You have important choices early on in your career and in your life. You can choose to be responsible for the decisions you make (or don’t make) or you can choose to be the person who’s constantly blaming outside forces for their outcome. This is called a false victim.
I’m going to tell you a story about a false victim and, admittedly, I’m venting a bit. Follow me here because if you know me I’ll always bring it back around to YOU, the artist.
You may or may not know that I have a love affair with Great Danes. Scooter McGhee is my 3rd Dane. I rescued him from a Los Angeles pound. When I got Scooter he was full grown, the vet guesstimated about 2 ½ years old. He was emaciated at 106 lbs. (he was starved by his former owner) when his healthy weight is a rock solid 145 pounds.
Danes are easy and Scooter McGhee is no exception. He’s so “chill-to-the-next-episode,” man. Very mellow except for when he feels there’s injustice in the world (like when Cari and I fight or any random game of “chase-the-fastest-dog” at any given Dog Park) where he gets upset and tries to remedy the situation. No Joke.
Scooter is obedient. Often, during the summer he and Cari’s little dog, Zoe, will be chilling outside on the back patio soaking up the sun or hanging with us while we grill (I always have a marrow bone to throw on the grill so they can participate with us…don’t judge).
In past articles I’ve written about all the construction going on in our neighborhood. One of those brand new homes was built in a formerly empty lot right next door to Cari and me.
We were excited about the new neighbors because the husband was the father of one of Cari’s childhood friends. Cari has known this guy since she was 6 years old. She has always liked him, describing him as somewhat of a hippie, which is perfect for me.
Move in day arrived and Cari and I were out walking 3 miles as we try to do as often as possible. We came upon the new neighbor and is wife and we stopped to say hello. We got to meet his new wife (not really “new” as he’s been married to this one for quite some time, but different than who he was married to when Cari was little, so new to her.) and had a nice little chat, welcoming them to the neighborhood.
4 days after they move in I get a visit from the country Sheriff.
I answer the door and the Sheriff asks, “Do y’all have a Great Dane here?” Of course, Scooter McGhee is at the door with me, so….
I said, “Well yeah, here he is, meet Scooter McGhee.” Then Scooter proceed to push the door out of the way and stick his head in the Sheriff’s crotch which he always does in an attempt to get a good ear scratching (one of his favorite pleasures in life…literally toe curling for him), he doesn’t discriminate.
The Sheriff laughed after I explained what he was up to and told me she knew they were gentle giants, however, one of our neighbors had visited the Sheriff’s department and told them that Scooter McGhee was jumping up on people, knocking people over, and there was a leash law, so he couldn’t be outside without a leash. She knew that Scooter really wasn’t aggressive but explained she had to respond to the complaint.
I now have to walk Scooter and Zoe every time they go outside to obey the law. So much freakin’ easier to let them outside in the morning to pee without a leash, but I digress, the law is the law.
We were in the wrong.
Cari and I were a little embarrassed about the Sheriff’s visit. Also a little hostile. Who would’ve done this? Scooter doesn’t wander away from the house at all, so we figured it was the neighbor on the other side of us who is nice enough but terrified of Scooter. Mostly because he’s big and black.
It’s a black thing, I guess.
I erroneously thought (keep in mind my type A personality, now) that as long as Scooter McGhee wasn’t bugging anyone and he was on our property that all would be good. I mean who would be offended by a dog minding its own business in its own yard, right?
I thought wrong. The law is the law.
Fast forward to a few days after my visit from the Sheriff and Cari’s oldest daughter Maggie (she’s 12) comes into the house and says the new neighbor lady was screaming at her, “CONTROL YOUR DOG!!!” “YOU HAVE TO CONTROL YOUR DOG ON A LEASH!!!” Maggie also reported to us that there was a younger lady with little kids (elementary school age) screaming as well. She was shouting at her kids telling them to get inside as if Scooter was a 900 lb. Bengal Tiger on the loose.
Keep in mind there hasn’t been any kind of an incident here. Scooter has never attacked anyone and didn’t attack our neighbor. Scooter wasn’t in their yard, he was in ours.
Scooter was outside without a leash. Both of Cari’s girls had friends over and they were all playing outside. Scooter was meandering around our yard hanging with the girls when Maggie was getting skewered by the neighbor. So he wasn’t doing anything that could be misconstrued as aggressive other than being outside without a leash.
Which is against the law.
Now, after the neighbor lady and her daughter chastised the 12 year old, we have to walk over and get to the bottom of this. Cari is dumbfounded that our new neighbor, whom she’s known for 33 years didn’t bother to talk to us about whatever problem they were having. They went guns hot and called the Sheriff.
Again, no incidents have occurred, OK?
We walk over to speak with the lady who answers the door. I think Cari started off the conversation by apologizing that we hadn’t had Scooter on a leash, which is against the law, and then inquired as to what exactly happened that would require her to feel she needed to scream at Maggie. Cari added, “It’s clear that you were the one who called the Sheriff now.”
The neighbor lady then admitted she had her husband go down to the Sheriff to handle this situation. She proceeded to tell us something like, “I’m sorry, I have panic attacks after my brain surgery (TMI) and I’m terrified of dogs because my husband was attacked by one awhile back.” (He’s nowhere to be found by the way, possibly avoiding any confrontation, letting his wife clean up the mess she’s created, or both). She proceeded to inform us, “There is a leash law you know, and I’m sure your dog is a good dog but animals are animals and they’re unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen. We have grandchildren and we’re concerned about their safety.”
You can’t imagine what’s going through my head right now.
She goes on to say, “I’m mostly afraid that our dog (WTF!?!?), who is aggressive because he isn’t fixed, will start a fight with your dog and your dog will win.”
You know that look that a dog gives you when you ask it a question, the one with the tilted head? That’s me now.
I will honestly tell you that we didn’t go over there to argue the leash law. We were humble, apologetic, empathetic, and inquisitive to their situation. The law is the law and she has every right to feel safe in her new home. We were just wondering why, when there were 1,000 ways to handle this situation, they went straight for the jugular and called the Sheriff. Especially since there was no incident to speak of.
She apologized for calling the cops and told us she was afraid to come over because Scooter might bark and come to the door (which might set off a panic attack). Feeling guilty for behaving like a douchebag and in desperate need of a spontaneous justification (for her own sake), she went on to inform us that she had talked to “every one of the neighbors” as she moved her pointer finger up and down both sides of the street in the entire neighborhood. She said they “all” told her that Scooter was bad and they had problems with him. (None of the neighbors have ever met Scooter).
I looked at her directly in utter disbelief. Not dumbfounded disbelief, I just didn’t believe someone who was THIS deeply mortified of dogs, who believes all animals are unpredictable, who just informed us she was afraid to come to our door because our dog might bark and set off a panic attack, had in 4 days-time managed to move in, temporarily overcome her deepest fears in an attempt to discuss Scooter McGhee a dog she hasn’t met, with a dozen or so neighbors she hasn’t met, who also mostly own dogs she has never met. The math just isn’t adding up.
At this time, I am fully aware she is pissing in my Cheerios and she’s trying to convince me (and herself) that it’s milk.
There was a long, pregnant uncomfortable silence, which looked like Cari and I with our jaws open wide, blinking our eyes like Ren & Stimpy, that was broken by her refining her story admitting now that she just talked to 2 neighbors. Both of whom have dogs that could be unpredictable and both of whom she’d never met before.
So she was lying and/or exaggerating in an attempt to justify her crappy behavior.
I then informed her that she actually used good judgement here because just like her dog, that’s EXACTLY what Scooter does whenever anyone comes to the door. He barks; so crisis and possible panic attack avoided.
They could’ve left a note in our mailbox. They could’ve called his daughter to get Cari’s phone number and texted or called to inform us of her mental issue, they could’ve informed us on our talk when we welcomed them to the neighborhood. They could’ve sent a letter, sent up smoke signals, had his daughter (Cari’s childhood friend) call us and explain, etc.
At this moment, our new neighbor’s daughter (her daughter, not Cari’s friend) comes to the door with a snotty, mean, and VERY aggressive attitude. She introduces herself with her little head tilted sideways and says, “LOOK THERE IS A LEASH LAW AND THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT! SO JUST PUT YOUR DOG ON A LEASH”
Her mother, now clearly embarrassed tells her daughter that everything is fine and we weren’t there to attack her mom in anyway.
Cari almost lost it. They didn’t have the maturity to reach out to us and inform us of her admitted “mental instability” (her words), but they certainly had the balls to scream at a 12 year-old. I’d call that move cowardly.
Keep in mind had my big black Great Dane actually knocked anyone over, jumped up on anyone, attacked anyone, or been off its own property in any way I would understand the heavy response completely.
Scooter never left our yard in both of these occasions. He was, however, without a leash.
Here’s the takeaway.
Our new neighbor is a false victim.
She’s right about the leash law, but that aside, if she was really THAT terrified of animals being spontaneously aggressive, how can she own one? Especially one she admits is aggressive because they’ve chosen not to fix him. She’s full of crap.
There are 3 kinds of victims.
A real victim is defined as someone who has absolutely no control over their situation. The Syrian people, for instance, are completely screwed at this moment in history. If they leave they’re dead by their own government. These are REAL victims. Forced beyond their control to endure a life of oppression put forth by their government, or die.
That said, I once did a mortgage for a guy from Eastern Europe (I forget the country, sorry) who was in the same situation and escaped his country in a shipping crate where he was a stowaway for a month with a sleeve of crackers and 1 bottled water to survive. For a month! He risked his life to leave his oppression. He was discovered at sea but luckily they didn’t kill him (which is the common remedy in a stowaway situation). Now he has a better life in Los Angeles. He wanted change and got it. The possible consequences were worth the effort to leave, but again, I digress.
The 2nd kind of victim are people who were victimized. Anyone who has incurred some kind of unwanted horrible mental or physical attack is a victim. Rape victims, sexual abuse victims, domestic violence victims, car accident victims, robbery victims, random accident victims, Cancer victims, etc.
These people were victimized, it’s horrible to think about. They definitely become damaged, broken, often times somewhat dysfunctional in their life if they choose to give up.
It completely sucks for a human being to be upended by such a tragedy for obvious reasons, but now, if they want to heal, if they want to recover mentally, they have a lot of work to do. A lot of work that they didn’t have to do yesterday.
If and how they get back on their horse will determine the quality of their life moving forward. The power to recover and deal with the new demons that were horribly bestowed upon them is in their control; albeit unfair that they have to deal with them at all.
The 3rd kind of victim is a false victim. That’s our neighbor.
That’s also a lot of artists which is why I’m writing this.
Now don’t spin out here. I’m not saying she’s a horrible person for hating my dog. She has every right and I fully understand that.
But I don’t believe she was trying to protect herself from the dog at all; this was not her agenda.
If I suffered from severe panic attacks brought on by unfamiliar dogs and my agenda was to prevent said panic attacks, I might’ve checked the neighborhood to see if there were any scary dogs before I moved in, maybe made may choice of homes that way. I could’ve built a fence around my new property to guarantee that no random animals of any kind would get near me and trigger a bad day.
She is a false victim.
This is her control racket.
She uses these panic attacks to control those around her including people like Cari and I whom she doesn’t know. This is easier for her than actually communicating like a functional human being.
She clearly wanted Cari and me to excuse her overly aggressive misconduct because she deemed herself a victim with a mental instability. We’re supposed to be compassionate in response to her harsh antagonism because she told us she has a mental issues. She gets to do what she wants because she has panic attacks.
It’s very clear from our one conversation that she has her family playing into her drama.
In spite of his prior relationship with my girlfriend the husband went to the Sheriff’s office to report Scooter being off the leash (and lied about aggressive behavior to make it more dramatic even though the off-leash issue was all that was needed to get the response they wanted, FYI).
The daughter with her hostile protective tone (You would’ve thought the mother had actually been attacked by my dog) telling us the law is the law. She was in “protect my poor mama” mode.
Which is exactly the way mama likes it.
Most artists behave like a false victim when it comes to becoming a student of the game in this crazy music business.
It happens with indie artists as well as it happens with major label artists.
The result is always the same, the artist gets screwed; with the artist’s permission.
Yes, that’s right, if you choose not to learn, if you choose not to “trust but verify”, then you are allowing yourself to get screwed over. You’re choosing to be a false victim because you can control this dynamic if you want.
The artists who truly stand the test of time understand the game from all sides. They’re incredible creatively and they are experts at the business and marketing end as well.
I know a former major label artist (8 million records sold) who is an amazing creative talent. This artist hates the business end and doesn’t participate in that space whatsoever. Never has.
This artist seems happy to me but the quality of life is far less than what it could be if they’d get to know the business. This artist has throngs of stories about being screwed in the Industry (like never making a dime off of 8 million units because the label never “recouped”). This artist (whom I adore by the way) will make a living singing until their last day, I promise you, but has maneuvered into yet another slave like business situation (post major label days) with a management company that really doesn’t know what they’re doing (not music business people). This artist gets a regular salary the management does and makes what they want off the artist’s talent and million dollar brand name.
Conversely, I know another post-major-label-artist who excels and enjoys the business just as much as being a creative. It’s probably no surprise that this artist sold 13 million units for the major label. Post major label deal, this artist has formed their own record label and is definitely in charge of their own destiny as a result of learning the business side.
Y’all think life will be great once you get your deal.
It’s a cop out mentality that allows you to avoid extra, unwanted, inconvenient work.
This mentality is always followed by horrible stories of deception and oppression from outside forces that stand in the way of real happiness and success.
As if a blindfolded person accused another person of deception because they moved something and the person who chooses to be blindfolded didn’t see it.
If you don’t want to open your eyes, you’ll always feel deceived. Even from people who aren’t trying to betray you.
You have to watch every penny because even though the label is fronting the money, it’s YOUR MONEY.
Here’s a great example. When I was an artist we were managed by Barbara Strauss. Barbara is a straight up genius with bigger balls than any man I know. Barbara also managed Schascle Yochim (pronounced Cha-sell Yo-kum), AKA “Twinkle” as she’s known in Sarasota, FL.
Back in the early 90’s Twinkle got the biggest record deal ever given to an unsigned, unknown artist from Warner Bros. Her voice is like listening to an angel sing, man. In my opinion she blows away Whitney, Mariah, you name it.
She’s so good she received a personal phone call from Quincy Jones who invited her to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. (This is a big freakin’ deal). The travel department of the label booked them 2 first class tickets to Switzerland at a cost of $3,000 for each ticket. Barbara thought enough to call her local small town travel agent in Sarasota, FL to compare prices. Local travel agent said 2 first class tickets to Switzerland would run them $1,500 each. Wow. Big difference.
See my point?
If you’re not watching every aspect of your business, whether you’re independent or on a major label, you’ll never recoup.
If you want to be an important artist, then people will have to be exposed to your art in order to be moved by it.
This means you better understand marketing.
Which means you’re going to have to do more work.
Otherwise you could be a false victim and say you don’t or you can’t and that’s the reason you’re not making a living doing what you love. It’s not your fault, right? If someone else (or lack of someone else) is to blame for your absence of momentum, the pressure is off you.
How in the hell did Bon Jovi stay relevant beyond the demise of the hair band genre?
Because besides being a prolific songwriter and artist, Jon is a badass business man as well. Make no mistake about it.
Think what you want about the art and the artist, but he learned how create great music, and he learned how to sell it to an audience.
He chooses to survive.
You might argue that there were better artists from that era and you might be right.
If you are right, the difference lies in Jon’s business acumen.
It’s your job as an artist NOT to be false victim. In fact, I can honestly say that if you continue to be a false victim, you’ll never make a living as an artist. Your future will be one of quiet desperation, bitterness, excuses, and coping with the deep sadness that accompanies a life lived absent the rewards it should receive from the gift God gave you.
Maybe you were abused, in an accident, tortured, mentally beat up, physically beat up, or attacked by Bernie thugs at a Trump rally. Whatever the case, you now have more work to do today than you did before you were attacked if you’re to survive and get back to the quality of life you had prior to the attack.
You have to deal with it, move on, and live your life because if you don’t…you still have to live your life.
So if you’re just coming to the realization that you’re going to have to do more than just be a great artist to make a living at it, then you’re kind of in the same situation, aren’t you?
You’re in the same situation as the victims because you just discovered that you now have more work to do today (if you want to make a living as an artist) than you did before the realization.
Or you can choose to be a false victim ignore the work and blame the world for your inability to make a living doing what you were born to do.
Don’t be like my douchebag neighbor living a sad, somewhat pathetic life where the script reads, “Here’s why I get to misbehave and be an asshole and its OK because…”
It’s not OK.
Whether you have a good excuse for not making a living as an artist or you don’t, the outcome is still the same.
You’re not making a living as an artist.
The world needs good music. It always has.
It sickens and saddens me to watch it dry up because artists don’t want to do the extra work.
Now there is more work than before, but now you don’t need to wait for anyone to get your music out there.
You have to budget for and learn how to market effectively. This is the only way to get your music out there man.
Artists who don’t want to excel creatively, work creatively, learn marketing, and excel at marketing are false victims.
It’s a lie.
A lie perpetuated by the stories you tell yourself about the way you think the music industry used to be.
Your music is important.
But it’s only important if someone gets to hear it.
Don’t be a false victim. Scooter says, “This is NO”.
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