Steve Albini Shows That Punk Rock Ethics Are Good Business
Record Engineer and Musician Shows Truly "Alternative" Path in Business
Posted July 7, 2015
“If you start from the premise of refusing to be an asshole, then a lot of other decisions kind of make themselves.” — Steve Albini
Punk rock is not supposed to make us feel comfortable.
The essence of punk rock is that it disturbs us — by challenging conventional norms and ideas — in order to create the opportunity for new ideas to be considered.
Punk rock can be “disturbing” for a variety of reasons, and punk-rock artists have explored various ways to make us feel unsettled. Sometimes punk rock is disturbing because of the dissonant sounds of bands like Suicide or the jarring performance art of G.G. Allin. Sometimes, punk rock is disturbing because it challenges conventional standards of music, such as bands like the Ramones recording two-minute songs followed by the Bad Brains recording one-minute songs.
Often punk rock includes a challenge to culture, such as the straight-edge movement of bands like Minor Threat, or the political rebellion of collectives such as Pussy Riot. All of these different musicians have different approaches to punk rock, but they are all similar precisely because they challenge us.
Steve Albini is a punk rocker.
More than 30 years ago, at a time when hardcore punk musicians were embracing a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, Albini began his dual career as an audio engineer and a musician. Albini since founded Electrical Audio Studio and the band Shellac. Each has endured as independent organizations, part of the underground punk-rock world.
And decades later, Electrical Audio Studio and Shellac are not just surviving, but thriving. Albini is considered by many to be one of the best recording engineers in history, recording seminal albums such as Nirvana’s In Utero, The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa and P.J. Harvey’s Rid of Me. And Pitchfork gave Shellac’s recent album 2014 Dude Incredible a favorable review, calling it “mercilessly lean rock.” Thus, whether intentionally or not, Albini’s success is not only a statement in terms of making good art, but also a statement of something that is truly “alternative.”
It is possible to have an artistically relevant and economically viable career while abiding by basic punk-rock ethics of independence, fairness and inclusivity.
To explain his approach to business, Albini told me: “The first thing is I was forged in punk rock. Everything about the way I conduct myself and the way I see the world is a product of seeing the punk scene in action. The punk scene had to operate on limited resources. It had to be inclusive, because there weren’t enough people that you could afford to exclude anybody.”
Albini explained his first principle: “Accept as a given that you are not going to be receiving any patronage or any assistance from the outside world and make due with what you have at hand immediately. That’s the No. 1 principle of the way I’ve conducted myself in business and music and in life. You find yourself in a situation and in circumstances. You adapt to those circumstances. You make use of the resources you have available. You be frugal and efficient with what’s available. And never expect that things are going to get better. So that’s the No. 1 principle: You deal with what you actually have, and not some aspiration for what you might someday have, and not some expectation of what someday you will be given or earn."
“It’s not like I dreamed any of this stuff up. For me, it’s all derived from very practical stuff. If you have $100, your budget for your project is $100. If it costs $101, you can’t do it. So you make sure it doesn’t cost $101. And if you have a week to get something done, then you get it done in a week. Because if it takes eight days, the band goes back to Belgium without their album,” he says.
While Albini was aware of other musicians or business people that operated differently, he stuck with the punk rock world he knew. “I guess there are some people who can drum up investment capital from the outside world and then use other people’s money to do their projects. Or some people are bequeathed money, or they move into a situation where someone wants to employ them to do something and they can satisfy their ambitions that way,” he explained.
“I have no experience with that. I don’t know what that’s like. I don’t know what those impulses would be like. And I don’t know how I would react if somebody ever put me in that situation. So I can’t really say that there’s any moral or ethical purity to the way I do things. I just feel like it’s a practical manifestation of getting by day to day. Like if you wake up and you have $5, your budget for the day is $5 maximum. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to be stoked about having $5. That just means that anything that costs $6 is off the table.”
For Albini, the second principle is inclusion of others,“which means you can’t shut anybody out of your scene or of your business or of your social circle. Because you can’t always assume that there are going to be replacements that you can drum up from reserve duty or whatever to take their place.
“So if somebody comes to you and offers to help or comes to you and wants to participate, that you let them participate. If somebody offers you work, and it’s work that you can do with a clear conscience, then you do it. I’m not very selective as an engineer regarding the projects that I take. I’ve never played favorites with respect to who could pay me more. I’ve never discriminated with respect to one style of music or another.”
“Essentially, whenever the phone rings, you answer it. And if they want to work with you, you work with them.”
Albini thinks that this process works in particular because the people with whom he works have a greater sense of purpose; That they are working together for a bigger cause. People tend to gravitate towards finding this type of purpose because it feels good and is fulfilling. Research suggests that having a sense of purpose is associated with increased health and well-being and even predicts longer life.
“All of the salaries here at Electrical Audio are modest. I don’t get paid much. Nobody who works here gets paid much,” he explained. “But we all think that we are participating in an important aspect of culture. And that is a way of being paid — the satisfaction of participating in something that is bigger than you is a kind of remuneration for what you’ve been through."
“So those two things have been the things that have allowed Electrical Audio, our studio, our business, to survive in an era where a lot of other studios have collapsed.”
Albini is describing what can be considered the ideal for of leadership — or more specifically, “transformational leadership.” Transformational leaders can often convey the goals of the group, convey passion for the work and inspire others to have similar enthusiasm. This is often contrasted to transactional leadership, whereby the primary reward is tangible compensation; e.g., salary. One study found that among 520 staff nurses employed by a large public hospital, transformational leadership predicted organizational commitment, but that personal empowerment of employees was the mediating factor.
Albini has also seen how this empowerment results in not only feelings of satisfaction but also practical benefits for colleagues with whom he works. “There are other opportunities that come up as a result of being in this scene. One of the guys who works here is a guy named Greg Norman. And he was trained as an audio engineer. But when he started working here, we were in the construction phase of the studio. So he learned all of the construction trades. And then we had a technical engineer and an electronics engineer who left the studio, and so he taught himself electronics — taught himself electrical engineering and electronics — and has become an excellent designer of studio equipment, and he now makes and sells studio equipment and built his own studio, where he records projects independent of our studio. And he’s established himself as an independent engineer, and he’s also done consultation work for other people and other companies regarding sound reinforcement, soundproofing, audio engineering, recording, electronics,” he said.
“All of those things are an outgrowth of him being in an environment where he was allowed to pursue those interests without being expected to do other busywork as well. When it became obvious that we needed somebody to do the electronic maintenance and the electronic repair here, we just said, ‘OK, you take the time, you figure it out, learn electronics, and then you’re our guy.’ And that’s the way it worked out. We didn’t try to hire somebody, we didn’t try to headhunt somebody. We just let Greg go about his business and figure things out along the way and eventually he’s as good as any credentialed electronics engineer that I’ve ever worked with.”
”So that’s part of the culture of the studio.”
For Albini, it is clear why his approach makes sense for his work, whereas other businesses models do not. “There are kind of two perspectives on business. One of them is that a business exists to make money for the investor class that has a stake in that business. That’s one perspective. So, from a stock-market perspective, from a shareholder perspective, from an investor perspective, that from any publicly held company’s perspective, the company’s reason to exist is to make money for those people,” he explained. “And if you’re not making money, you’re a failing company. If its share price doesn’t go up, then the company’s failing, whether you’re making a profit or not. The idea is that the fundamental reason for that company to be there is to make money.”
Albini contrasts this approach to how he runs his business. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, from someone like me — someone who builds a business for a reason — the reason my company exists is to make recordings of music. And in so doing, every now and again we’ll turn a profit. But that’s not why we’re in business. We’re not in business so that we can make money. And there’s a pretty strong argument that most businesses that are not part of the public sphere, not part of the investment transaction or equity management or whatever, most businesses operate on that level,” he said.
“Like a bakery opens because a guy wants to make bread. A tavern opens because a guy wants to serve beer to people. That’s why people start businesses. It’s because they want to do something with their time. They want that enterprise to be how they spend their days. But from an academic standpoint or from an analytical standpoint or from the standpoint of publicly held companies and investment class and everything, the reason the company started is meaningless. All they want to know is the share price going up. And for people like me that seems insane.”
“It’s like defining a marriage by the size of the house it occupies as opposed to defining the marriage by the love between two people and the life they build for themselves and the experience they share as part of the marriage. That’s the difference between the people who don’t get it (that you’re talking about), business people who can’t seem to buy into the greater culture of their business, and entrepreneurs, who started the business because the business itself means a lot to them.
“And there’s literally no way you can turn the second type of businessman into the first type. If somebody is hired to run a company and that company has investors who have expectations, then it is already impossible for that company to mean more to the employees as a concept than a paycheck. Because the value of the company has already been defined by the investor class. Now it is possible for somebody to start as an entrepreneur and then eventually sell off his company into the publicly held market and then he’s transformed from an entrepreneur into that second type of businessman. But it’s literally impossible to go the other way.”
For Albini, the standard corporate structure does not lend itself to the type of communal approach necessary for his business. “Think about it this way: My business is a business of the first type, where everyone involved feels like they’re working on a common project. Everyone involved feels like we are equally valuable. When our clients come in, and they don’t see that there’s a power structure or a hierarchy; nobody has the big office or anything. Everybody is working together as comrades on this project.”
“The remuneration is very equitable. Everybody gets paid the same. I make the same amount of money in a month as the newest employee that we have. So there is a fundamental difference between that and virtually any corporate structure. But you can’t expect people who feel like they are less valuable to a corporation, who feel like their effort, their input, and their opinion means less than someone else in that corporation. You can’t expect those people to jump in and all be pulling for the same results, team players. Because you have defined for them that they are not all pulling for one thing, that they are not team players. You have defined their role for them as subordinate.”
Moreover, this approach translates into how Albini deals with “competitors” as colleagues. “In general business practice, those are considered structural advantages that you simply must not abandon. Like if you know more in the information war than your competitors, then in a conventional business scenario you have to exploit that advantage. In a community-based thinking, or in a collective feel for our interactions, then if another studio that’s a ‘competitor’ of mine, I don’t actually feel like we’re competing, but we are working in the same field in the same place, so I’ll use the term competitor, even though I don’t believe we’re in competition, but I’ll use that term.”
“If I see a competitor studio that’s having trouble with something that’s a problem that we’ve solved here at Electrical Audio, I’m not going to keep that information to myself and watch them flounder. I’m going to share that information with them. And that from a ‘business’ standpoint is a mistake — from a corporate thinking Art of War, Sun Tzu bullshit kind of scenario — that’s a mistake."
“But from being a decent person seeing someone else in trouble and helping them out standpoint, that’s just being a decent person. And that’s where I feel like if your basic principles are based in these business precepts, you’re prevented from being the best possible person. You’re prevented from being a good guy.”
“I think that it’s an ethical way to conduct myself; otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. I do think it’s ethically sound to treat everyone fair and to be open and equal in your treatment of everybody and to be inclusive of everybody. I think that is an ethical thing to do,” he said. “And I have less respect for the profit motive. In fact, I kind of feel like the profit motive is a pathology, because it engenders sociopathic behavior, and on a corporate scale, the profit motive is extraordinarily destructive. So I don’t have respect for it. But because of the way capitalism has been portrayed in this country, I don’t expect other people to think that way. And I don’t think disparagingly of people who work for publicly held corporations, for example, people who work in administration of corporations.”
“I don’t think that those are evil people. I think that the culture that they are a part of and those business practices are less healthy. And I think an awful lot of our social problems boil down to indulgences made for this corporate mentality. But I don’t point fingers and say, ‘That’s an evil thing.’ I just don’t want to participate in it. And I don’t want public policy to based on the whims of the corporate and investor class.”
Albini has long held that most major record labels were the “second” type of business. He has famously compared signing a major record-label contract to swimming in “a trench … filled with runny, decaying shit.” As a result, Albini never felt particularly tempted when his bands received interest from major labels.
“That happened several times, but it wasn’t a dramatic thing. That was just during a period when there were feelers going out all over because people were looking for a new sensation. Punk rock had promise from a commercial standpoint as far as the record labels were concerned. But then it never really materialized. And then the ‘New Wave’ bands, the sort of watered-down version of punk rock, seemed to have some commercial appeal,” he explained. “And so the big record labels were always around sniffing for something that could be a new sensation of some kind. And I knew that their interest in my band wasn’t legitimate. I knew that they weren’t people that were into our music and that they weren’t people who came from our subculture. And they weren’t people who understood things that our audience implicitly understood. I knew that they weren’t them.”
He explains that for him, it’s just someone who doesn’t understand his business. “Let’s say you are a guy who has invented a new kind of fishing rod. And it requires an understanding of the history of the development of the fishing rod to appreciate what is special about your fishing rod. And then a haberdasher, like Woolworth’s or something, someone from a completely different discipline comes to you and says they want to be a part of your business, and they want to take you to the next level.”
“Well, it’s obvious they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. They don’t have any idea why your fishing rod is a good one. They wouldn’t know what to do from an expansion standpoint to make more or better of your fishing rod. So it would be a completely inappropriate relationship. So it’s not even worth entertaining.”
“And that was the position that we found ourselves in. You have people who didn’t get our subculture. People that were from a different ethical and business perspective, and people that certainly wouldn’t appreciate the kind of openness and handshake relationships that we were used to. And so if they expressed any interest in us whatsoever, it was clearly misguided. So I just didn’t entertain those at all.”
“So I was never tempted to go into business with any of those people. They always just seemed like they were completely out of their element. And one way or another, we would have ended up in a horrible misunderstanding, and no one would have ended up enjoying the relationship. So it just wasn’t even worth entertaining a conversation.”
Albini has advice for up and coming artists who may be interested in following a similar path. He emphasizes why he thinks up and coming artists might consider adopting his first principle of making do with what you have. “Let’s assume we’re talking about someone in the music scene. But it doesn’t really matter if it’s music. It could be painting, it could be dancing, it could be bass fishing, it doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re doing something that is enjoyable for its own sake, like playing music or painting pictures, or play acting, or ballroom dancing — it doesn’t matter what it is — if you’re doing something that is enjoyable for its own sake, then you have to expect that society will undercompensate you for that on a professional level."
“Because people will do it for nothing. If playing music, singing songs, telling stories, telling jokes — not just performing arts; basically anything that’s creative, anything that involves the creative mind — all of those things are satisfying to do as an individual. Just accomplishing the thing makes you feel good. So the professional market for those things is going to be very, very small. It’s going to be exceedingly small.”
“That you can find a job doing something that is seen as reward enough by lay people, playing baseball, playing gold — anything that you would do for its own sake — is going to be really fucking difficult to make a living at. The corollary to that is that if you’re doing one of those things, you should be doing it principally because you enjoy doing it. If you’re only doing it for as paycheck, you’re going to be bad at it. Like if the only reason that you’re a circus clown is that’s the only way you can think of to make money, you’re going to be a terrible circus clown.”
“If the only reason that you’re a fiddler is that you can’t conceive of any other way to make a living, then you’re probably not going to be a very good fiddler. But if you’re driven to play the accordion, and that’s the thing that animates you, and the thing that makes getting up in the morning worth doing, then you’re going to be obsessive about it. You’re going to do it on a scale where other people will appreciate your enthusiasm, and you will probably get some compensation for it.”
“I can’t promise you you can make a living at it. But you’ll be able to keep doing it, that’s for sure. So the first thing is to appreciate that if you’re doing something that is seen as enough reward on its own, it’s really difficult to expect people to pay you to do that as well.”
Albini also encourages artists to consider his second principle of including everyone — to a point. He encourages seeking out those who want to help, not exploit, the artists’ work. “The second thing that I would say is, if someone is offering to do the parts of your job that you don’t like — like if a manager is offering to do your booking or your bookkeeping or your scheduling or whatever in exchange for a percent — like OK, if you give me a cut of your money, I will do the mundane part, and you can just do the fun part — you can expect that that person is taking advantage of you. I think there’s basically no other way to look at that.”
“If you have a manager or an agent who is doing some aspect of your business for you, then that person is probably being overcompensated for those mundane aspects of the business. And I’ll give you a classic example. A lot of bands have a booking agent that will book their tours for them. And these booking agents typically receive 10 to 15 percent, typically 15 percent of the fee from a show.”
“So if your booking agent looks on your schedule, and he sees that there’s an open day, and let’s say you’re in Boston, and he can get a show for you in Pennsylvania, and that show in Pennsylvania pays $500. Then if he makes a phone call and books a show, he’s just made himself $75. So he’s just made himself $75 with that one phone call. Now you have to pack all your shit up in the van, drive whatever it is, five hours to the gig in Pennsylvania, find yourself a hotel for the night if you can’t get an indulgence from somebody and crash at their place. And the travel expenses between one city and the next including the hotel might very well be $100-$150; let’s say, $150 for you between your travel expense, hotel, meals, yadda, yadda.”
“For you and your band, let’s say that costs you $150 out of your $500. Then you take $75 off the top for your man. So now you’ve lost [$225] off those $500. Meaning, that you have $275 to split between, let’s say, your band has four people in it. And suddenly the members of the band who did all the work, and who played the show, and had to endure the travel, and had to spend an entire day on that show, the members of the band got paid less than the booking agent for making one phone call. And that’s a totally normal scenario.”
“So if someone enters your working life and says. ‘I’m going to do the drudgery for you in exchange for a percentage, you naturally assume he’s being overpaid. Because that’s the way those structural things are. The norms have been established where the people who do the administrative parts of entertainment or of creative careers are overpaid.”
Albini doesn’t rule out the possibility that these business relationships could be fair, he just thinks it’s a rare occurrence. “I have heard of a very small number of managers who participate in the profits of their clients’ careers on a more equitable basis. I have heard about that in the sense of there was a guy, let’s say, you have a four-piece band; the band would have a fifth member, who’s a non-performing member who did all of the administration and booking, paperwork and everything. But received an equal profit share of that band’s income,” he said.
“I have heard of that arrangement happening, and it’s not unheard of in the jam-band hippie community, hippie jam-band touring community. But it’s exceptionally rare. And the reason that it’s rare is that it is so much more profitable to do things the industry-standard method, and nobody seems to complain about it. It’s just a hidden cost of being in a band that a lot of bands are comfortably ignorant of.”
Albini offers the same caution for artists considering working with independent labels – he feels that some have developed a more equitable approach whereas many have not. “Well, there are two different types of independent labels. There are independent labels that operate on the principles and with the practices that we’ve been talking about all along. And a couple of examples I would give you would be Touch and Go Records, who were an important part of the underground music scene, of the independent music scene through the ’90s. And it’s kind of a vestigial label, but it still exists as a label, and all the bands that are on that label are still being served by that label.”
“So that is a label that has operated independently, and always operated ethically and equitably. And all of the bands on Touch and Go, for example, were paid a profit share, rather than a fixed royalty. So of the records that did well, the label and the bands profited exactly the same amount. There was a 50/50 share of profit divided between the band and the label. From a corporate standpoint, from a mainstream standpoint, that is an exceptionally generous deal for the bands. But as regards to the underground economy, and people like me, that seems perfectly fair and reasonable.”
“So that’s one type of independent record label. Record labels that operated on that basis, on the basis of a profit share. On the basis of bands being treated fairly and equitably; lack of exploitation, lack of corporate structure, all that sort of stuff.”
But Albini is careful to caution that some independent labels don’t necessarily aspire to his punk-rock approach. “The other type of independent label is a label that’s independent only in the sense that it wasn’t affiliated with a bigger entertainment corporation. But its business practices were basically the same. And there were a lot of those. There were a lot of independent labels that were basically dollhouse versions of big corporate record labels, where you had a CEO, owner-type guy, and you had a corporate hierarchy, and you had exploitive record deals.”
“A lot of niche market labels operated that way, where bands were signed to long-term contracts with the hope that they would eventually be sold to a major label, rather than the hopes that they would eventually build a career there. A lot of bands were signed to deals where their per-piece royalties were really bad, and they were also regularly being recouped against such that they basically never earned any money from their record sales.”
“That’s what happened when these sort of corporate behavior that independent-in-name ascended. And there were quite a few of those. And then there were some record labels that’s started out on sort of an entrepreneurial level, but then were co-opted by or invested in big record labels where they became sort of adjunct imprints of these bigger record labels. And they obviously behaved precisely like the big corporate record labels did because that’s what they were at that point.”
“So there were and are ethical independent record labels whose business practices mirror the kind of business practices that I ascribe to. And then there are record labels that could be called independents but behaved essentially the same as the big corporate labels.”
For Albini, part of not being vulnerable to predatory business relationships is having a strong work ethic that includes dealing with all aspects of one’s business. “I’ve always advocated for doing as much of your legwork yourself as possible. The band I’m in now (Shellac) started over 20 years ago. We’ve always done our own booking of our domestic tours. We’ve always done administration of our own money. We’ve never had a lawyer. We’ve never had an agent. We’ve never had a manager. We’ve always dealt directly with the record labels and the promoters and the clubs that we play at ourselves. We’ve always done all of our own business,” he said. “And I believe that that’s one of the things that’s allowed us to remain consistently profitable as a band -- the fact that we don’t waste any money on administration. Efficiency is extraordinarily important to us.”
“So I advocate that. But I understand if some people are too fucking lazy to do that, they’re willing to give up a significant portion of their income to have somebody else take care of that stuff for them. I totally understand that. I’m not casting aspersions on people who have managers or agents or whatever. I’m just highlighting the economic reality of it.”
Ultimately, Albini recognizes that, consistent with his punk rock background, he has “disturbed” the culture and that it is an accomplishment to show that the there is, in fact, an alternative path where a business can thrive using punk rock ethics.
“I’m proud of the fact that our studio has survived a lot longer than a lot of studios that were more cutthroat. And that I as an engineer in the music scene have had a very long and very enjoyable tenure as a working engineer and a lot of people who tried to exploit the scene more or tried to take advantage of certain structural or contractual tricks, people who tried to take every advantage, a lot of those people disappeared.”
“And I feel good about the fact that we haven’t, that our studio has survived and that my career as an engineer has survived by not being a prick and trying to get every penny that I had coming. I’m very proud of that. It demonstrates that conventional business wisdom is rooted not in the principles of survival or good business practice in terms of sustainability, but simply greed. They’re just an articulation of greed, the engines of greed. That’s all they are. And I have no respect for greed.”
“Selfishness and greed are among the first things that we are instructed against as children. Like, ‘Don’t be selfish; share with your sister’ or whatever. And I feel like abandoning that principle when it’s money rather than gummy bears involved is fucking ridiculous.”
Albini takes heart that he is not alone: Other artists who have followed in a similar path. He explains: “There’s a Dutch band called The Ex who are an absolute inspiration. They’ve been going for 30 years now. And they originally started as sort of a squatter punk band in the squats in Amsterdam. And they have since built a sustainable, durable career, extraordinary body of work. They’ve been all over the world. They’ve made records with pop musicians and traditional musicians from Ethiopia. They’ve toured every flat spot on the globe. And they’ve all bought homes and raised families and all that sort of stuff — and all of it done in a very natural, very sustainable, very ethical way. They’re not a household name.”
“That’s the difference. If you want to be a household name, you kind of have to participate in the rock-star world of things where you’re either going to be a superstar or you’re going to be nobody. If you just want to play music for the rest of your life, that’s a completely attainable goal,” he said.
“It’s much less showy and flashy. Like my band is never going to be on television. My band is never going to have hit records. We’re never going to be popular on the radio. You’re not going to see any videos of my band on television. But my band has survived for more than 20 years. Every tour that we’ve ever done has been profitable. It’s been a significant second income for everyone in the band for that entire time. And that’s true for a lot of bands that are our peers and our contemporaries.”
“You’re basically treating everybody like a normal person. You don’t have to have a special negotiating persona. Every interaction that you have with everybody is just a normal human interaction. And I think that’s definitely made my life easier."
Albini cautions that the circumstances in which he has found himself and the path he has taken is not necessarily easy. “This is a given set of circumstances, and we have to deal with it. I’m not grateful when I wake up broke. I’m not ecstatic that I get to go through another day of being broke. But neither am I railing at my fate for having ended up broke. I’ve been broke a number of times in my life, and it’s like a head cold. It sucks, and it makes everything miserable for awhile, but you can get through it.”
“All I can say is that it got easier over time. I don’t have the kind of entrepreneurial ‘can do’ spirit where you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. I don’t have that kind of a frame of mind at all. I feel like everybody is dealt a different hand, and you just have to deal with it. Some people don’t make it out alive, you know? And I have a lot of sympathy for that.”
“Businesses like mine, people like me, bands like The Ex, and record labels like Touch and Go demonstrate that you don’t pay a penalty for being decent to other people. In business, it’s generally perceived that the more ruthless and cutthroat you are, the better you will do. And I like the fact that as survivors and as successes, these people that I’m talking about have demonstrated that it’s good business to be decent to people,” he explained.
“You pay no penalty for being decent to people. And I also appreciate, and I like the fact that the people who did display this kind of aspiration and cutthroat aggressive behavior, a lot of them have disappeared. They’ve been hoisted on their own petard. When you play a game that’s about taking advantage of other people, once in a while someone takes advantage of you, and sometimes that ends the game.”
While Albini is proud of what he and his colleagues have accomplished, he’s neither sure of nor particularly concerned with how many others will follow suit. “It would be great if the world changes. I am probably not going to be an agent of its change. I’m just going to get by, and I’ve accepted that. I guess it’s just a fairly cold-blooded realism, is how I would address it. It’s not like I feel like this is an ethically superior way to behave or that I feel like this is an imperative as far as survival in business,” he said.
“It’s just the only thing that I know how to do.”
“And I learned how to do it from being a punk rocker.”
Michael Friedman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Manhattan and a member of EHE International’s Medical Advisory Board. Follow Dr. Friedman onTwitter @DrMikeFriedman and EHE @EHEintl.