Monday, April 20, 2009

Musical Etiquette: At The Grocery Store

Dear Musical Etiquette:
I was walking through the grocery store the other day and ran into XXXX from XXXX shopping! I was so nervous, but I walked up and said hi anyway. I told him I was his biggest fan ever and gave him my demo CD. Good thing I keep some on me! He didn't really talk to me, he just sort of stared at the CD, said thanks and kept on walking. Did I do something wrong here? Why would he ignore me? I'm his biggest fan, I've been to like every show!


The answer is yes, you did do something wrong. See, the thing is, your local celebrity is a human being. I know it's sometimes hard to see, but this guy just probably just wanted to get his grocery shopping done and go home. At the risk of sounding rude, I must inform that you're being annoying. You see, the grocery store is one of those times where he just gets to be normal and boring and to someone who spends a great deal of time on stage and under the lights, it's a great relief. You just shattered his illusion that he is just a normal guy, buying food and deodorant.

It's a Job
You must realize that being in a band is a job. It's true. His role in the band is what he does for a living, even if it's not a full time job. So walking up to him in the grocery store and slobbering all over him is akin to someone walking up to you and demanding a spreadsheet of your time clock entries, or being told to make a sandwich. He's not "on the clock" right now. Don't expect him to jump up and down and thank you profusely for interrupting him while he's trying to select the right breakfast cereal. A few brief words introducing yourself, a handshake and an appreciative compliment is sufficient. Please, don't give out demos for your band or try and set up a show here in the cereal isle. If you're really interested and you think you've got a good chance to work together, feel free to give them your card and leave them in peace.

Quit slobbering
Frankly, this sort of worshipful fawning over someone at the grocery store is demeaning to you and can be very uncomfortable to the person you're worshiping. If you're really trying to impress this person with your music, act like a human being. Granted, there are people who enjopy this kind of attention and they are hollow, insecure shells and you probably belong together. If you are convinced that they will enjoy this kind of attention then don't do it halfway. Have a chorus of singers behind you, offer burned sacrifices, light candles and chant, waft incense over their body as you sing their praises. I mean really do it up. Offer them your first born child, show off that tattoo you got of their first album cover artwork, read them that tear stained poem in your back pocket you wrote in the darkest hour of your life for them. Worship them wholly and fight the police when they show up.

Be People
If you really are interested in this person that you worship so much, talk to them about food. Share a recipe, comment on the quality of their selections, amuse them with an anecdote about what they're buying. You'd be surprised by their reaction to it. A great deal of "famous" people lose the opportunity to have honest dialogue with random people and it's nice for them to not worry about being that guy on stage. When you approach someone, remember that they are a stranger. No matter how much you think you know about that person from their songs, you really don't know this person at all.

OK, Now You're Good
There are good times to drop a CD in someone's hand, or pay them more than a passing compliment on their work. A musician that just got off stage, is signing CDs or posters or is at an industry event is more than open to hearing about how much their art inspires you, makes you cry or fills your enpty life with meaning. This is the time they put aside to hear this kind of thing and interact with their fans. It's not wise to take up too much of their time still, remember you're a stranger and you don't have the right. So just play it cool, say what you want to and move on.

Please don't be offended if their is a luke warm reaction to your demo or contact information. Successful musicians deal with hundreds of people every day and if you meet them after a really long day they might not be in the best of moods. Don't be pushy, don't be rude. Just remember that they're people too and they have lives that don't involve music. Let the man shop.

Till next time!
Eriq Nelson

Send me your inquiries and horror stories at


Anonymous said...

I once ran into Colin Meloy in the grocery store, and he turned out to be That Guy That Hovers Incessantly Right In Front Of The Only Item You Want, Blocking Your Access To It.

It was annoying, because he was physically positioned where I wanted to be in the store, but I didn't feel like I could hang too close in case he was on the lookout for people who "know who he is."

I should've just said, "Colin Meloy!" and when he turned around, gone, "can you please choose your shampoo and MOVE?"

Jess Gulbranson said...

Or you could have called out "Ben Gibbard!" I'm sure he answers to that name.

Oh snap!

Amber Dawn said...

If anyone comes up to me and notices that I'm in a band and wants my autograph, I will for sure give it to them! no joke! of course, I'm not famous, so the novelty hasn't worn thin for me.