Starting note: I’m no business expert. I’m a college student for God’s sake, I have no degree (yet) to back up anything I say here, but I have a feeling that anyone with any business sense (and common sense, for that matter) would agree with me on this one here. Networking is challenging at points, sure. If you’re this really little known artist that is having trouble finding traction, networking is necessary and can be difficult because people get tired of constantly being worked over for connections. That’s just basic business skills. But here’s a real conundrum. If you’re an artist that is just discovering some serious success, wouldn’t you want to use your networking skills to the max during this time so you don’t fizzle out before people really give a damn about you? Well, apparently, your summer playlist’s curators, the Chainsmokers, didn’t take this note, or at least needed this pointed out to them.
Yes, I am a Lady Gaga fan, but that’s not why I find the recent headline of the Chainsmokers’ comments about her single “Perfect Illusion” ridiculous and to a point, laughable. I find the commentary quite perplexing because it’s such a slight to the business acumen that they should be able to have when they’re hitting the successful stride they’ve achieved with songs like “Roses”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, and of course, “Closer”. And sure, if they don’t have a intelligent person advising them, then sure, this makes sense. But they basically walked into a minefield with blinders on and set off a chain of explosions, and from a young musician/business and technology major’s standpoint, it was both disappointing and hilarious.
I loved the hits they came out with this year. I hated that “Selfie” song besides it’s meme-ability (yes, I just coined that phrase, I don’t care if it’s not a word), but “Closer” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were inescapable. That being said, me being a new listener to them, I was waiting to see what kind of artist they were, or would become. Recent events have shown me otherwise.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I’ll fill you in. The Chainsmokers did an interview in Rolling Stone recently. Stop right there. Yup. It’s a world renowned publication. A known fact before even going into the interview that this will be written down and published, sent out to the world for everyone, including those you talk about, to read. Just note that in your mind going forward. So, when asked about their thoughts on Lady Gaga’s new single, “Perfect Illusion”, Alex Pall, half of the duo, said, very simply, “It sucks.”
Now, if you’re anywhere near the ages of 13-25, I’m sure you’ve listened to some EDM in your time. It’s fantastic, and for those people like me that have investigated throughout the genre, you know that, contrary to your parents’ beliefs, some of these artists are trained musicians, not just guys that bought a bunch of computers and synths, pushed random assortments of buttons to see what happened, and ended up making an accidental hit. Not all of them. Some of them, however, are. I have no idea whether or not Drew and Alex of the Chainsmokers are trained musicians, and frankly I don’t care. But when that’s all you’ve got to say about someone else’s art, no matter what training you have, you sound exactly like one of those guys that’s making beats out of their parents’ basements, with no musical training or knowledge whatsoever. Sorry, it’s the truth. At least Patrick Carney of the Black Keys had the know-how to talk about what musically and production-wise that he didn’t like about the song (he didn’t like the guitar in the beginning of the track, how it was produced overall, and said it was only likable after a couple of listens). You saying simply that it “sucks” makes you sound like you’re just trying to throw insults on the playground. Allow me to slow clap for you, because I’m just…blown away. Yes, that was sarcastic.
And look, you can have your opinions. God knows, I have mine, and I’ve chosen to voice them on the Internet here, which in a sense, is no different than what they chose to do. But there’s a time and place for them, and do you really think as a new artist that only millennials really know, that you want to take on Lady Gaga, and by extension, her crazy loyal fans and the network of people behind her? Good freaking luck.
Well, if that wasn’t enough, they also moved on to Rihanna. Daya, who song on their hit “Don’t Let Me Down”, was apparently not their first choice to provide vocals for the track. They wanted Ri to sing on the song, but apparently she wasn’t interested because she didn’t really know who they were. Due to this rejection, like two high schoolers who are butt-hurt about being rejected by a girl when they ask them out on a date, they questioned her work ethic, and whether she was still in the industry for the music, and not the money and hits.
So, yeah, they talked smack, great, who doesn’t (ahem, Mariah Carey)? Here’s the issue. When you’re Mariah Carey with tons of #1 hits, universally respected as one of the greatest vocalists, it’s not that big of a deal, people will move on and forget it.
But when you’re the Chainsmokers, with one, kind of two, hit songs, you might want to watch your step. Because all bias aside from belonging to certain fan bases, in the business sense, that entire interview was toxic to their upcoming career. Networking, as I said, is all about connections. And, as we saw on Twitter, Lady Gaga knows about their comments, and she clapped back intelligently. But attached to Lady Gaga is an entire network of people, including and not limited to Mark Ronson (producer of “Uptown Funk” which just was Diamond certified, by the way, as well as Amy Winehouse’s Grammy winning record Back to Black), Elton John (you young folk may not know him, but he’s a legend), Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennet, Beyonce, etc… The list goes on, and each one of those people have connections, like a huge spider web. And when you make one of them mad by trash talking them, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU KNOW YOUR COMMENTS ARE BEING PUBLISHED, you’d think you’d be a little more careful with your words. Like I said, I’m not even in the business right now, and I know this to be true.
And let me just say, that if you think Alex was just dragging Drew down with him like an anchor, you didn’t see the other half of it. Halsey, who collaborated with the duo on their biggest hit (“Closer”) tweeted at Lady Gaga before her album Joanne was released, and sent a lovely message of support for what her new era of music would sound like. Soon, a tweet that was proven to be a true tweet, calling her something I will not repeat (you can Google it) from Drew’s personal Twitter was seen in response to it. After saying the picture of the tweet being shopped around was fake, he changed his story to being hacked, not long after another slew of even more obscene tweets to both Gaga and Halsey were sent out again. When you say one thing, and have to change your story, your credibility is blown, by the way. Just thought you should know.
I don’t think I need to point out the problem here, either. Not only is it not a good business idea to burn bridges with people you haven’t worked with, and then by extension, an entire network of people that you haven’t even met, that now won’t want to work with you, but it’s even worse when you burn the bridges of the people you HAVE worked with, and by the way, HELPED YOU GET YOUR BIGGEST HIT OF YOUR CAREER. Halsey even unfollowed him on Twitter for good measure, and let’s just say, I have a feeling you won’t be seeing much of them performing the track together any time soon (though if you want, watch them at this year’s VMA’s, but prepare yourself because, I’m sorry, Drew, get some voice lessons before you start coming at some very talented vocalists that could sing you out of the water).
From a business perspective, these two made a very bad networking decision at possibly one of the most vital points in their career. They’re on top of the world right now with a hit song and people are at the point of saying, “Hey, let’s investigate these guys, shall we? Maybe I’ll like more of their music, and maybe just as artists.” But when you blindly make these blunders, you’ve just set yourselves back so many steps, and the damage may or may not affect your future. People may just forget this whole mishap, Gaga might understand and want to work with you on something, who knows? But why take that risk? Why open your mouths waste your opportunity to be in Rolling Sone by throwing out incredibly thoughtless comments when your career is just taking off? It’s not wise, and I hope they learn from it, and I hope other artists on their way up are taking notes on how NOT to network. Let’s be honest: have your opinions. You don’t have to go around kissing ass to get places all the time, if that’s not the way you want to play it, and God willing, if I were to be an artist making my way around, I’m not doing it by kissing ass. But you can have these opinions and not have them be used later as ammunition against you. And unfortunately, that’s not something these two were told, but they definitely learned. The hard way.
P.S. Isn’t a little close-minded in an industry of artists, each of them making something that means something important to them, to be going off and bad mouthing them? I’m in college for music right now, and every time I talk to another student, if I really feel that I vibe with them, the first question we ask each other is about collaborations and wanting to hear each other’s music, write with each other. I have a friend that’s insanely talented with electronic music and songwriting that wants to work with me on original material, and has also shown me some incredible new music I should be listening to. My one friend is a talented singer/songwriter with a gift for hooks and she can meld styles together so unexpectedly. That’s the music industry, guys. It’s about the music, and when you start bad mouthing the pieces of work that others make, doesn’t that take the free spirited creativity out of it? I’ve been able to go through this whole thing complimenting their music, but questioning their business decisions, because I can’t deny, their music is great. But this inherent need to tear people’s music down instead of either praising or shutting up is the reason this industry is such a machine, and why real musicians with stories to tell and things to say are becoming a rarity. And that, as a musician here for the music, is saddening.