Life, Friends, and Fallouts while working in Dance Music

Successful and touring musicians, artists of all kinds face the daunting task of having to put their livelihood first before people. That often makes people very very angry, especially those who are close to us as our responsibilities and following increase and our personal and family time decreases. I myself, constantly battle this. It sucks, it sucks big time, but, I just have to keep on going.

The Job factor.

People forget, that these massive concerts and big weekends i do…

all this, my work with clothing lines, the photoshoots, recording and performing in front of large crowds…

its all

a job.

It feeds one big massive machine i have to keep turning, in order to stay alive. The songs i release push the bookings, which in turns pushes the clothing line, and when i vend the Clothing line/Merch at a convention that pushes the music and the show tickets, and all this pushes the photos, and glamour shots needed to promote the songs /projects i have upcoming, and the entire cycle starts all over again. Its scary as much as it is exciting, because i literally HAD to quit my day job to keep this up full time. This, is all i have.

Its relentless, fun, and at times doesn’t feel like work because well, when you get to make a living out of what you love to do it just comes naturally, but that doesn’t mean all this comes without its own set of challenges.

Mostly, its how people react around you and to what you do for a living. They forget that being in a leadership role of any industry, whether it being music, owning a business, being a large show or club promoter, any sort of influential position which you end up thriving in, and becoming a great success at…comes with the responsibility of making tough decisions.

Hiring of staff, bookings and management, accountings or sales….Its not easy to balance being seen as a success, a friend to your inner circle and family while having to push the professionally of a business owner and the discipline of a CEO/boss.

Because in the end, this is A BUSINESS.

When it gets to the point where your living is made up of what your music and performances earn you — its a living. Its survival, and being in the business of party means alot of people think its fun party life 24/7…when in fact, the party is only a very tiny portion of the overall picture. We have to be our own booking agents, graphic designers, promoters, PR agents, producers and photographers. We have to negotiate our own contracts, and hope we don’t loose our asses in some shady club booking because in the end we are trusting ourselves and our equipment out of state or sometimes overseas… to a stranger.

The Starry Eyed Factor

Large shows, concerts and conventions — they have an effect on people. I never really noticed it myself because i’m always either the talent or for particularly for Metrocon tampa, the largest show i do so far annually upwards up to 8 thousand people per concert night…show management. Its just what i ended up falling into and succeeding at so i never thought about the emotional toll performing or being involved with such a big production can have on people around me.

in the beginning, i never saw any of this exploding how it has. I just made music and ran with it in a sheer blind run of ‘ this is what makes me happy..if i don’t create i will loose my goddamn mind” and it just happened to hit at the right time, and snowball. I got lucky with finding a supportive and talented partner who not only pushes my career forward, performs with me and travels with me, but also took over alot of booking management /PR roles and does all of my marketing, allowing me to just focus on being the musician/designer i am.

As things then REALLY took off i wanted everybody around me to share in this awesome feeling of success because at first, everybody was excited about it.

I created opportunities for people to fall into so they could all see what i saw, felt what i felt and hope it helped further them as a person as it did me. I adopted the utopian ideal of “ we can all share this and do this together!’ i loaded up friends into show positions — dancers, promo girls, booth help — hoping to share this experience with those closest to me , hoping they’d understand the hard work it takes to pull all this off as a whole, and thought that doing it all together as one big family would make it all fun happy rainbows and we’d all enjoy the big payoff together.

Many other artists who have gone before me warned me about this trap. Its a good concept, but a dangerous and often disastrous one in practice. Very few people who remember you ‘ before the success’ can handle seeing you in your full blown role at the top of your industry.

Managing all these people’s emotions, hopes, and ups and downs can take a huge toll if you’re not ready for it. I wasn’t ready for it, as i realized i was pushing myself nto a leadership role, i failed to realize what that all entails too late. To this day, im still trying to learn management skills — and its through failures of the past i now know what NOT to do, what TO do, and even with all the experience i gained i still get hit with curveballs and unforeseen chaos.

Jealousy, miscommunications, greed — all those fun bits of human nature come crashing in and if you’re not a confrontational type — it can make everything come crumbling very fast. thats where i know i went wrong, because fighting it is even worse.

The Career Factor

I never was a confrontational type in the way actual business management needs. Negotiating with angry and/or hurt people is a fine art, and a skill that i am STILL learning….and i myself admit to being jealous of anybody who naturally is adept at that wonderful niche of retail work… Negotiating and problem solving under pressure while keeping up the customer service. I honestly, suck at that and it takes all of my focus to usually be able to even begin to assess a problem. Problem solving skills are foreign to creative types sometimes, its a weird common factor i hear from alot of people in entertainment. its why we often hire someone to help us out with this, like a manager or a public relations agent. If you can’t afford these things, you just try to take the help thats offered, but sometimes that turns sour when the person who volunteered sees that the management positions aren’t the fun ones, and as you’re off dancing around on stage, they’re stuck moderating social media.

As the show grew more and bookings came flying in — i found myself not having the time i used to to train my friends and those around me to fill what needed to be done. I felt like i was letting everybody down, as more qualified people appeared to handle what was needed, i just handed it off to the professionals. As that happened, the quality of my songs increased, as did my live performances. It was because i wasn’t running a thousand things in my head, i could just focus on doing my job as a musician and performer.

I was so proud to see something grow to the point i HAD to hand it over to those skilled to take it. And in doing that, the overall project exploded. I saw it as a huge step up, years of terrifying auditions, countless lost hours in the studios, hit or miss events and disastrous failures finally led us to the point something was stable and somewhat self sustained when handled with the right systems in place, and finally being able to hire the right people to take on those delegated tasks.

Of course, my circle didn’t see it that way at all. And it was a sucky decision, to literally have to fire my friends as one by one, they acted out in various ways. I knew they would be angry, understandably. The emotional breakdowns it all caused through was beyond my comprehension. It made me realize indeed, what everybody prior was warning me about. The danger of bringing people into your world, having them literally start to rely on your world for their own happiness, and the utter devastating effect of having to take it away. Nobody will see it as a business move, and nobody will get over it as a personal attack.

Our world, as entertainers — is a very different one. It has different rules, and that leads us sometimes to react to decisions in different ways. From my abusive upbringing, i already put up a wall with super emotional people, and it makes me a terrific boss but a sucky friend. Balancing those two can be hard, and i hope im not alone in that.

The entertainment world is just another job. Its in a way its own culture, and those who don’t live it just don’t understand the differences it entails and why sometimes we just are plain oblivious to everyday things. Some of these things that are big deals to people, but are not to us, and sometimes that too can get people in a flurry.

The Social Factor

For example:

Family is one — having to literally distance yourself from family sometimes because well, if a show books in over a holiday or a family members b-day weekend, just like any other job if you can’t get out of it, you just can’t get out of it. But for some reason, often times we get shit for it, as if it was a choice we took the show. Called names like inconsiderate or ungrateful, selfish. Meanwhile the sibling who is working the retail job and couldn’t get time off is seen as a hard working dedicated individual.

Suddenly popular is another — A weird thing happens, which is your friends and/or acquaintances who you’ve known for a long time suddenly discover what you do. They start treating themselves more like your entourage then your everyday buddies. There are always a few exceptions to this, but more or less….finding out that friends or that guy you see around town now and then are name dropping you to try to get things or free, glorifying that time you helped them out in WaMart, or the countless new employees i discover online claiming to work for me…just you know wacky shit sometimes that make you go ‘ what in the hell are you thinking?”

People turn into different characters around you , and those people you normally just bump into or see around town suddenly become very interested in being close to you, some even displaying obsessive behaviors. People you never seen since childhood pop up like you never lost contact, or everybody around you is suddenly a singer/DJ/musician overnight. I myself have had to snap some people out of this behavior type…and whats eerie is that the few that can snap out of it and come back to earth often don’t realize how they start acting. they just get ‘ caught up in the moment’.

We’ve all at some point been to a concert and just throw yourself into the moment, hands in the air, letting your inner fangirl/fanboy come out for a song or a night. Doing it all the time though, while hanging around is just ….scary at times. We’re people.

just people, with a wacky job.

The Double Standard Factor

Some families are super supportive of their kids succeeding in the arts or entertainment — others aren’t. i know firsthand the guilt trips, the constant ‘ lets go job hunting!’ or “ when will you get a real job’ talks… Society deems musicians and artists this almost taboo lazy good for nothing bottom feeder stereotype. Its acceptable for someone to stay at home and raise children in that challenging environment of parenthood …but its not acceptable for a musician or artist to stay at home all day and earn their living in a challenging industry.

We are wasting our time, or not being good role models to our kids.

Many parents work from home, whats the difference in having a home based studio instead of a home based office? its honestly the same thing no?

I have no children, nor do i plan on having a family any time soon — so thats a double whammy for my life. Not only am i staying home to write and record and sew all day, i have no children running around to justify being home in the first place. the taunts and guilt trips and ‘talks’ i receive from distant to close family members about my lifestyle are relentless.

ALL of these things, and the list continues, ( and feel free to comment you’re own examples) is what professional musicians and people in entertainment deal with on a daily basis. And when showtime comes around, this is why we don’t have the time to deal with personal issues as other people can.

Honestly it sucks, its taken as us being uncaring or cold, or for females being a bitch or full of ourselves.

Its not that at all, its just having to prioritize, like in any other workplace…to set aside personal or family drama and focus on the job.

one example for me Recently was at Metrocon one friend that i had to pull off the dance team for various behavioral reasons, a year ago, just would not let it go. Blew it up into a body image issue this year, got the social media drama lhama going while she was standing in line waiting to get into my concert — right as i was backstage prepping for the largest crowd i annually face. She got angrier when i didn’t stop everything right there and run out to console her. I couldn’t’! i was locked backstage in an arena, 10 minutes away from having to perform an hour long live concert set in front of 5 thousand screaming ravers.

It was a horrible furious desperate helpless feeling — knowing the drama raging on would end up as it did — a much larger public rumor mill finger pointing hate throwing issue that i couldn’t assess properly because i was just plain trying to do my job. After more things surfaced from eyewitnesses i had to cut her out of my life for good, after years of doing events together.

The celebrity factor

Remember, this, is a job. Its hard that friends and family at times don’t respect it as one. its understandable to be swept up in the glamour of things, and the excitement of having a friend who is successful at what they do. Its the biggest pathway to a world you otherwise would not have access too, and i personally do all i can sometimes to open that door to those i feel deserve it and will have fun and be responsible. I find it so much fun, and a way to give back to the universe who has granted me with this amazing life. But nowadays, its creating jealousy and really strange issues between people and i wonder if i have to stop doing it altogether.

Its an endless battle, as society and fame culture pushes success with big money, glamour and the friends of famous people getting rich off their friends lifestyle or getting to enjoy the perks and get famous themselves, as if talent is a contagious disease you get by just being around them.

That only exists in movies and books and tabloids and reality TV. the personal toll it mentally takes on the ‘famous’ ( ugh i HATE that word) figure can be heavy.

the reality eveybody hates is that THIS TAKES HARD WORK. And even harder decisions sometimes. When push comes to shove, alot of people scatter when they realize theres no party in putting in hard work, even to make a party happen. This takes alot of work, even though Its masked by pretty costumes and big stages and productions, lasers and lights. Its not your job as the consumer, to see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. thats our job as the musicians, dancers, designers, producers. But for those who are close to us sometimes its easy forget that the show itself is a tiny portion of our overall job requirements.

We have to make some tough calls, its a strange and weird world that gets smaller and smaller and smaller the ‘ bigger’ you get

Next time you see a scandal break out, or drama in the tabloids where friends of a famous person are ‘leaking’ things like pics, rumors, videos, etc. take a moment to consider the other side, maybe they had a simple argument but were out drinking and tempers flared more then they should have. We’ve all had one of THOSE nights at a house party or club right? Would they have done all those things if their friend wasn’t a well known figure and had a ton of credibility to loose?

Pissing people off is a TERRIFYING thing in our world because, it takes one overly sensitive person or some silly misunderstanding, and then people feel entitled to take an established name on a mud run through social media or print media for their own personal revenge game. or attention, or book deal who the hell knows anymore. it happens more often then most people think.

Im starting to understand why most of them hole themselves up in fortresses from society. They may get the bigger paychecks and work and endorsement deals, but with big money and big fame comes even bigger challenges of its own.

As i battle becoming a hermit, think about the worst day you had at the office/job ever. Probably was due to some horrendous fallout with a friend, spouse or family. Maybe they took it to Facebook or Twitter, or posted those drunk pics of you the other night. Hard to perform your job with being emotionally compromised. For artists, that may make great creative fuel, but it still sucks as much as having to face your taunting co-workers and still act professional. why? because we are all faced in being driven to keep our jobs and careers afloat.

Its the same pressure and the same drive, just with the world judging us instead of a social circle or a collection of co-workers. Its a very scary reality to face sometimes, and when people flock to an issue like vultures to get their few seconds of payoff due to whatever ulterior motive they came running with….its just a sad and dark view of people around you. Some of us create those monsters unknowingly, while some of us just find them popping up around us. Whatever the case, the show must go on.


Originally published at zoevanwest.kinja.com.

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