Aaahh, Justin Timberlake, so astute.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college, I finally had it figured out. “It” being what I wanted to do after college – I wanted to work in the record industry. I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. My brother suggested I look at the UTA Job List (something familiar to anyone who wants to be in the entertainment industry), and on it I found a listing to be an assistant to an unnamed musician. I set up the interview at a random Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and it turned out that the musician was someone who was very, very famous in the 90’s. She was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1993, and she had a hit song where the title was something along the lines of “Shoot, I Yearn To Be Your Sex Partner.”
Anyway, I interviewed with her outgoing assistant and I got the job. I showed up for my first day, nervous but excited. When I arrived at her house, I discovered that I wasn’t just going to be Musician’s assistant, I was going to also be assisting her manager, Bebe. Oh, and by the way, Bebe? PURE EVIL.
NOTHING I did was OK as far as Bebe was concerned. She was the type of boss that expected you to know exactly how she wanted things to be done WITHOUT explaining it to you. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” you know what I mean. She was the type of boss that would fixate on small mistakes – and when you have a boss that looks for the little mistakes, you MAKE little mistakes. Especially when you’re 20 and you can’t even take care of yourself, let alone two needy adult women. She constantly yelled at me and made me feel stupid, and I cried on my way home every day.
I didn’t do ANYTHING music related for them. Well, I think I picked up Musician’s fan mail, and I might have mailed a couple demo CDs, but that was it. Even when I was 20 and fairly stupid, I realized that life was too short to live in fear of a boss. So I quit about two or so weeks after I was hired. I just told Musician and Bebe that I clearly wasn’t a good fit for what they were looking for, and I wished them the best.
Well, Bebe wasn’t happy with that. Even though it was very obvious that they needed something different, she couldn’t just let me quit. She sent me a scathing email, telling me what a terrible, unprofessional worker I was, and that she would see to it that I would NEVER, EVER work in the music industry because I clearly was crap and didn’t deserve it.
I deleted her email, and – whaddaya know! – I quickly got an internship with a major record label.
That internship turned into a temp job, which turned into a full-time job, and eventually that job moved me to New York City where I worked in Artists and Repertoire. A & R is the department that handles the signing of new artists and the production of their records. One of my many responsibilities was to manage all unsolicited submissions. Every day, we would get dozens of demo CDs. I usually passed those CDs off to my interns (man, I used to be so cool – I had an office off of Broadway in New York, and I had a bunch of interns. Sigh.) because there were simply TOO MANY for me to listen to on my own. And also? 99.8% of them were terrible – think the WORST of American Idol. Yeah. BAD.
I was opening up my mail one random Tuesday when I noticed the return address on a large envelope looked familiar. I couldn’t place it, so I ripped the package open with curiosity.
Low and behold, it was a submission from Bebe on behalf of the musician. It seemed the musician had been dropped by her record label and she was looking for a new home.
A smile slowly crept across my face.
Instead of the usual form letter that my interns sent out on my behalf, I took the time to write a personalized letter.
After so many years without thinking about you two, you can imagine my delight when Musician’s unsolicited submission came across my desk. Instead of passing it off to one of my interns (as is the custom in the music industry, I’m sure you understand how busy we are), I held onto it! No need to thank me, it was absolutely my pleasure.
I have decided to PASS on Musician. There is no need to appeal as I have already spoken with Mr. Label President, and after hearing what I had to say, he agrees with me.
I am so terribly sorry that your inability to follow through on your promise to prevent me from EVER working in the music industry again is what is now preventing Musician from being signed by our label. What irony!
With little regret,
The president of the label was in on the whole thing and backed me up so completely that he also signed the letter.
If only the great Philosopher Justin Timberlake had been sharing his words of wisdom back then, perhaps Bebe wouldn’t have treated me so poorly.