They say that good fences make good neighbors. I like Ben Franklin’s original version:
“Love your neighbor; yet don't pull down your hedge.”
Then there are those who have the guard dogs who will bark at anyone even getting close to their property.
Then . . . there is the “Wild West” . . . contractors who will do anything with no sense of code.
We have laws in society to help us stay in the lines and out of trouble. There’s a difference between breaking laws and breaking a code. Freelancers are the first to notice when there’s a breach somewhere, because they are trying to work for reputable contractors to increase the kind of work that they desire.
INTRODUCTION TO ETHICS
This is my introduction to ethics in the music-contracting business. There is so much to say on this subject, and no one tells you any of this if you don’t have a veteran contractor with whom to ask questions. You might be incredibly astute at noticing the behavior of others. But just working for someone else doesn’t tell you the whole story.
WHY? Because no successful contractor wants to share their trade secrets, especially if they are growing their business themselves or hanging on to what they've got . . more specifically: competition.
Every field has a Code of Ethics. In most other businesses or fields, it might be crystal clear what this is. When I was studying for a massage license, we were required to take a class on Ethics, so that you knew how to stay out of trouble with concrete laws on the books. But contractors don’t really have a codified system of ethics. So, we get that information from “rules” or a set of behaviors handed down from generation to generation. Most young contractors make huge mistakes here while they try to grow their business and step in landmines right and left.
A code can also be called standards, rules or laws, but without a rule book or expert advice, how do you know what to do in our business? Most of us do just figure it out as we go and by observing veteran contractors, make mistakes, and recover. Considering that we are bona-fide business owners, don’t we have an obligation to ourselves and those who work for us to find out what this is?
OBSERVATION: Music-contracting codes vary in different parts of the country and from contractor-to-contractor in the same city.
Interestingly enough, most freelancers have a sense of right and wrong in how business should be handled. Being paid on time is just one example. Many times, we can ask successful freelancers who work for a lot of people what to do. Believe me, they know. Let’s face it, most contractors were first freelancers.
OBSERVATION: I really don’t know how you can be an excellent contractor if you don’t first work a lot under a variety of contractors. How else do you learn what musicians need to perform well?
In my opinion, there’s no way to understand music-contracting ethics without working with a veteran contractor as either a mentor or a go-to source of information. Even the occasional question can help tremendously.
Tread lightly if you have NO idea what I’m talking about!
So . . . what is this “code?”
In future posts: Internal Ethics and External Ethics