My passion for the sport of squash has given me a cool side line in coaching. I took my coaching badge a few years ago and I’ve been developing my skills on a hobby basis ever since. The great thing about coaching is that people come to you for advice, motivated to improve their game. It’s rewarding to hear from a player that they’ve started to beat people they used to lose to, all because you’ve helped them become better at hitting a ball.
My day gig in music offers similar opportunities. Artists approach us for advice and they’re motivated to make something of their careers. It’s rewarding to be able to affect change.
Sometimes the response to advice and coaching is also “I don’t think this is right for me”.
Artist and squashists often look for shortcuts, like the player who came to me looking for a “boost” to his game. I watched him hit the ball. Technical issues with his footwork, body positioning, racket position and trajectory of swing were preventing him from hitting accurate shots. Tactically, he wasn’t always hitting the smartest shot, but that was by the by, because his poor technique wouldn’t have allowed him to play the right shots anyway.
We did drills so he could work out the technical snags. Drills are the equivalent of doing scales on the guitar. Repetition builds muscle memory. Obviously, there was no “boost”, no quick fix, and the session was a disappointment to him.
It wasn’t magic or lack thereof that his opponents were beating him. His shots were going into the wrong places and there were clear technical reasons for it. Correct them and boom, there’s your boost. Only, it’s going to take more than an hour of his time to make it work.
Similarly, there is almost always a clear reason why an artist career is not happening. The songwriting isn’t strong enough. The recordings don’t sound good. They’re not playing enough gigs. They’ve not got a strategy, a platform.
Sometimes it’s even more simple than that: the artist is lazy, talentless and deluded. You can’t help people like that.
With hard working, talented and motivated artists the glaringly obvious solution is to urge them to raise their game: write better songs and make better records. Adopt a patient, methodical approach to career development.
It isn’t magic. What is a little bit magical, however, is what musicians do with their instruments, the ideas and performances that make people go wild. When people like me listen to music we listen to it as… people. In 12 years of running this company I’ve not heard anything that made go wild as a punter. There is a reason for it. If it was that good already, the band wouldn’t be flogging their demos. They’d have gotten a huge buzz locally, people in the business would hear about it and invite them for dinner.
Plenty of stuff gets me interested, though. Talent is easy to spot. You can write songs and sing or you can’t. The latter have no chance. The former do. They have to work out the snags. It isn’t for everyone. Neither are careers in music.