Career Bytes paradox_oneway

Published on February 16th, 2012 | by Hugh Hession


The decision paradox–when bad is good

Here’s a scenario. Jack has been looking for a booking agent to expand his band’s reach. They’ve been playing non-stop for the last two years and have really made a name for themselves within a 100-mile radius. One influential booking agent that Jack had been hounding for months, has finally returned his call. The agent explains to him that they are in the position to help and would like to sign an exclusive agreement. Thing is, Jack has been hearing by other bands on the circuit that this agency is having communication and coordination problems with certain venues. Although the booking agent is one of the best in the region, they have too many acts on their roster, resulting in an increased workload and lack of attention. After thinking for a second, he told the agent that he would talk it over with the other members of his band and get back with him. After a few days, Jack called and turned down the offer. Is Jack crazy, or no?

Welcome to the decision paradox. It’s a term I use to describe when the best decisions are perceived by others as the worst, normally because on the surface, that’s how they appear.

Let’s take a look back at Jack’s “opportunity.” There’s no doubt that most would think he’s nuts for not signing the agreement, particularly when this agent is one of the best. But if you step back and recognize the potential problems, you’ll see that the very decision that looked wrong, was in actuality, probably a good business move.

You see, we all tend to get ourselves in a quagmire (a cool word that means “predicament”), whenever we make decisions that appear to be a no-brainer, but are blindsided by underlying issues that have the potential to create serious problems.

Sometimes the decision paradox is not easy to detect. My advice, is to step away and analyze the problem by weighing the pro’s and the con’s. You can use whatever synonyms work best. Negative vs. positives, advantages vs. disadvantages. It’s up to you. It’s a simple method but it WORKS! Just draw two columns that are labeled accordingly and start writing. You might be surprised to find the outcome.

Here are some more typical decision paradoxes:

  • The record company that wants to sign you and has distribution, but no promotional budget. (Basically this means that distribution is meaningless).
  • The management company that has 15 acts on their roster and wants to sign you as number 16. (Intriguing, but really, how much attention do you think you’re going to get?)
  • A prestigious venue from a major city that you’ve never played before, gives you a gig as the sole act (Is this really going to create a follow-up booking if no one will be there?).
  • You hire a publicist that has never worked in the music business (how many beneficial contacts do you think they are really going to have?).

Hopefully this helps to re-frame the way you approach so called “opportunities.” How many can you think of?


About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

One Response to The decision paradox–when bad is good

  1. Gary Branch says:

    I believe that if an opportunity presents itself, take it and make it work for you. That’s why being a professional musician/performer/songwriter is work…and that’s how professionals become successful.

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