I received a promotional email from a publicist (not a “for-your-consideration-vote-for-me-in-the-first-round” email, not that there’s anything wrong with that) that had a wonderful detail in it that I almost missed: it was a music business job title that was nothing short of inspired. There was a quote in this press release from someone from a major label who was referred to as “Vice President of Music Strategy.”
This got me to thinking that we could use much more glamorous names for some of our less-than-glamorous jobs in the bluegrass music industry.
As a society we’ve attempted to attach new names to old professions in all walks of life (including the world’s oldest profession, that of “fig leaf-based clothing designer”, originally called simply “leaf man”). Whether for reasons of striving to be gender non-specific, sensitive to people’s handicaps, or just to add more legitimacy or panache to a dreary or even unpleasant-sounding name, we’ve adjusted to alternative job descriptions like “sanitary engineer” for “garbage man,” “mail carrier” for “mailman,” “flight attendant” for “stewardess” and “multimillionaire” for “third baseman.” Some that never quite caught on were “waitron” for “waiter” or “waitress,” the generic “actor” for “actress,” and “nasally-augmented visual comedy specialist” for “clown.”
We in the bluegrass industry are often at a loss for a more legitimate-sounding job name, particularly when filling out government forms. True, we could always use our day job title, and I have, but people tend to see right through “circular tomato-and-cheese-based culinary transport specialist.”
Musicians of course should be able to hold their heads high and simply put “musician” in the line asking for occupation title, but we often correctly worry that many people in authority will read it as “musician/loser” or “musician/drug addict.” They can’t help themselves. It seems that a few, okay quite a few ne’er-do-wells have spoiled the reputation of all serious musicians. For that reason, we rely on euphemisms like “entertainer” (conjuring up images of Vegas and frilly shirts), or the delightfully vague “producer.”
It isn’t only musicians that have to fight society’s unflattering stereotypes. The name “promoter” or “concert promoter” in some people’s minds conjures up an image of a cigar-chomping, money-laundering contract-breaker. This is why the term “event producer” came into being. Now at least if our contract is broken by a cigar-chomping money-launderer, we have a warmer and fuzzier feeling about it.
When in doubt, it’s always good to take a cue from the press release mentioned above and tack “Vice President of . . .” on to the front of whatever you decide on for a euphemistic job title. If you’re feeling really gutsy, add “Senior” to the front of that (“Señor” if you’re in Mexico). “Senior Vice President of Music Production” has a nice ring to it.
What about some of the other important roles that people play within our business? Here are some suggested job description makeovers:
M.C.: “Performance Transition Specialist”
Road Manager: “Vice President of Artist-tour Logistics”
Merch guy or gal: “Senior Vice President of Commercial and Merchandising Development”
Lighting guy or gal: “Performance Illumination Engineer”
Music fan/merchandise purchaser: “Vice President of Music Acquisition”
Autograph collector: “Signatory Evidence Archivist”
Groupie: “Director of Artist Ego-enhancing Inducement”
Backstage catering: “Circular Tomato-and-cheese-based Culinary Transport Specialist”
And finally, bluegrass blogger: “Electronic Periodical Essayist,” though I’d accept “Weekly Bluegrass BS-er”.