It’s been 2,5 years since I moved to the UK. Sometimes it feels like I received my letter of acceptance from the University of Bristol just yesterday and sometimes I feel like I’ve spent at least a decade chasing this fickle dream of becoming a professional musician. There are moments when it seems like a lot has changed since I first landed in the Bristol Airport and then, there are times when I come to realise that despite all the efforts, I’m still pretty much at the same level I was back in 2014: a student, a starting out artist, and a young adult without any stability in life.

However, there is one thing I can be certain of: I’m not the same person I was 2,5 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about the business I want to be in and lost that naivety with which I once looked at the music industry. I’ve become stronger and, hopefully, developed a thicker skin. I’ve had good and bad experiences and over time, I’ve acquired a habit of taking people’s words with a pinch of salt. I guess this is equally a positive and a negative shift and before you think of me as a complete cynic, let me elaborate.


It’s not like I don’t trust anything I’m told. A younger version of myself would have been beyond the moon to hear that someone wanted to book her for an opening slot of someone important. I’d be impatiently checking my inbox every 5 minutes waiting for more details and would probably blab to my friends that a huge show was coming. However, after 2 years of empty promises and regular dealings with people who don’t mean what they say, I slowly learned to be more cautious. My new rule is that if something good happens out of an accidental conversation, that’s great but because 99% of the time people just want to brag rather than actually do business, I make sure that I have my guard up to save myself from major disappointment.

The realisation that quite often people have false intentions and simply like to talk hit me for the first time when I went to Brighton to play a few gigs. It’s an absolutely gorgeous city full of narrow streets and little colourful shops with festival flags everywhere. It seems as though every person you meet is an artist of some sort, and over that weekend I met a lot of talented creative people. That naturally led to a whole collection of “useful” business cards. There were lots of conversations about joint gigs and writing sessions but as it appeared, there was also lots of bragging and an endless flow of empty words that meant nothing. The trip came to an end but the promised gigs and collaborations never took place. A large wave of disappointment hit me hard and taught me to know better next time.

What was it, though? Was it just people getting carried away and saying a little bit too much without meaning any harm? Or was I unlucky enough to stumble across every self-centred character in the city whose main agenda was to boost their egos saying things they never meant to act upon? I think it’s time for some detailed analysis.

Being nice for the sake of being nice

I’m sure all of us are familiar with this awkward situation: you’re queuing to get your first cup of coffee in the morning and accidentally meet eyes with an old acquaintance of yours from whom you haven’t heard a thing for around 10 years. You shout something like “Oh my God! It’s been ages!” then give each other a hug, quickly exchange the same old numbers which you had probably both deleted from your phones because you never thought you’d need it, and then you both promise to grab lunch and catch up “at some point“.

At some point… That’s the key phrase signalling that no one’s actually planning on meeting each other. In fact, the moment you leave that café, you forget that you even met that person in the first place. You might accidentally stumble across each other again in a year or so and the situation would repeat itself. This is a polite white lie that you’re taught to tell by the society to appear nice. It’s similar to asking strangers how they are doing when in reality, and let’s be honest about it, you don’t really care.

When it comes to the music business, it’s important to understand that most of the encounters with other industry people won’t provide the results you hope for. I’ve been promised gigs, interviews and lots of super helpful contacts but time passed and those promises dissipated. Sometimes I’d chase via email asking for more details, sometimes I’d just let go. I used to get upset about it and think that perhaps I wasn’t good enough and they changed their mind. I used to hold grudges and promise myself that I’d never work with those people again. Unfortunately, most likely those people didn’t even have cruel intentions when they gave those empty promises. In fact, most likely, they even forgot they promised something in the first place.

Most of us are programmed by society to be nice and polite, and, unfortunately, sometimes people take it to a whole new level. They get carried away by the situation and promise something that they don’t intend to act upon. They tell you what you want to hear or what they think would be a nice thing to say, and then they walk away and focus on someone else to be nice to. This habit of being nice in the moment doesn’t make them bad people, but it does result in them being highly unprofessional. That’s why my decision to take everything I hear with a pinch of salt is a smart way to keep friendly relationships and save a lot of nerve cells. As the saying goes: “No expectations, no disappointments!”

Ego boosting chats and

Besides those people who say nice things for the sake of niceness, I’ve also come across many individuals who like to blow their capabilities out of proportion. There are usually two categories for these wanna-be overachievers.

The first category is full of braggers – they want to showcase how good they are and they like the look admiration in your eyes! Your compliments boost their egos and they want to take it just a little bit further so they’ll offer to help you in one way or another. Perhaps, you’re after a good photographer and they’ll tell you they know just the one to do the job perfectly. Or maybe you’re dying to meet their manager and they’ll promise to look into arranging a meeting at some point. They’ll never reach for their phones to give you the photographer’s details straight away and they’ll surely never mention your name to their manager. They’ll make it look like they want to help you (but not right now), and whether you believe them or not, your manners will prompt you to act grateful and they’ll feel very important. And this is the only thing those braggers really want.

The second category, however, is much more harmful because if boosting someone’s ego for nothing is just a waste of your time, falling into the trap of a liar who can’t deliver is much worse. Being ambitious is good (see my post “Ambitions or Pretensions?“), however, there’s nothing worse than overpromising because you either have overestimated your own capabilities or hoped that no one will ever see your bluff. At the very start of my career, I had a meeting with an entrepreneur, who had an artist-developing company. After talking about the plan and the fees, I went home frantically calculating where I could get the money to fund the contract of my dreams. Luckily, someone less-delusional suggested that I looked up the company and the team I was about to start working with. It didn’t take long to find out that the entrepreneur in question wasn’t very far off from the level where my career was and that the deal would benefit him but certainly not me.


There are many promises in the music industry that are given without proper consideration. However, I have to assure you that there’s still a small percentage of words that hold true meaning. And this is what makes the music business so exciting! You never know whom you’ll meet and what might come out of it. From a hundred musicians you have met at gigs, there’ll be one band that will get back to you about collaboration. There’ll be one promoter who will actually look you up after hearing some good words about your set. There’ll be one company that will respond to your never-ending series of emails with demo attachments. After all the empty promises, there will be one that will actually be real, and the important part is, despite all the cynicism that you’ve developed, to still be able to recognise it when you hear it!

Photos by Chris Dean