Don’t ask busy and important people dumb questions. When I say “busy and important” I mean, “more busy and important than you”. This can be applied to work colleagues, mentors, friends, celebrities etc. Actually, it’s probably a good idea to think before you ask questions in any case, because I’m pretty sure EVERYONE thinks they are busy and important. And also because by thinking through what you ask shows that you RESPECT the other person’s time and you have thought through your approach because you CARE about their response.
Here is how to approach questions to a Busy and Important Person (or, BIP, if you will). This comes from years of working for BIPs, having BIPs as clients, and being the unemployed arm candy of a BIP (jks, sort of). For the purposes of this, think about what you would do if you magically procured Jay Z’s personal email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Whoops I gave it away - but now you can use the points below to craft the perfect email (NB: this strat should be applied across all types of comms, not just email).
A NOT GOOD EMAIL.
Dear Jay [No, disrespectful, you bow down and call him Mr. Knowles or Mr. Z like the serf you are.],
I just wanted to know how long you and Bey have been married now? [For the love of all things holy (grail), do not ask a question you could (and should) have Googled.] Man, Lemonade huh? That was COLD. How are you feeling after that? [Don't ask personal questions like a jackass. Skip the small talk yo. BIPs don't have time for yo shit.]
Let me be real, I have a LOT of questions for you [*buzzer noise* incorrect. You do NOT have a LOT of questions for Mr. Z, you have ONE, because he doesn't have time to respond to more than this.], because I am an aspiring music producer and also probably the next Kanye West. [Do your research on a person before you reach out. In this case, we know Mr. Z has an ego, and probably would not appreciate you referencing his very good friend Yeezy as an inspiration, when you're emailing HIM.]
First of all, what advice would you give to an aspiring Kanye West? [Lock Kim down earlier, no duh. But what does this MEAN? This is so VAGUE. Like, general life advice? Advice on getting better at music? Financial advice? Relationship advice? This almost assumes that Mr. Z has a base level of understanding of who YOU are, in order to answer this question. You also screw yourself over here, because you don't actually get the response you want (if you even know what you want)]. Do you like your job? [This question wastes both your time and his time. Of course he fucking likes his job. And if he didn't, how the fuck would that impact YOUR decision making? Also, don't ask yes/no questions.] What are your thoughts on the situation in Chechnya? [Irrelevant, not even topical, and he def won't get your dated Bridget Jones reference.] If you are white, is it appropriate to say the “n” word when rapping? [Don't get racial guys. Also, when a white person asks if they are allowed to use the "n" word, the answer is always no.] What’s Louis, my killa? What’s drugs, my dealer? What’s that jacket, Margiela? [These are all just lyrics to Nwords in Paris. This is not funny. Don't try to be funny. Mr. Z will not approve.]
Thanks in advance for your prompt response. [You entitled little shit.]
Seymour “Yeezy” Butts
HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID.
Dear Mr. Knowles,
I really enjoy the sound quality on Tidal - as an aspiring music producer I appreciate your commitment to providing a quality service. [In one sentence, you just introduced what you're about, what your goals are, showed you did your research, and became the only person to ever congratulate Mr. Knowles about Tidal. Boom.]
I have one question for you: [Now he knows in advance that you're not going to get all annoying with a tonne of questions. BIPs often just skim emails and if it looks too long or complex they may not bother.] what is the most valuable piece of advice you have received about being a world class music producer? [This question is good because it's Jay Z specific - i.e. you are asking his personal opinion about something that cannot be measured elsewhere (like, what software programs he uses to mix). It is a question that requests a short response, that he doesn't have to invest a lot of time into thinking about. Also, because it's fucking Jay Z, the advice he has found to be important, probably IS IMPORTANT.]
Any response would be greatly appreciated - I am a huge fan and admirer of your work. [Butter 'em up with praise and appreciation. BIPs love that shit.] I know, however, that you are extremely busy, so if you don’t have time to reply I completely understand. [Don't assume they will respond. In my experience, somehow this makes them MORE likely to actually respond.]
All the best, and looking forward to your next album already! [Establish connection, keep it light.]
A SUMMARY OF WHAT I JUST SAID
Don’t ask questions you could have Googled
Get to the point
Ask ONE question
Make it clear and concise and specific
Make it clear you don’t assume they have the time or energy to respond
If your BIP responds, reply promptly, and thank them for their response. Do not immediately follow up with more questions. Specify that you will action their response (if an action is required), and you will check in again in (x) time (two weeks is normally good). This shows that you READ the response, you VALUE their input, you plan to ACTION it, you then went and ACTUALLY actioned it, and you are GRATEFUL for their time.
Got it? Cool. Now you have 99 problems but writing an email to Jay Z ain’t one. (I wouldn’t recommend sending that joke to Mr. Knowles either).