Before You Respond, Read This

Amber Long

Your guide to navigating the depths of global communication in the electronic music industry.

Music is a global affaire and our underground community is connected greatly online. When we deal in text, or online only, not only is tone often lost, we can also forget that differences in countries and culture are often at play. The beauty of our scene hinges on our unique talents and the first step to communication is appreciating this, about anyone we communicate with.

The reason I’m writing this article is because more times than once I have a felt like an utter and complete jerk. I’ve got a diploma that says I’m supposed to know how to communicate and yet still, at times I fall gravely short. All the college classes in the world can’t teach us how to react in every situation, only real life can do that.

I wanted to share some of my discoveries that the music industry, my real-life experiences, have taught me about international communication.

Damn You, Time Zones

It’s evening for me. Prime time for posting and getting hyped up about music. My work Day is done, I’m fed and ready to go. I start sending messages to everyone I must talk to about things, at abandon. It’s a frenzy and I feel like a million bucks for being so productive.

“Hey Amber. It’s 4:30 am here. I’m going to have to talk to you about these (numerous) messages tomorrow. My phone keeps going off and waking me up.”

Motivation nose dive.
Oh, sh*t. Right, time zones!

It’s 7am. I just open my eyes and roll over, smacking my lips and cursing that I have to get out of bed. I scroll through the notifications on my phone and notice quickly the other side of the world has been alarmingly busy and before my day even starts, I have task after task to take care of, some before noon to catch up to my cohorts living in the future.

Fact is, when you send a message at a good time, you’re likely to get a good response. Even acknowledging you’re messaging late or saying “good morning” can soften the blow of a rude awakening.

I have a pile of time zones set up on my phone now and try and do a quick tally of when to message. It isn’t always possible to get it right but I’m aware of it now, from being on both sides of the globe to live it.

Sadly, People Have Other Jobs

It would be amazing to think we all live off music and spend our days immersed in it. This isn’t the case.

We spend all our FREE TIME immersed in it.

Those who have secular jobs find their minds displaced elsewhere for long periods of time. I have been a student and a bit of a freelance floater for many years and I never really appreciated the toll full-time work could have on one’s creativity and drive. As of late, I’ve been having to find my own balance again between the two.

This being said, sometimes messages come in while you’re at work, or someone gets your message while at work. A lot of places don’t allow cell phones while working so it’s not always easy to respond immediately.

The other thing too, is when you’re dealing with time zones, you’re also dealing with people’s work schedules around the world. When I am off work and, on a mission, to get creative things done, the people I’m working with may be full swing in their secular day or family dinner or eating breakfast.

A little patience goes a long way.

Understanding that we must take care of life, so we can take care of music, is key in maintaining harmony.

Internet Maybe?

You get a wetransfer and let it expire because you missed it or just didn’t get to it. You don’t realize that that file took the person sending it to you half a day to upload. For you, it would take four minutes to download.

Using the internet to communicate is a major way for music to be made and put out. Collaborations and label distribution, it’s all done internationally, online. But we should never take for granted our internet speed or the work others put in to sending us things.

I’ve been in countries where the WIFI isn’t strong enough to upload a big file, even 400mb. There are other places where 400mb could take six hours or more. When someone sends you a stem pack or EP or premaster, you have no idea what it took to get it uploaded. It could have taken them a day to upload and then it’s ignored, and they have to do it again… Frustrating!

I often ask that files be put in a file transfer system that doesn’t expire but artists always need space in their Dropbox and not everyone has a paid SoundCloud account.

Let’s level the playing field of communication and take note of this.

Being present is big part of communication.

This is one aspect I’m always trying to work on but after being in places where I’ve missed deadlines due to shoddy internet, it’s made me appreciate what others go through regularly to get their work done and submitted.

Google Translate Doesn’t Work in All Scenarios

Each culture has its own way of speaking. Its own way of doing things and varied standards and expectations. These things can’t be communicated, even with Google translate.

Things get lost in translation when it comes to money dealings and business transactions if terms and conditions can’t be properly communicated. You can Google translate all you want but there will always be a lack of clarity.

For this situation, it then becomes about how we react to the lack of clarity, rather than the lack of clarity itself. More than ever, we must use patience and understanding. Language barriers are complications we can’t avoid but can work with as best we can. We are a huge network, there’s got to be someone out there you trust enough to ask to help you translate, when needed.

And to those of you who have been my translators, you saved my ass more times than once, thank you.

Accessibility Isn’t What It Used to Be

Life is like a wave and we go through times of being more accessible than others. It’s a fact. When we step out of the club or studio, there’s a full-blown life waiting to be handled. Most of us are past the point of having our parents take care of us. Some of us are the parents.

Before social media, we’d write letters, at our convenience. We’d plan our long-distance phone calls. Fast forward to today and we are to be 24 hours accessible. There are jobs that require it even.

When dealing with our music peers, it’s about remembering we are all waves. Yes, we make an ocean, but sometimes we recede as individuals, sometimes we flood on through. This feels completely natural for us as humans to do.

We just must remember that everyone has different measures of accessibility at different times. It’s totally ok, we are still an ocean.

Business is Business

There’s one thing that gets involved when dealing with art. Emotion. Emotion because the music is someone’s soul. Emotion because the label or show is someone’s big deal. Emotion runs rampant in music, that is how it is created, after all.

The famous saying from A League of Her Own is, “There’s no crying in baseball.” The same goes for business. Sometimes you have to leave the emotion at the door and be logical, which isn’t always harmonious with human nature, especially when it comes to art.

Part of communication is being able to separate yourself from the emotion and see what’s left behind. Then the problem solving can begin. On the same token, keep in mind we work in an emotion-based environment. Being business-like doesn’t mean being without compassion. We can all be business-like and nice, most of the time.

Draw that line in the sand to how far your emotions will take you. Funnel those same emotions into being creatively productive.

It’s OK to Own Your Truth

The main thing when communicating with anyone is being truthful. If you don’t like it, it’s ok to say you don’t. If your vision is different, that’s ok. If you can’t make a deadline, say so. Just say something so the dialogue can be opened.

There has never been a better time to be honest and express our needs or ideas. This is a great time to be alive in the world of political correctness. We are being conditioned to ‘get it’ when people have different opinions, visions, expectations – because we realize we all live different lives. We are threaded together by our love of the underground.

I guess what I’m saying is that we should all feel like we are in a place where we matter, our lives and opinions matter. Our talent matters. I’m not saying be difficult, no, no, I’m saying that when you choose to work with someone, you choose to dance with them, until the song plays out. Harmony is key, and truth is key to harmony.

There is Beauty in the Breakdown

There will be communication breakdowns. One or many of the things I mentioned earlier will come into play and bounce us around, testing us at inopportune times. These are the things we signed up for when we decided followed the call of music.

Despite my typical docile nature, catch me at the wrong moment and my response may be a bit tarnished. It’s hard to be ‘on’ all the time. We can’t all be ‘on’ all the time. Just because music doesn’t sleep, doesn’t mean we don’t.

We are all just people. All over the world. We do our own stuff and things. We also come together on this incredible web, blending our talents to make the music scene what it is.

Communication is something we must do but isn’t always easy. It takes working as a team. It’s easier to come to our workspace after a long day or first thing in the morning if we know the safety net of support from the underground community is there.

My diploma in Communications had no rapport in writing this article, it all came from hours of countless dropped file transfers, overseas calls that don’t connect, Google Translating contracts, waking people up at ungodly hours with pinging notifications, leaving received messages unread for days and overall, being completely at square one myself, trying to maneuver in this lingual labyrinth.

And for future reference, just in case, I’m sorry (in advance) for what I said when I was hungry.