I leave in 3 days for a month of shows with an artist named Francesca Battistelli. All I have from her is a handshake from her manager and the promise that I’ll get paid on the first and 3rd Wednesday of the month. For this promise, I’ve cancelled all of my work for the next month.
I’m going out with the country artist John Berry at the beginning of November for almost 8 weeks. No contracts, only a basic outline of dates, pay, stipends, and more. Just his word that I’ll be treated fairly and he’ll do what he promised.
I’m confident that both artists will do what they said because they’ve earned my trust and the trust of those around them. I’m friends with musicians who have worked with both artists for years, and they’ve treated them fairly. I trust my friends, and they vouch (unofficially) for the artists they’re with by staying with those artists.
These same sidemen and women have also warned me about other artists that haven’t valued trust, and we call each other when we’re trying to make a decision about going out with an artist. Usually the first question a sideman or woman asks isn’t “how much does it pay?”, but “who else is on the gig?”. We value who shows up.
No one starts by being trusted in a group, you have to earn it by being consistent, showing up, doing the work, being generous, and caring. I’m still earning the trust of the people around me, and I’ll keep earning it for the rest of my career.
Trust is more important than who you know, who knows you, or how talented you are. Trust is what makes artists give you their heart (i.e. art) and say “I know you’ll come up with something amazing.” Let’s skip the short term fix, and do the hard work of becoming trustworthy.