. 


P.S. As usual, this blog is aimed at myself. I don’t listen enough, too. I’m sorry for everyone that’s had to deal with my assumptions throughout the years, and I’m working hard to change this bad habit. Tell me about yourself! I’m listening.