As an entertainment producer and consultant, one of the hardest, but most necessary things to do is be a critic. There are a lot of talented performers in the world. There are also a lot of “talented in their own minds” performers.
People do so much damage by saying “That was Great”, when it wasn’t.
Three young boys of 7, one at a time, sat down at a piano and started pecking at the keys. Their parents were with them, and each thought of their respective son, “he could be a genius”.
Each boy was introduced to a piano teacher, and began their lessons. The boys parents encouraged their sons, telling them how wonderful they were. After a few weeks of lessons, the teacher have private meetings with each of the parents.
To the first boys parents, he said “your son knows the mechanics, and with much practice, will enjoy playing the piano, but will be no virtuoso”. The parents were aghast, exclaiming how they needed to find their boy another teacher, as they knew their son was a genius.
To the second boys parents, the teacher said, “your son knows the mechanics, and with much practice, will enjoy playing the piano, but will be no virtuoso”. The parents thought this over, and let their son decide if he wanted to continue learning.
To the third boys parents, the teacher said, “you son has a talent for this, and could go far”. The boys parents thought this over, and knew they should nurture the talent.
TWO YEARS LATER
The first boys parents were having a private dinner party with some influential friends. Their son was to perform for everyone after dinner. He sat down, and started. His mechanics were there, but there was no passion. When he finished, the guests politely applauded and told him how good he was. His parents exclaimed “He is a genius!”. Their son smiled, and believed it.
The second boys parents invited some friends over for cocktails and dinner. After dinner, they invited their son to join them, and play some music for them. He was passionate, and lively. When finished, the guests applauded, and laughed. One remarked, my boy, you are excellent and should pursue music. To which the boy, ever wise, replied, “my parents know I enjoy this, but I have other interests that hold my heart. But thank you”.
The third boys parents invited some close friends and relatives to hear their boy play. He played flawlessly, and amazed everyone. When finished, the guests warmly applauded, and gave him encouragement. After all but the fathers good friend had left for the evening, the son sat down with his father and friend. The two adults complimented him. Then they talked with him about certain parts of the performance that needed work. The son listened.
FIFTEEN YEARS LATER
After years of practice, and encouragement, each of the parents made contact with a well known agent, and asked him to represent their sons. The agent researched their history.
He went to a private recital for the first son. At the recital, the parents had invited some of their good friends. The music was good, but not great. When the recital was finished, the friends clapped the boy on the back, and told him over and over how great he was. They had been telling him this for years now, and he believed it.
He heard about the second son playing one night at a local bar. The agent headed over to listen. He enjoyed very much what he was listening to. After the boy was finished, there was applause. One patron of the bar yelled out “You’re no Liberace, but we enjoyed it anyway!”. And the son gave the patron a big, heartfelt grin.
The agent had a call from the third son’s parents. They had a arranged for their son to play at a friend’s party, and invited the agent to come listen. As the agent heard the music, he knew he was seeing genius. The guests were enthralled, and had a good time dancing to the piano playing. Afterwards, the son came up to the agent, and apologized. He said “I know I wasn’t at my best, and there are still some things I need to work on to make me better. Would you work with me, and critique me, and help?”. And the agent just smiled.
After hearing each of the sons, and getting to know the audiences they would work best with, he met with the sons and parents at each of their houses. Here is what he had to say.
To the first son, he said “There is a certain limited audience you would work for. This audience is not demanding, and does not expect perfection in your art. I would be hesitant to book you into even these, unless the audience knows up front what to expect. You have never been in front of an audience who criticized you, and that is a sad, dangerous thing. You will not get many calls from me.”
To the second son, he said “You play for the love and fun, but this is not your passion. You know your limitations, and have fun with it. Your audiences know this too. I may have some jobs that come up where the budget is not high, but the audience will fit very well with you. Keep having fun with the music, and we’ll find a place for you.”
To the third son, he said “You will go far, as you know what you still need to work on. You listen to proper criticism, and are not defeated by it. You are not happy with the place you are in today, and strive to improve. You listen to the experts. We will find much work for you.”
It is the responsibility of those making recommendations to know who they are working with. Their job is to bring the third son to you. There are a lot of performers who feel like they are a “legend in their own mind”. Do you want to take the chance on hiring those, or would you rather know your best interests are being looked after by someone who knows the talent and cares about your event.