My Artist Relations Journey, Part 2: Sophomore Slump

When my health scare decimated our family savings in late 2021, it was time for regular employment again. We had to recover. So, when I learned they were reviving my former role, I had to seize the opportunity.

Before my virtual interview, I was offered two positions. One was my tried-and-tested post. The other was more in line with my roots, which is marketing creatives. But given my unfinished business from years back; I adamantly chose the former. Besides, I wanted a hiatus from writing gigs, a break from my voice being stifled in favor of someone else’s. But that’s a different story.

Back then, the job seemed the right fit. It promised stability, while I reserved my creative energy for my own pursuits. Things were aligning.

Reintegration

When I was forced to uproot in 2015, I left with many what-ifs. I didn’t anticipate the void it would leave, like I lost my best shot at further ascending the ladder. While some would argue that I should have tried other networks, well, I always preferred taking part of building something, as opposed to feeling small in something already built.

That’s why the offer meant the world to me. It felt like a call to reclaim something, and it was a call I instantly heeded. It was the fastest decision I made since the pandemic struck, but not without my share of reservations. And, truth be told, I had many.

There I was, 37, accepting a job I first landed at 27. Certainly, my sensibilities have evolved, and so has my capacity to discern real connection from lip service. And ever since I embarked on a self-healing journey, I’ve learned the value of boundaries and self-approval. For example, yes, I’m mandated to acknowledge hierarchies and recognize VIPs, but that doesn’t make me a lesser person. By those counts, it was going to be tricky.

Still, back in I went, guns blazing, focus, razor sharp. It didn’t matter if I was merely back as consultant; many entered or re-entered before me in the same capacity and eventually ended up regulars. I aimed, or rather, hoped, for the same trajectory, granted I pulled out all stops.

I was ready – even if I was technically entering a different company with a different crowd, and even if I had to rebuild in 10 months what I once built in three years. Naturally, it wasn’t as simple as picking up from where I left. I had to start over. So, even if my skillset goes beyond buying flowers and birthday cakes, I knew I had to go through that again, all in the name of relationship-building. And eventual security. 

Eyes on the Prize

Amidst the Entertainment Resurgence, I saw the importance of attaching faces to the brand. I was thrilled at being granted recommendation power. It was a power I looked forward to exercising, especially when I saw the pipeline. Many artists needed work. And there were artists I wanted to get back in, even just for a guesting or two.

With “Talent Development” added to my title, there was also promise of continuity. Suddenly, my previous end goal was again in sight. At the tail end of my previous run, I was made to focus on the homegrown talents. Hence, I had a soft spot for neophytes yearning for big breaks. When I met the Season 1 Grand Finalists of the ongoing singing search, it was a welcome déjà vu. 

Double Achievement Unlocked

Then came my one-two punch of first major assignments. The first was the Home Network’s mid-year Station ID, which, in TV speak, is a music video that highlights the ongoing shows under an umbrella campaign. By premise, that requires mass artist participation and a lot of coordination. That wasn’t my first time to support that kind of project, but it was my first time to do it without the Talent Center‘s backing. In effect, I took on the function of my former team alone.

Long story short, it was a mammoth task, from identifying which entertainment personalities to include to convincing their respective programs that participation was mandatory. That’s when I felt the complexities of the new structure and, consequently, encountered some resistance. Fortunately, despite the usual logistical hitches, the project pulled through. It had to.

Even if I was essentially there for support, the output encapsulated my function. It made the confluence of content partners look like residents of one happy faux-barangay and, more importantly, it made the Home Network look star-studded. Being the contact person for the Korina feature was the icing on the cake.

Around the same month, I was also asked to help book artists for the opening of PBA’s 47th Season. Friends know basketball’s not my milieu, but I was up for the challenge. Thankfully, securing Gretchen Ho as host was a breeze and the singing search alumni were more confident than ever. They performed a modified medley during an intermission.    

By June, I was finally ready for take-off and my presence was starting to be felt. And I thanked my adrenal glands for being unusually hyperactive that time; I was already perked up for what’s next. I was ready to elevate my function to heights I never got to reach in my first run.

But then, there’s another thing I should have remembered about that ecosystem: its penchant for plot twists.

Sudden 180

Just days after the PBA opening, I was told that my position wasn’t guaranteed tenure. At best, I’d be offered the first available organic post if they deemed me worthy enough. And it wasn’t necessarily going to be the same career track.

It wasn’t exactly the information anyone would foresee, or hope for, fresh out of major tasks. “Won’t this sidetrack me?”, I wondered, after being offered an option. That led to a confusing month-long dry run, where I didn’t know where to place myself. Ultimately, I requested to keep my post, knowing full well that I’d reinforced my expiration date.

Two months later, an impending deal made the news. That’s when existing plans turned hazy and remained that way, regardless of what transpired. That cast a wider, darker cloud over the functions I looked forward to performing and, in effect, the fate of my role altogether.

That’s the thing. I never expected to attain the original end goal overnight. I knew I had to put in the work to even just make it past 2022. But with those jolting developments, the road ahead was no longer hazy. I could already see the dead end. To think, I’d just passed the halfway mark.

Autopilot

What followed was one jaw-dropper after the other, to the point that they began feeling, well, less jaw-dropping. I was invited to less meetings but received more orders, like late 2015 all over again. By September, all I wanted was to just finish my contract. And I approached those remaining months with heightened vigilance.

Fortunately, requests were still coursed through me at that point, from a TikTok star’s appearance in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to the singing search champ’s set in a corporate celebration. Watching how the latter worked the crowd in that huge arena, I couldn’t help but leap in excitement. The people loved her!  And at that juncture, any Ted Lasso moment was more than welcome.

In between, I continued supporting another group’s Media Days, where they’d arrange interviews, guest appearances, and other promotional stunts. It was the closest I got to reliving my first run, to be able to acquaint myself with the cast members of then-ongoing shows for an entire day. In a multitude of ways, it was also bittersweet. The transience has never been so pronounced.

Much as there was a final straw, my heart had already been set. My last major requirement was to provide judges and performers for a five-leg, Metro-wide Christmas Chorale showdown. Seeing that the Grand Finals would be held late December, I knew it was time to strike. Again, alignment.

Breaking Cycles

I submitted my letter on November 14. Some might call it futile, since I was only contractual in the first place and the concept of resignation was never really within grasp (I even made it a point not to use the word). But point was: sentiments had to be expressed and patterns had to be undone. I didn’t want to wait until D-Day for the axe to inevitably fall. They weren’t going to subject me to that. Twice.

My heart felt lighter that afternoon. With that move, I defied a seven-year cycle of short-lived stints, making me wonder if I broke any mirrors in 2014. Superstition joke aside, those seven years were also spent finetuning my attitude and work ethic, improving my negotiating skills, and understanding my labor rights. Midway, I also learned that even the tightest connections don’t always remain intact in other environments. Different circumstances reveal different sides of people.

And perhaps, that’s why I was called back: to reclaim, not a position that once evaded me, but a sense of personal power. It was a shift long overdue.

My last event was the Christmas Chorale Grand Finals held at a Pasig mall. There, I touched base with Jona, whom I last saw face-to-face in her Media Day last July. In a brief catch-up exchange, I extended the update. “Next time I’ll see you, I’ll probably be with the crowd”, I joked. To which, the Fearless Diva responded: “Or it can still be through work.”

Let’s see.

Internal Processing

The grief eventually did catch up. See, it’s only part of human experience to mourn a loss, regardless of reason or magnitude. More than ever, I find it vital to not skip the sadness, but rather, surrender to it. The brunt of that, I felt in early December, when I had to come to terms with a fire being extinguished too quickly. Then, I’m reminded. That was only supposedly another feather on my cap. I have another 365 days to reposition the rest, if not add more.

So, did I waste 10 months? Not entirely. That comeback prodded me up after weeks of being bedridden, put me back in circulation after years in limbo, and introduced me to more kindred spirits.

The thing with inferior sequels is that, while they’re largely ill-conceived, they never tainted their predecessors. The Exorcist II didn’t make The Exorcist less frightening, More American Graffiti didn’t destroy American Graffiti, and Psycho 2 didn’t make Psycho less of a Hitchcock masterpiece.

In similar manner, this decade-spanning experience will forever be a door-opening milestone, and one I will always credit for my character growth. But now, one thing’s for certain. After years of being paid to make people show up, it’s time to show up for myself.     

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