Doctors and Musicians

Illustration of Doctors and muscians

Before Andy and I formed Umbrella Media, I’d spent 15 years serving time as a pharmaceutical sales rep. I was very happy (understatement) to stop schlepping from doctor’s office to doctor’s office and retire my sample bag in favor or a new career.

And what could be more different from calling on doctors than working with musicians and singers.

Ah .. but I was wrong

As a rep – you know, those annoying people who breeze right into the doctor’s office while you’re cooling your heels in the waiting room reading magazines from the last century – I called on all kinds of specialists. And it was obvious to me that within specialties, practitioners had very similar personality traits. Really – similarly, consistently and predictability the same.

Turns out .. It’s the same with musical people

For example, take a typical rhythm section. These guys are fun and easygoing but they are also great problem solvers. They’re way cool, hip and dialed into the latest trends.

Tell them, “I’m looking for an ethnic Mongolian groove with Afro-funk influencers for a Tuvan throat singer,” and they nail it by the second take.

Want to hear the latest jokes? Hire horn players! Aside from being fun and boisterous, they exude an aura of macho self-confidence. Who hasn’t heard the horn player mantra of, “Ok, let’s make it.” And if it’s not perfect by the second take, it’s probably the copyist’s fault.

String players. These folks are very particular, precise and focussed. They have a very empathetic relationship with their environment – it has to be just right. So what often happens in the studio is that the music stands are too high or too low; the lights too bright or too dim; the chairs to hard, too soft or too non-ergonomic. And as for the A/C … well, it’s never, ever the right temperature.

Singers are charming, dramatic and not surprisingly .. very verbal. They are great talkers on all sorts of topics. They are versatile and agile conversationalists. Here’s the thing about vocal sessions that never fails to make me laugh: in between takes it’s yack, yack, yack until the music starts to roll . – and then, without even missing a beat, the singers transition from talking to singing, Even as they break, they walk down the hall to the break room singing (and/or talking.)

So doctors or musicians – I think it’s interesting this grouping of personality traits. But it couldn’t be more different working with doctors or working with musicians. For one thing .. musicians dress better. But here’s the biggest difference:

When I was calling on doctors, one their favorite expressions was, “Sounds good.” Of course, this was a Doc-Speak, conversation-ender usually uttered as they were inching away from me in an attempt to halt my brilliant discourse on whatever pills I was pushing at the moment.

But when a musician says, “Sounds good,” it has an entirely different meaning. And for me, that makes all the difference in the world.