“No is my second favorite answer.” I first heard this from a fellow musician at a conference discussing the in’s and out’s of booking. I cocked my head a moment before straightening it back, smiling, and thinking, “Damn straight!”
From asking if an item is in stock to if it’s a good time to come over, from dating to booking, no is my second favorite answer. Whether out of fear of hurt feelings or lack of information, we often get stuck in the swampy, unstable ground of “maybe”. Or, even worse, there’s no definite maybe—there’s a lot of explaining, pseudo information, but the real question remains unanswered. “I’m flattered.” (In my world, sadly, that means no…). “Your band is definitely under consideration” (I would assume that also means no…). “We’ll get back to you.” (Will you? Just tell me no if you’re not.) Having grown up in a culture that is eager to not offend, “no”, with its inherent negative connotations, was used sparingly. As an adult, I find I still struggle at times to give someone a simple no when I know that’s what I mean. Instead of giving useful information, I often fall into the trap of looking for what to say that will make the other person feel the best (when in truth I don’t know what that is). So, I can understand the hesitancy of a club, a festival, a house concert host, or a band member to just say no when you’re worried that’s not the desired response. But really folks, I believe we can offer no’s as kindly as we offer enthusiastic yes’s.
“Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Effective communication is deceptively simple in this statement, much as it is obvious and oh so difficult to “be here now.” I suspect, much as with anything, to effect sustainable change, effective, kind communication is something we must practice. Maybe we start saying and receiving no in little, easy to handle bites. “Would you like me to rub mud in your eye?” “No.” (Oh good, I didn’t want to anyway…) Let’s make friends with no. Let us offer it without the icky, unsettled feelings of not saying what we meant, just leaving a conversation to be continued and the confusion pot of assumptions and reading between the lines to be stirred again.
I will thank you in the end.
"I'm sorry, but I think your sound isn't right for our venue."
YES! This is helpful. Now I know to stop contacting this venue to book my band. The best part of this exchange is that it was 3 emails. I sent a pitch to play a venue, the venue didn't respond. I followed up with email #2 & they responded with a no. AWESOME. I hate email chains of 10+ back and forth exchanges trying to see if we can work something out. Usually, those ultimately fizzle out in a long drawn out no. Those drawn out no's have the same effect as a quick no but they waste so much more time. I can handle rejection, so please do it quickly.
Getting the no up front saves me time & saves the talent buyer time too. Wonderful. Would I rather have the club book my band? Not necessarily. If my sound isn't right for the club the crowd won't like it & I won't like it. Everyone walks away miserable when I could have been playing somewhere else or at home working on my next record. Nobody said I suck, they said they're not interested.
I want to play every venue I reach out to, but sometimes the talent buyer knows something I don't. Maybe that venue isn't right for my sound. That's ok. I know my band is good but not everyone likes us (that's ok too). Similarly, if I reach out to someone to collaborate with on a song I'd rather have a fast, "I'm not excited about this right now," over a chain of 20 texts or so discussing schedules that somehow never line up. I try to treat people the same way. If I'm not interested in a project & say no it's not because I don't like you, it's probably because I'm too busy to give it my full attention. Do you really want me working with you if I can't give it 100%? As a wise man once said, never half-ass two things, whole ass one thing.
I love yes, but no is a fine answer too.