That Time I Allowed Someone Else to Steer My Ship

Many moons ago, around April 2016 to be exact, I was fully immersed in hosting and producing a podcast called Trumpet Dynamics. This show is still (sort of) in existence today, although it is in need of a new host that can give it the TLC it needs and deserves. Click here if you know someone who might be interested.

I published a new episode once per week. It could have been more than that, but I put multiple interviews on each episode. I wanted to feature people no one had ever heard of, but were still dedicated to the instrument and making it happen in their own way, as well as the “big fish” that are more likely to equate to more downloads.

I figured if it worked for Johnny Carson – have a big name to draw viewers, then have lesser known (but equally as entertaining) talent in the later slots – it could possibly work for me.

And it did. I followed that format for a good six months until I decided to go with 3 episodes per week, each guest having their own episode, even if they were “nobody’s” in the trumpet world (their words, not mine).

During the early days when I was featuring multiple guests per episode, I interviewed a guy in Los Angeles who’s doing some “Avant Garde” things with music – and coincidentally was featured on Carson’s show playing trumpet while solving a Rubik’s Cube. The headliner guest was a jazz musician who is very well accomplished in his field, has won a Grammy, has released several albums. He’s been around the block.

I put the audio of the clip of this younger fellow on Carson’s show on the podcast before I introduced him. I thought it would build up a bit of interest in the actual interview. It wasn’t longer than 60 seconds.

And then I put the interview of the jazz cat after this segment.

After I published the episode, the jazz cat protested.

He didn’t like that a man of his stature was placed alongside a little twerp playing trumpet while solving a Rubik’s Cube on The Tonight Show.

Being younger and less-experienced than I am now, I felt I was in a quandary.The “big name” artist that was supposed to be the main draw to the episode didn’t like the artistic license I had taken.

So I called him on the phone and he said he wanted me to take the episode down. He was sure to thank me for the extra exposure I was giving him by being on my podcast.

Yes, the guy is rather pretentious.

So I compromised. I took out the one segment of the Rubik’s Cube guy and placed it in the next week’s episode, so that Mr. Jazz Trumpet could stand alone. I told the Rubik’s Cube guy what I had done, and he was confused and probably a little bit insulted at it.

And I don’t blame him. I would have felt the exact same way if I were in his shoes.

My mistake in all this was allowing Mr. Esteemed Jazz Cat to steer my ship. I allowed his stature and the “influence” he had (all in my mind) to affect my decisions.

In the end, no one was happy and I seriously weakened my own brand, as well as that of the show.

If this were to happen today, I wouldn’t allow anyone to dictate decisions for my show like that. I would tell Mr. Esteemed Jazz Cat that I reserve the right to make whatever production decisions I wish for my own show, and if he doesn’t like it, too bad.

Would he change the format of his album because Wynton Marsalis didn’t like it? I doubt it.

I’m always open to feedback and constructive criticism. If a suggestion – be it from a guest or anyone else – makes sense and leads to a better product, I’m all for it. But at the end of the day, those are my decisions, no one else’s.

Mr. Jazz Cat was seriously disrespectful to me when he asked me to do that. By not standing my ground and sticking to my principles and artistic decisions, I allowed that disrespect to weaken my brand.

Call it a rookie mistake. Call it whatever you want.

I do hope my experience will perhaps allow someone to not fall into the trap of making decisions on the whims and ego-induced impulses of “big fish” in the little pond in which they happen to swim.