Often in our professions, we lose sight of the people who make it possible for us to work: our customers. While owners, directors, vice-presidents or managers might hire us, they would not have the opportunity or the means to bring us aboard were it not for the people who buy their products or services.
Call it gratitude. In the writing, music, film, fine arts and performing arts professions, it means one thing: being forever thankful to our audiences.
In the past couple of weeks, I have heard and seen gratitude expressed by two men who couldn’t be more different in their professions or career directions: bestselling science fiction author David Brin, and
musician Stevie Salas. The spirit of sci-fi’s greatest 20th century voice, Ray Bradbury, even came along for the ride. Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Man, I Sing the Body Electric and other classics, died last year at age 92.
Brin gave the prime-time keynote at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego last weekend: the banquet speech. On a weekend filled with workshops, keynotes, breakout sessions, presentations to agents, read-and-critique discussions and high-octane networking, Brin’s message might have been the best: always be thankful to the audience; in this case, the readers. They make it possible for professional writers to write.
“Ray Bradbury used to say that the worst sin is ingratitude,” Brin said. “When someone buys a book that you wrote, they give you the opportunity to write some more instead of working in another way for money. Always thank your readers. Treat them for what they are: the most important people of all to the success of your book.”
The gratitude oozed from Brin as he mixed a wonderful discussion on his writing and scientific life with plentiful humor. The winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell and Locus awards has written nearly 30 books, including the bestseller The Postman and his newest, Existence. He is a living legend in the sci-fi world, along with Alan Dean Foster and others who carry the torch ignited by their heroes – Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert, to name a few.
Brin’s passion for his readers, however, burns brightest. And he delivers. What does he consider the primary goal of a book? “You want your reader to throw your book out the window and dive after it,” he said.
That’s commitment to a grateful audience.
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Another example-setter for artistic gratitude is Stevie Salas. His guitar talents and music (20 albums and counting) make him iconic in Europe, Canada and Japan, while keeping him very busy and popular in the U.S. Stevie, who like me grew up in Carlsbad, might belong to one of the most exclusive clubs around: people who have not burned bridges or pissed off others in the music and recording industry. Stevie is so highly respected that he’s now the Contemporary Music Advisor to the Smithsonian Institution. “I still don’t really know how that happened,” he says. “I was lucky.”
That’s the humility and gratitude of someone who produces culturally and music-based TV shows and videos, sits in or produces recording sessions, lays down his own tracks and performs in sold-out concerts worldwide with one thing in mind: delivering to his audiences. He flies around North America like a supercharged thunderbird, keeping up with his many projects to bring more music and musically based entertainment to more people. He doesn’t have to do it; years of playing beside Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, plus his solo projects, have made it so he could just record his way through the rest of this life.
“I’ve never really done anything just for the money,” he says. With most, you’d pull out the BS meter and watch it spike. He’s sincere – and his career reflects it.
Stevie thrives on helping others and connecting people to music. He’s helped “discover” or further the careers of many musicians (as Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters well knows), contributed to projects without credit, and always sought to share music with the masses. This comes right down to his popular app, Rockstar Solos, designed to give users the experience he’s had for the past 25 years.
Consequently, he is one of the best liked people in the music industry. Not surprising, when you know him. Or when he starts rattling off stories. You just know, as he talks, that every musician he references – a Who’s Who list of the past 45 years – is a friend who he has thanked at some point. Stevie lives in a state of gratitude.
Speaking of 25 years … did you know we’re approaching the 25th anniversary of Stevie’s breakthrough, when he launched from his popular North San Diego County party band, This Kids, to playing guitar on Rod Stewart’s 1988-89 World Tour? Or, as he puts it, “I remember driving past the (San Diego) Sports Arena, seeing Rod Stewart was coming and not being able to pay for it. Then a couple years later, I’m on stage at San Diego Stadium when it was sold out.”
You’ll be hearing more about Rod Stewart from us … soon.
Meantime, let’s take a page from David Brin and Stevie Salas, and remember to express our gratitude to our readers, listeners, and the people who buy the products and services we create. It results in developing lifelong audiences, lifelong fans … and such satisfaction that people will jump out of buildings or through hoops to chase what we give them.