By Kat Goldman
The Dangling Carrot
There will be those in the music business, agents, managers, and record label people, who will dangle a carrot before you. They will entice you with all kinds of offers: a record deal, a high profile gig, a tour, or, as in my case, I was told to go buy a new outfit because I was going to be making an appearance on a nationwide TV talk show.
When my first manager told me this I quickly went out and purchased a red satin sports jumpsuit that made me look like Ben Stiller in The Royal Tenenbaums, matched with a pair of high-platform, open-toe MIU MIU disco sandals. Not one of my better looks.
One week went by, and then another, but no word about the talk show. It never happened, and my management contract ended not long after that. While my hopes for TV recognition were dashed, to this day I actually thank GOD I never wore that red satin sports jumpsuit on Canadian television.
Many years ago I landed a high profile gig at an outdoor Toronto festival through somebody else’s manager. I thanked him profusely for giving me the opportunity:
“Just Don’t Suck!” He grumbled, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs up on his desk.
Well, suck I didn’t! My band totally rocked it out, and the crowd went wild! In fact, some stout blonde woman with short hair came running up to me backstage after the gig:
“You were s-o-o-o wonderful!” She bubbled. “I just lo-o-o-o-o-v-e-d your voice! I work at the law office of SO and SO. We’ve had several artists signed by major labels, and we would LOVE to have you come in and talk about management!”
One week later, hopeful and doe-eyed, I showed up with my guitar- and the tightest white t-shirt I could find. The lawyer walked in and didn’t even ask me to play the guitar. All he did was stand in the doorway and say:
“I listened to your album and- well- there’s just no hits.”
No hits? Everyone who heard the album said they counted at least five hits! I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to a matter of taste. That, and maybe with whom you sleep. Thankfully, my accolades have never come from a place of compromise. In fact, the only time I ever went to bed with anyone to get something I wanted was with my masseuse in Mexico, and only because my neck was really sore after the long flight and he had these really great healing hands.
Another time I drove seven hours in a snowstorm to open for an American folk music celebrity. When I arrived at the bar, his tour manager approached me:
“I’m really sorry,” he said, “there must have been a mistake. SO and SO doesn’t like to have any openers. But I’ll tell you what. Maybe if I tell him you’re hot enough, he’ll reconsider.”
“Well,” I said, “Can you please tell Mr. SO and SO, that I just drove seven hours in a snowstorm to get here?” I went to my room, rolled out my yoga mat, and had a good cry.
I later bumped into my erstwhile headliner near the dressing room. I told him I was supposed to open for him, but apparently it was a no-go. Turns out he offered me fifteen minutes on stage, and that was enough to wow his audience that night.
The following morning we met by chance over breakfast and became fast friends. They later told me how much they loved my album
(“The Great Disappearing Act”) after listening to it on their drive home.
Truth is, whatever dream the dangling carrot was supposed to bring was not my true destiny. I would never have been good at being a famous person anyways. They would probably find me lonely, drugged, and drifting on top of some floating device in a swimming pool one day at my home in California.
I figure being famous isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. You’d never be able to just go to a movie or do anything normal like that again. And what is success at the end of the day? Something you have to define for yourself, on your own terms. Maybe it’s having that one person come up to you at the end of your show who says your song brought them to tears.
Beware the dangling carrot. In this business, you can easily get swept away by people who can’t keep their promises. It can be crushing. But do it your way instead. Set your own goals and meet them. Keep making the music- don’t ever stop- and don’t let the bastards bring you down.
*My special thanks to my friend Julie Tator