The Power of Principles, Part IVby Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, July 2001
Principle 4: Jacobson's Integrity Principle
Webster defines serendipity as: The faculty of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. In other words, you are just sort of going about your life...doing your thing...and suddenly, out of nowhere, this giant blessing just drops on your head. Not being an extremely "lucky" person, I can count the truly serendipitous events of my life on one hand and still have several fingers left over. But without doubt, Jeffrey E. Jacobson, Esq., is among that select number. Now how many people can say that about their lawyer?
I met Jeff through my obsessive-compulsive attempts to get my songs placed. His law firm, Jacobson & Colfin, P.C. -- which specializes in entertainment issues -- had advertised in one of my Music Industry publications for original songs. As is my custom, I phoned first to be sure that the advertisement was accurate and that they would, in fact, receive outside material. To my utter shock, I was treated cordially and very professionally and encouraged to send my songs. Several weeks later, I received a letter from Jeff indicating that he would like to visit with me about possibly representing my music publishing company and me, as a songwriter.
Having heard all the latest lawyer jokes and having a suspicious streak to boot, I found it very difficult to believe that a New York law firm would want to represent moi! Why? What did I have to represent? Would I be just another overcharged client in the database of a fancy law office? I had found it necessary to use the services of another entertainment attorney several years earlier, who had charged for everything (I think his meter started on the second ring of every phone call) and had basically been quite inaccessible for any calls or appointments other than dire emergencies. I had neither the money nor the time to get involved in another such relationship.
But here is where the serendipity really kicked in! As I visited with Jeff and learned to know him, I found him to be "cut from a completely different cloth" than what I had expected. He is rarely unavailable for a call. He is professional, thorough and knowledgeable and treats my company and my issues with the same respect and conscientious care that he offers to much higher profile clients. He is a family man with high principles. As each year goes by I have found Jeffrey Jacobson and his partner, Bruce Colfin, to be men of integrity, great friends and total blessings!
One day as I visited with Jeffrey on the phone, I confessed my early misgivings about signing on with a New York lawyer and let him know what a delightful contradiction he had proved himself to be. In response he said: "Mary, at the bottom line the Music Industry is like any other business. Would you want to hire a plumber who was very talented but never showed up on time, arrived hungover and then overcharged you for his services? Of course not! The same is true about the Music Business -- people want to find other people who are skilled, honest and reliable. There are many very gifted people with amazing talent, but their negative reputations have ruined their careers."
Then Jeff added something that has permanently etched itself into my memory. He said: "I've always believed that all you have at the end of the day is your name and your integrity. If you do not remain true to what you know in your heart is right, the word gets out and quickly spreads -- and no matter how you try to correct or conceal it, it's like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. It's not impossible...but it's very very difficult!"
Time for another definition! Integrity is defined in the dictionary as firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values. It is a quality closely connected to Excellence (The Greer Guideline) and Credibility (The Credibility Factor), and it can be extremely hard to maintain in the glitzy world of Entertainment. When most people think about the Music Business, they see it through what I call Glam Glasses. The whole Industry is so glamorous and larger-than-life that we can begin to think that the rules which apply to other businesses and individuals do not apply here. The lucrative potential of hit music causes the greed factor to kick in for many, and little by little their code of ethics and values becomes compromised. It is tempting -- when we see famous people indulging their appetites with fast-lane lifestyles and questionable morality -- to begin thinking that somehow the normal consequences will not apply to them. But anyone who has ever seen more than one installment of VH1's Behind the Music will realize that the same demons that have effectively derailed musicians for years are still very sadly effective today.
There is a Bible proverb that says: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches..." Most people agree with that statement -- at least in principle. But when the "great riches" start flowing in and others around you are enticing you to "adjust" your values to fit the opportunities, it is difficult to remember exactly why the old proverb once sounded so true. Unless we have taken the time to clearly define our personal principles and our boundaries prior to the advent of success and prosperity, we may find that without even completely realizing what is happening, we run adrift of our true goals and find ourselves in a completely strange destination that we never intended to reach.
Take some time to sit down and think about your own personal values and principles. What is most important to you? Your marriage? Your family? Your spirituality? Your health? Make these the Non-Negotiables of your life -- those precious qualities that you refuse to compromise no matter how much money you stand to make or how famous you might become. Every morning, review these principles and reinforce them in your heart and mind. Then think about your business practices. How do you want to be treated by others in this Industry? Make this the standard you use to interact with every person who crosses your path today.
For me, I decided long ago that people would always be more important than either money or music -- that no matter how important or unimportant someone may be in the world, they are still a human being deserving dignity and consideration as a person. I decided that I would not make judgments about anyone based on their outward appearance or resume. I would neither be intimidated by wealth and success nor would I disparage poverty or lack of talent. This guiding principle has proven to be far more profitable than I could have ever dreamed. I have discovered amazing "diamonds in the rough" and have come to know some of the most talented and successful people in the Music Industry -- all have been profoundly interesting and many have become great friends.
Then, it's time to look at your music. Remember, by our definition integrity is a firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values. You've heard of musicians "selling out" to become famous? It happens all the time. That's why it's very important that you do some serious thinking about your musical and writing goals as well -- what is negotiable and what is not. We all know that in the long journey to become a master songcrafter, we must make many adjustments...learn new ways of writing and expressing ourselves….write and then re-write and re-write and re-write. But in the longing to find a place for ourselves and our music, we can often cross an invisible line and begin giving up the very things about our music that make it communicate effectively. Fads in music come and go -- and it's good to learn the latest trends and styles -- but learn to know what you do best and what you feel best doing musically. These are your own unique gifts that make you who you are and will probably be your keys to eventual success -- don't sell them short or sell them out trying to be en vogue or "like" someone else.
Integrity is what makes you proud to be you. It lets you look yourself in the eye every morning and put your head down in peace on your pillow at night. There is absolutely nothing more valuable than that! Thanks, Jeffrey Jacobson, for the reminder your life is to me that "all you have at the end of the day is your name!"
**From her earliest childhood years writing simple songs and poems with her father, through her twelve years as an overseas missionary, to her present, multi-faceted career as an author, lyricist/songwriter and conference speaker, Mary has always been adept at using words to communicate her heart to others. She is the President of CQK Records & Music of Dallas, Texas, a company which creates and produces songs in a panorama of musical styles for a variety of audiences, She is also the host of "I Write the Songs," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, especially created to inspire and instruct the more than 25 million aspiring songwriters in the U.S. "I Write the Songs" is broadcast over the Internet. Mary is a frequent public speaker and seminar lecturer on songwriting. She is a regular columnist for Independent Songwriter Web Magazine. Mary's commitment to discovering and mentoring talented new songwriters has given her extensive experience in song analysis through adjudicating songwriting competitions and conducting songwriting workshops across the country and around the world. Because of her role as president of an independent music company, she is also well qualified to instruct aspiring songwriters on the various business aspects of the music industry. She is married and a mother of four. She resides in the Dallas area.