All in a Day’s Work

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By Steve Oppenheimer

(March 2003)

Every job has its challenges and problems. As editor of EM, my job includes not only conceiving, writing, and editing stories but supervising staff, budgeting, and dealing with corporate and industry politics. If a manufacturer hates our coverage, if a story doesn’t turn out as planned, if an editorial staff member messes up, if we are over budget, it’s up to me to find a solution. That’s fine; it’s what I expected when I signed on as editor in chief. Most corporate department managers have comparable challenges, although not usually in such a public forum. Of course, nobody likes to get personally threatened, sued, or screamed at. I suspect that my photo is on more than one dartboard. And yet, I never lose sleep over it. Why not?

The secret is to keep things in perspective. Some of the things I experienced when touring and playing sessions full-time for 15 years were far worse than anything I’ve experienced in the publishing business.

For instance, you know you are really in trouble when:

  • Your guitarist/singer announces that he is engaged to marry a hooker. She is a high-class call girl, and you know she will dump him soon after breaking up the band.
  • The sheriff comes looking for your lead guitarist with an outstanding arrest warrant. The guitarist is the one person in the band that you could rely on, and you have gigs booked.
  • A surprise blizzard hits while you’re northbound on a lonely South Dakota road. Your pickup truck breaks down, so you’re having to tow it with the band’s other vehicle, a heavily loaded van. Icy water is rising on the side of the road, and one person has to constantly run alongside the van in snow boots, pushing on the side panel to keep the whole rig from sliding sideways into a ditch. The next town is 90 miles away, mostly uphill.
  • An agent books your country-rock outfit into a club in southeastern New Mexico and assures you that it’s the perfect venue. You open the set, and the crowd starts chanting for AC/DC tunes. The band doesn’t know any, and your guitarist couldn’t get that sound if his life depended on it — which it might.
  • You’re a bandleader playing at a club in a national park. You just finished the last set on opening night and look up to see that the 6-foot, 4-inch bass player has some diminutive employee up against a post, with cocked fist. The park rangers have been called, and the bass player disappears. You suspect he went back to the dressing room to get stoned. The ranger is going after him and will check the room first. You cannot afford to lose this gig.

These are true stories from my road days, and any long-time road warrior can tell more of the same. Compared to that, magazine publishing is a breeze, come what may. Bring it on!

 

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