Orin Isaacs writes about the difference between confidence and cockiness in music.

Confidence vs. Cockiness

by Orin Isaacs

A professional musician without swagger is like a guitarist who can’t play the first bar of Sweet Home Alabama. There are not many of them around. Self-confidence plays a significant role in success but there are plenty of examples of musicians who are drunk on swagger. Read the confessions of a music industry veteran and how overconfidence almost cost him the job.

Ok, so I was hired as the musical director for this summer’s Pan Am Games closing ceremony and had to compose and produce a 12-min. number celebrating Toronto’s diverse cultures. Paul Becker was the stage director who brought me on board and together we thought we were going to change the game! We were going to give them something they’ve never heard before in these types of ceremonies. We were going to bring the HEAT!!

My contact, a very seasoned producer kept asking me to hear the idea before our big music meeting with the head executive. So far, I was hitting it out of the park with everything I played her, so I got Cocky and said: “Nah, everybody will hear it at the meeting, trust me it’s FIRE!!” She asked about three times before the meeting. Each time I said “nope, just wait”.

So we’re in the meeting with the main guy, and everything I’m playing is getting a great response, so I’m feeling pretty good! Paul was out of town so he wasn’t there but it’s cool; “I got this.”

Now it’s time to play the main track that basically my whole contract was based on. I hit play and it starts pretty traditional. I’m feeling good because the smiles started to appear and then BOOM it turns into the hottest club-oriented track known to man. The next six minutes is pure HEAT!! I’m jamming and loving it. “I’m killing them right now.” So I thought…

I notice that nobody else is jamming, the smiles are gone and the head guy actually turns away from me so he doesn’t have to make eye contact. I’m thinking, hmm, maybe this isn’t going so well. The track stops and there’s pure silence for what felt like an eternity. The head guy looks at me and says. “This is not what I was expecting.”

I can’t really remember the rest because it all sounded like I hate it! This will never ever happen! What the hell were you thinking!! Are you crazy!! LOL – although it wasn’t that funny at the time.

Yep, I got Cocky and it put me behind the eight ball and it could have been avoided. It was awkward to say the least.

That’s where my confidence kicked in. I was able to keep the mood light, crack a couple of jokes and say, “No problem.  I’ll go back and redo it, keeping it closer to the creative that was pitched. I got this, no problem.”

So in two weeks I was able to redo the track and my second pass at it was basically what ended up going to air. From that day on I passed everything through my contact and she was able to guide me and keep me on track.

The games were successful and in the end the Pan AM folks were very happy with what I delivered. I even ended up being the official DJ of the ceremonies and I had the time of my life.

So the moral is, work hard so that you can be confident in what you do. Listen to others who have experience! Don’t get too cocky because it could cost you the biggest live event of your career! 🙂

Orin Isaacs, Ontario, Canada

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