This article was based on episode #19: James Hush’s Story emerging all the way from music-industry’s core for us to witness it alongside Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!
“I was entering a dangerous situation where I had like almost zero reward and all the risk so this is what we like to call the biz now a bad deal.” – James Hush
If you’ve been staying in tune with our podcast, you surely know that our previous sharers have all worked in the digital marketing industry. However, in today’s episode, we will be making a huge turn because this time, James Hush will share his client-horror story about his experience managing a battle of the band show in Windsor.
Before we begin, James Hush is a 22-year old music promoter in Canada. He also works in Taipei doing technical stuff, so he has a nerd side and a badass rock and roll side on the other half. Even among different industries, the core principles of dealing with human beings, relationships, and solving problems are applicable. This means that the lessons you get from this story, even if your work is not music-related, would still apply to your business life. So grab your pen and take down some notes. Let’s start with James Hush’s story.
The story begins with James’ ambition of becoming a rock star when he was a kid. James wanted to play the guitar the most and promised himself that he would join a band when he reached high school. When James finally went to high school, he had a clear vision of what subjects he needed to take because he already knew he wanted to work for either a rockstar or a software engineer. James was able to optimize his high school classes and chose the subjects that corresponded to his goal. He knew that he should take many music classes and math classes to prepare himself to become a rockstar or a software engineer.
Around that time, James started playing in metal bands back when he was 16 years old, and he realized something that changed his life. James was the guitarist of their metal band in high school, but he wanted to join a legit band to earn real money.
But James realized that everyone knows how to play the guitar, and if you want to be recruited as a guitarist in a metal band, you have to be really special and show some amazing skills to be picked. It would be tough to look for a band if you are just an average guitar player. James did his research and found out that only a small percentage of metallic bands were looking for an extra guitar player. James decided to create his own band because the only way James would become a guitarist of a legit metal band was if he could form a band himself. Now, James was on a mission to look for musicians in order to create his own band. However, James asked himself what makes his band so special that would encourage musicians to join.
For James to successfully create his band, he has to have something big to offer to his bandmates. So he told the musicians that he recruited that he could write lyrics and create the first tune of the song. James then started to compose some songs and let different musicians hear them until his band was complete.
Take note that this story occurred ten years ago, so the music industry was already in a place where pretty much everyone thinks it is not an earning job. Before, the music industry was not ideal if you wanted a stable income, unlike today, where bands and other music-related jobs earn quite similar to an office-based worker’s average monthly income. It is much more difficult in the genre of music that James picked because the era of metal music was already fading during that time. James’ only hope of income was the die-hard metal fans and other metal band members to support their shows and buy their tickets.
Just think of it like you are going to the gym. When you try lifting weights for the first time, most people do it to impress their loved ones or grab other girls’ attention. But if you are already obsessed with gaining some muscles, and you want to achieve a body like the incredible hulk, you now want to grab the attention of other weightlifters in the gym and let them know you have the strongest body. Metal bands attract those who are into metal music, and James is aware of that, so he created songs specifically for metallic fans.
James then began to create 30 minutes worth of songs for their upcoming gigs. When James finally finished the songs, he started to look for gigs that would be their band’s first debut. James saw an opportunity when he read about a high school battle of the bands called Laser Palooza. He then told his band members about their first competition, and they started practicing his composition.
After weeks of preparation, the event finally came, and James’ band got their first debut concert. After that event, they all went back to their studio and celebrated. However, their celebration didn’t last long because they were all staring at each other, thinking about their next gig. They were so fixated on that one event that James failed to consider what they would be doing next.
Here comes our first lesson for this story:
1. Work on your ideal timeline
If you have a good client, always remember that there is always an end to every work that you have. This is why you must work on your ideal timeline and think of your backup plan in case your client wants to end your relationship.
Don’t spend all your time, money, and energy on one client. You also have to avoid relying on one client for your company’s income. In James’ situation, he placed all his efforts on that particular competition that when it ended, he and his band became stagnant again. James’ couldn’t pass the blame on his bandmates because it was his job as the founder of his music crew to look for competitions and gigs.
Now going back to the story, James immediately solved their dilemma by thinking of ideas on how to market their music band. James started doing some outreach and used his Myspace to contact other bands through their pages and see if they posted their showcase. He also checked other bands’ Myspace if they had mentioned a band competition or gigs so that he could try and insert his band.
James saw several band pages who had gigs and competitions, so he left them a message saying, “Hey, if for some reason anybody on this lineup drops out last minute, it can be like three hours beforehand, just send me a message. I’ve already confirmed for the other four guys that we can play the show.” James told his band members to always be prepared and to keep practicing the song that James created. This was James’ strategy in hunting down clients because he knew his band was just average. James accepted the fact that there were a lot of bands who were better than them, so he is advertising their capability to always show up at events.
During that time, bands had the tendency to lack words of honor because there were a lot of events that were ruined or canceled because of metal bands who didn’t show up. James didn’t think his strategy would work, but to his surprise, many people reached out to him and asked his band if they could play at their event because the band that they hired canceled at the last minute.
2. Punctuality is important
This goes to show that being punctual and always going to work is more ideal than being an amazing and intelligent worker yet doesn’t know how to respect your time. What James described is not only happening in the music industry.
In fact, it happens to almost every job. One of the key points to satisfy your clients is to respect their time and honor your words. If you are asked to work for 8 hours, then you should respect that time and be punctual. Clients would rather choose employees that are punctual than those who keep on getting late, obviously.
Now going back, James accepted his first client and filled in the spot on their missing band. The client was genuinely thankful to James because the event would have gone sideways if it weren’t for them. That was the beginning of James’ luck because, after that, he received multiple calls and saved a lot of events.
During those days, James started meeting people who were concert promoters. He discovered that there were two types of promoters; groups of bands who organize their own show and people who gather bands to organize a show. Basically, what concert promoters do is to gather four to five bands, look for a location, put up some flyers, sell some tickets, and host the show.
Concert promoters are gamblers because they gamble every time they plan to organize a show. They gamble on the location on whether they will choose an open or closed location. If they opt for an open location, it would be certain that many people would come because most metal fans love to listen to rock music in an open area. However, you can not avoid the risk of rain or strong wind so you better be ready for it or not choose an open location.
If concert promoters prefer a closed location, there is a possibility that people would avoid going. The small space is not enough to contain die-hard metal fans, and people might want to party inside a facility, but most of the time, they prefer open grounds. A concert promoter also gambles on how many tickets they sell because people might not come or the tickets might lack due to the many people who want to watch the concert.
Now, James has met a lot of concert promoters and talked to one of them. James told one concert promoter that he would love to have a spot on one of their shows, and he promised to help them sell all their tickets. The promoter agreed to James’ request and gave them a spot on his show. In return, James was given 50 tickets, and he needed to sell all of them.
From there, James started to build a relationship with that promoter and offered his support. James told the promoter, “Hey! If you ever need someone to hang up flyers or watch the door or whatever let me know I’m down to help out and learn.”
James kept on reaching out to different promoters until he met Jay, who took James under his wing. Jay was an amazing promoter, and he taught James many things, one of them was how to book some shows. Jay’s teaching really helped James a lot, and because of the knowledge that Jay gave about booking shows, James started to book his own shows for his band. This was the turning point of James’ career because instead of promoting the events, he could now create a show on his own. James’ bookings were all successful, and he made a lot of cash because of it. James was also able to support his college because of the gigs and shows that he booked.
James kept on doing this stable routine until he met a record company called Roadrunner Records. Roadrunner Records is a really big heavy metal record company, and they were planning to hold an event called “Sign me to Roadrunner Records.” This opened a big opportunity for James because, besides the chance to get his band exposed to a huge heavy metal company, Roadrunner Records was his favorite record label when he was still a kid until he reached high school.
James did his research on that event and found out that Roadrunners Records would have a battle of the bands in Toronto as part of their event. James wanted to sign his crew in for the battle of the band shows, but he knew that the revenue they would get was not that big. During that time, the battle of the band shows didn’t generate that much income because they resembled Christmas movie specials where nobody would really pay to watch.
Battle of the bands shows were low costs. However, there is still guaranteed money because of the friends, family members, and relatives of the musicians included in that battle of the bands. So if there are eight bands included and each band has 5-6 members, they each might invite their friends and family members.
James took the risk and told his band they were going to join the battle of the bands in Toronto. James told his members that there was a possibility that they wouldn’t earn money. However, he will try his best to get some connections, especially with Roadrunner Records. James went to Toronto with his band and played on the show. The event was successful, and James was able to talk to the promoter of that event. James and the promoter were having a good chat, and they built rapport immediately. James mentioned that he was booking concerts in his hometown in Windsor too.
The promoter was shocked and told James that they were also planning to run a similar show in Windsor and asked James for help. James thought of it as an opportunity and decided to help this promoter. James has also witnessed the success of the show in Toronto. If the same event is going to be held in Windsor, then there isn’t going to be a problem. But James would soon regret his decision to trust a person he just met.
3. Do a background check first
If James didn’t make a rash decision, he would have been able to check the background of that promoter. The promoter’s production company was called the “Hot Boxxx,” and the name itself is very sketchy.
James felt bad vibes from him. However, he disregarded that feeling because the event in Toronto was successful. Before offering your help to anyone, make sure to do a background check first and trust your guts. Set aside your emotions when making a decision and be as technical as you could be, even if that person asking for help is a famous superstar, your childhood idol, or even if the person is your old friend. You never know the real intentions of a person unless you spend time to know them.
4. If you have second thoughts on your decision, ask for opinions from people that are close to you.
James shared in our interview that in the present, whenever he has second thoughts, he always bounces the decision to his girlfriend or his closest friends. James added that his girlfriend and his friends witnessed all the horrible decisions he made since the beginning of their relationship, so their opinions would matter.
His girlfriend would tell him that “Hey, this sounds like the time you did this other thing and that you told me not to do this again. Are you sure you want to do this again?” James would then remember that moment, and it would help him decide. James would also ask his best friends, and they would tell him, “This sounds like the time you did this eight years ago. Are you sure you want to do this again?”
However, it was already too late for James because he agreed to help this promoter. James and his band went back to Windsor, and James then called the promoter to ask what needed to be done. After that call, James realized three problems.
The first problem was that James and the promoter didn’t have clear terms laid out, and no legal contracts were involved. But because James trusts the promoter, he didn’t bother asking for clear terms and assumed they would split the profit 50-50. James didn’t write this down, and he didn’t place it in any contract. He just assumed this on his mind and continued working.
The second problem is that the promoter entrusted all of the work needed to James because the promoter was still on his way to Windsor. The promoter told James to handle everything until he arrived at Windsor. That means James was the one who would look for the venue, make and deliver the tickets, make the flyers, look for a sound team, rent the music equipment, and many more. This was a heavy task considering that they had no clear terms with the promoter, and also James only knew him through their conversation in Toronto. James put too much trust in that promoter, and he will soon regret that choice.
The third problem was the expenses he would spend during the preparation process. James would have to pay in advance the owner of the venue, the sound system, the music instruments, and the expenses in creating the tickets and the flyers. If the promoter doesn’t show up or doesn’t give James his share because they don’t have any clear terms and contract, this would become a bad deal for James.
However, despite all the problems and the red flags that James realized, he still was confident that the promoter would pay him for all the things he would do. James then began the preparation, and everything was going according to plan. James saw the perfect venue for the event, sold several tickets, and listed 13 bands to participate in the event. The day of the show came, and James handled the order for the 13 bands.
However, managing this many bands for a show is quite difficult because most of the time, especially when they start playing, there will be a lot of circumstances that would mess up the schedule. Some bands would play over time because of an anchor, there would be times where technical failures would occur, resulting in a delay, a lot of dead air may occur, and many more.
If one band would have overtime or a technical problem, James had no choice but to reduce the time given to the following bands. But because money is at stake, most of the bands would not give their time up. Even if James would ask politely, most of them would not agree and would demand the right time. The most affected band would be the last two bands because they would have lesser playing time.
James somehow still has his luck because there were professional bands included on that list. Fortunately, they agreed to cut off some of their time to maintain the flow of the program. Professional bands are easy to work with because they either know the feeling of booking their own show, or they just don’t care if their time is cut because they are amazing musicians. They don’t mind a 5-minute deduction because they could easily transition or change their songs and turn it into a medley to utilize their time well. These professional bands were also the reason why the tickets that James made were all sold out. The professional bands had a lot of fans, and they sold 40 tickets because of their posts.
Now the show was back on track, and James felt the final red flag. This red flag showed the true intentions of the promoter because James recruited every staff member on that show except for the door person. The door person is the one in charge of collecting and holding the cash box. Clearly, the promoter didn’t want James to hold the money and showed a lack of trust. Even if James was basically the one running the show, the promoter still had the audacity to hire his own door person to hold the cash.
James had a bad feeling about the final red flag, and he was right. When the show was about to end, he noticed that the door person and the promoter weren’t at the venue anymore. The promoter left with all the money, which was why he insisted on getting his own doorman person.
The staff of Roadrunner Records called James and gave him $300 for his help. But James knew the earnings for that event was close to $5000, and he only received 3% of the revenue. James expected that he would receive $2500 because he was the one who did all the preparation and also the one who directed and managed the whole show. But because they didn’t have clear terms and a legal contract with the promoter, he had no power to complain.
If only James had followed his guts and done a background check on the promoter, he would have at least made a contract with the promoter. Knowing the attitude of the promoter, he would never agree to a 50-50 deal, but at least James could try to deal a 40-60 or even a 30-70 to the promoter. James could have $2000 or $1500 on that day, and it is better than receiving $300. Maybe the promoter did it on purpose. Maybe for himself, he did not do something wrong.
For the promoter, preparing and managing the event might be an easy task, so he only gave $300 to James. The name “Roadrunner Records” was also used, so even if James did all the work, the fact that Roadrunner Records was the main sponsor of the event, they didn’t have a problem renting a venue, instruments, and selling the tickets. This means the promoter was already generous when he gave $300 to James.
James tried contacting the promoter, yet he didn’t answer the phone. James just let it go and moved on with his career. Now four months later, the promoter called James and asked for his help again in managing another Windsor event.
The promoter obviously thought that he did nothing wrong that day because he still contacted James and asked for his help. James said no and ended their conversation right away. This was the best decision that James made in this entire story because a couple of weeks later, James had a show in a bar at Windsor, and he knew the bar owner.
The bar owner was actually the next victim of that promoter because the bar owner agreed to help the promoter. He asked the owner what happened at that event, and he replied that the show was an absolute mess. The bar owner did all the preparations, and everything was ready for the show, but the day before the event, the promoter canceled the show, and the bar owner paid for everything with his own money.
That is the end of James’ client-horror story. Let’s go back to some important lessons that need to be discussed.
5. Get the terms spelled out in advance.
It doesn’t have to be a legal contract, especially if it’s not a huge amount of money, but you must ask for transparency and a clear view of the outcome. If James had asked for the terms and conditions, he would have known that he would only be given $300 and could have negotiated the price.
6. Relationships have a lot of value.
If the promoter treated James fairly on that day, they could have worked with other projects together and continued earning more than $5000 per event. If only the promoter made a clear term, even if it was 30-70 out of respect to the Roadrunner Records, James would still think it was fair and would continue working with that promoter.
If that alternative happened instead of the unethical act that the promoter did, James might have saved that last event in Windsor, and they could have earned more than $5000. James is a valuable asset and hardworking too, so the promoter had nothing else to do but to stop being greedy and pay James a fair amount. That way, they could have maintained a healthy relationship, and both of them could have earned money for years.
When you have this kind of relationship, it is mostly not about the number or the money you will earn from helping someone. It’s about the fair amount of respect and the debt you should give back to the person giving you a favor. I mean, James didn’t think about the money because he trusted the promoter that he would respect James’s help and pay him back fairly. But the promoter had other plans on his mind and decided to escape with the money and leave $300 to James.
With that, ends our article for today. We just heard a unique and interesting story that we’ve never heard from our previous sharers. This depicts that work ethics and trusting your guts are valuable traits for everything we deal with in life. I hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for the next episode!
This article was based on episode #19: James Hush’s Story, please watch the complete episode here!