“No Excuses”  by Sean O’Bryan Smith

Greetings Agers!

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season and I want to apologize now that I may spoil the mood for some with this article. I’ve been toying with bringing up the points in the oncoming verbal spewing for a while so, I thought why not get it all out there for us to chew on while we are in the season of consumption. I will say this will be less fattening and if anything, potentially fat burning due to elevated sweating and stress levels.

As I have mentioned in prior articles, I talk to other artists, labels execs, radio hosts and general industry folk all day/every day. Typically, I wake up to 10-12 different text threads and a full inbox seven days a week. This is a product of my own making mind you and it is not a negative point. I actually quite enjoy it. I love what I do because all these things are part of networking and that is arguably the most important requirement for any individual in any creative genre whether it be music, visual arts, you name it. If you aren’t connecting, you’re not going to succeed.

In my daily connectivity, the one common ground that the human condition has the tendency to land on is the fine art of complaining. It is one of the skillsets that we excel at over most other traits. While cathartic most of the time, we all have the moments of wishing the other person would just shut up. However, these venting sessions tend to be where I find out some of the genuine characteristics of the individuals I am dealing with. This then becomes the definitive proof in ye olde pudding. Yes, I am back to the food motif again.

This leads me to the aforementioned apology. We all tend to know this naturally but, it is still highly interesting when dissecting someone’s rant that more times than not, they are part of the actual issue. This is common sense to some since it is just basic human interaction, right? So, what does this have to do with being in a music content article? To put it bluntly, everything.

More times than not, the complaints that I hear from artists and industry professionals are things that with just the basic level of understanding, they can handle themselves. That then yields one to wonder. What are they truly complaining about? And why don’t they just take care of it themselves? If it is something they genuinely don’t know how to do or understand then, that’s fine but, taking the route of complaining just shows ignorance and in some cases, a healthy scoop of arrogance on the side.

Another thing to consider is this. Is their complaint just because something didn’t go the way they conceived it in their mind? Oh yeah…. I went there and that’s probably what this red laser dot on my chest is all about. But seriously, think about it because that very thing happens way too much in this industry which leads me to immediately ask “What did you do to improve the situation?” Yeah, that usually goes over so well… (he says with a heaping serving of sarcasm).

To get off my soap box for a fleeting moment, let me say that this does not apply to everyone out there and especially not everyone/all the time. Everyone I deal with is inherently a good person. That’s not what this is about, and we all need a healthy time to vent in life. We are creatives and passionates which means we all have very distinct ideas on how we want to do things. I mean, we are all 100% right all the time, right? If you don’t believe us, just ask us. Oops. I apparently stepped back on to my box.

Here’s the feather ruffler of the day. From my experience over the past four decades of dealing with creatives, the #1 way to get people to help themselves and get past being chronic complainers is to first, STOP looking at everyone else and then, STOP MAKING EXCUSES for what YOU aren’t doing to improve the situation. I guess that is technically #1 and #2.

For that all to make sense, let me explain the thought process. It is inherently easy for people to cast blame. Now, a large part of the time this is basically a byproduct of being uneducated on a subject matter which is the case a lot in the business of music. Not every artist takes the time to learn the ins and outs of the daily workings of the industry. This same thing applies to businesspeople of music not learning how to properly deal with the artists. As far as personality types go, traditionally these are two diametrically opposed groups. What then happens more times than we care to admit is each side then complains about the other. This falls back to the “We are always right” motif.

This scenario is why I make the statement of STOP MAKING EXCUSES. You cannot expect to be successful in music or any industry for that matter if your focus is complaining and not doing anything to improve your situation. That applies to everyone in this industry, yours truly included. You cannot expect to be treated with respect when your integrity and reputation are continually being questioned because you are a “Whiner” or whatever descriptor the accuser prefers to use. You cannot expect to persevere if you cast your blame on being too busy either which might be the #1 chart topping excuse of all time. Time management is your responsibility to manage but that’s an entirely different article I could write.

Again, this is obviously not targeted at everyone I deal with by any means. It does, however, happen to most of us on occasion and that is usually when we make mistakes. While this is delicate for some to hear, it’s still something that needs to be said though. Trust me, I can be a complete bear at times myself over how certain situations are handled but, I make myself find the methods to work my way through it and more importantly, see the other person’s perspective so that I can grow from it. That’s been a tough life lesson too and took an overabundance of failures for me to figure it out.

We must air things out when things get challenging and we are not always going to agree but, when it comes to the business of music, we MUST keep the creative passion separate from the emotive passion and that is not easy to do at all but, you cannot make excuses for not at least trying to accomplish this if you want to succeed. There are zero reasons why you can’t make the effort to overcome any issue. Think of the time you put into your instrument or your craft. Is that worth sacrificing because you won’t put that same level of commitment into how you handle challenges in one of the most challenging industries on the planet? I truly hope not because I know the level of talent out there and it would be genuinely disheartening to see some of you not succeed like you should just because of an excuse. I’ll go back to witty Southern anecdotes now. Later y’all.


Sean O’Bryan Smith is an award-winning film composer, author, producer and recording artist. As a musician, he has recorded and/or performed with over 100 major and independent recording artists worldwide in multiple genres. As an author, Sean’s regular columns have been published in numerous musical periodicals and he was a contributing author alongside Gene Simmons and Nile Rodgers for a series of books dedicated to the ins and outs of the music industry. Sean’s music continues to be heard across the globe on radio, film and television. He is currently composing, recording and producing from his home in South Florida as well as serving as Director of Artist Development and Relations for Wayfarer Records where he is also an Artist in Residence.