One of the first lessons a professional in the entertainment business learns is that “No” means nothing at all. In fact, if you take “No” for the final answer you lose. Big time. But, in my opinion, there’s an even greater lesson we should learn in communication. And the lesson actually starts with a question that I should include in #TakeTheTwenty.

The Big Question

Ready?  Here is is.  When you tell someone, “I don’t know” is it the end of the conversation or just the beginning?  Is it a dead end or an invitation to learn something more?  Hmm.  What do you think?

It’s my experience that the successful artists, writers and entrepreneurs in the business hear “I don’t know” as a precursor to, “but I’ll find out.” Instead of the end of the conversation it’s actually part of the discovery of new ideas and information that can make a difference.

Let’s say you’re meeting with a label executive and the subject of a great song comes up. You both struggle to recall the writer’s name but instead of letting the conversation end with a shoulder shrug and, “I don’t know,” what if you found out the writer’s name and got back to the executive? (In fact, you most likely have the answer in your smartphone with your know-it-all-friend, Google!)

The Big Turnaround

Now let’s turn this around a bit.  My friend, fellow creative and business colleague Steve Kaye shares these three ideas from his life experiences:

  • At [a very large company] I was told that ‘No’ is just another way of saying hello.
  • ‘No’ isn’t the end.  It’s just the beginning of negotiations.
  • If you don’t hear ‘No’ more that three times it wasn’t much of a challenge.”

I think you’ll agree this advice works for artists and songwriters, too.


As an aspiring artist it’s important for you to put these ideas in perspective. The next time you make a pitch remember that “No” opens the door, the second “No” gets you closer to ‘Maybe’ (or, hmm, I don’t know) which gets you one step closer to “Yes.

My clients understand that this is the way I work.  “No” is not an option. Maybe I can help you in similar ways.  I don’t know for sure, but I’ll be glad to find out. And no, I won’t take no for an answer.