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Words of Fang – Learn to Say “NO”

July 27, 2016

Lords of the Trident 2016

Hails metalheads! My name is Fang VonWrathenstein, vocalist for the band Lords of the Trident (http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com). Every month or so, I’ll be handing out my sage advice to other bands on how to take their band from the garage to the next level. I’m no industry insider, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Have an idea for a topic, or fervently disagree with something I write? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com.


It’s nice to be wanted. When you work hard enough and become reasonably successful, you will start to become known as a person who can get things done. If you’re anything like me, this translates to others asking you for help. Or, perhaps instead of waiting to be asked, you volunteer your time helping others. This can be an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience, but it comes with a caveat: you must be careful not to spread yourself too thin! At some point, you will have to learn to say “no”.


Repeat after Wonder Woman

Whether or not you’re the leader of your band (I’m assuming most of the people who read this column are), you should also start to cultivate the ability to say no. Honestly, you’ll end up being surprised at how mastering this power will change the way your band (and your life) works! There are a number of different situations where it’s helpful to take a step back. First and foremost, the most important:

Saying “no” when you’re spread too thin

Agreeing to help comes naturally to some of us. After all, we want to be a person who’s dependable, a good friend, a leader, etc. Helping others reinforces that feeling in ourselves, and just plain feels good.

Remember those airplane safety instructions that we almost always ignore? “If there is a loss of cabin pressure, air masks will deploy from the ceiling. Secure your own mask before assisting others.” They don’t say this to be selfish – they say this because if you’re going to help those around you, you need to be of sound mind and body first. Otherwise, you may end up accidently hurting instead of helping.

A wise person once said something that’s stuck with me: You cannot give away what you do not have. If you live your life jumping from one thing to the next, overscheduled, constantly pulled in different directions by the 50 things you agreed to do, you’re going to be giving away a frazzled and stressed “you”. No one wants that. If you’re going to help someone, you want to be able to give them your complete attention and calm presence. If you’re stressed out, that’s not going to happen.

This one may be the hardest “no” to get used to, but it will improve your life drastically. Before you agree to become someone’s tour manager, or tutor their bandmates on screen printing techniques, ask yourself – “If I add this to my schedule, would I be able to give my complete attention without feeling stressed?” If there’s even an inkling of “no”, then you have your answer right there.


Saying no when you’re being taken for granted

Jerks exist in this world, and most of them got that way by only thinking about themselves. Some people will assume you’ll always help them for free, or that your time is not as valuable as theirs. Think about it this way – would you work for a company for free, out of the goodness of your heart? Absolutely not! The company you work for is making money from your efforts, and you need to be compensated for that effort.

With friends and acquaintances, this can be a little tricky. When you are running your life on limited time, that time becomes a valuable commodity. At some point, you’re going to have to put a dollar value on an hour of your life, especially if you’re doing something that you would normally do as a job, or an activity that someone would normally pay a professional to accomplish.

Let’s say that your day job is a computer repair technician, and you get paid $20 an hour. If your friend’s sister’s cousin has a virus that he needs help removing, you have two questions to answer before you agree to help. First, is it worth your time to help him for free? If not, how much is your time worth? $20 an hour is what you get paid at work, but in my opinion, your free time is much more valuable. How much is it worth to give up an hour of your non-work time? $40? $60?

Deciding on this number ahead of time helps prevent you from being taken for granted. Stop reading for just a moment and decide your number right now. Now, the next time you’re asked, you’ll know exactly what to say.

“But Fang, how does this apply to my band?” Two ways:

Saying no when you don’t agree


I’m going to pay this woman to follow me around and make that face

There’s a difference between playing nice and sacrificing your (or your band’s) integrity. When writing music, making posters, creating music videos, or doing just about anything creative, you have to be comfortable vocalizing when something just doesn’t feel right. If you’re a metal band, and your drummer is playing interpretive jazz over a brutal tremolo picking part, that’s just not going to fly. You have to be comfortable voicing your dissent, and explaining why.

Notice that I’m not specifically telling you to say NO. Why? Putting your foot down without any chance to change your mind is poison to any sort of collaborative creativity. If you hold the veto stamp and don’t give anyone a chance to persuade you, or try something a little different, you’ll be seen as a tyrant. It’s ok to say you don’t like something, but it’s not ok to prevent discussion on the matter. If you’re open to letting an idea you don’t initially agree with grow and change, you may be surprised at how it may become something that everyone likes.

Saying no when the situation just plain sucks


Look, I know most of us want nothing more than to play as many shows as we can before we turn 80 and die on stage from a fatal microphone electrocution accident. I get it. But sometimes you can smell a bad gig from a mile away. For example:

“Hey I’m getting a bunch of my buddies together for our annual cabin party. Wondering if you’d like to play. Free beer!”

“We’ve got an opening at our fest on day two at 10am!”

“It’s a 6 band bill, and we were hoping you guys could headline!”

…or the best, (and completely true)

“Would you like to volunteer play my backyard for a bunch of homeless people?”

If you’ve started to establish yourself in your region, you’re not doing yourself any favors by playing these nickel-and-dime shows. Before you wind up hauling your entire sound system to some dude’s backyard, ask yourself, “Is this show going to help us in the long run?”  Does it help to be the band that always plays for free at every benefit show? Are you doing anything for your career by playing the exact same bar every Tuesday night for the same eight people? Is playing that Monday night show with six other bands three hours away really going to open you up to a new fanbase? Or are you just going to end up playing to an empty room?

If you’re going to grow, you’ve got to have a good reason to play a show other than “it’s fun”. You’re going to war, so you’d better have a battle plan. Start experimenting with saying “no” this week, and see where it gets you. You may find that it makes you happier than you think.


Are you a band that owes your success to my pearls of wisdom? Do you wish there was some way you could pay me back? Well there is! Buy the Lords of the Trident’s albums off AmazonMP3, iTunes, or BandCamp, watch our music videos on YouTube, and visit us online – http://www.LordsOfTheTrident.com. Want to email me directly? Tell me how good/horrible my advice has been thus far? Email me at LordsOfTheTrident@gmail.com. If you give me an idea for an article, I’ll send you a FREE album as a reward!

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