While attending a music clinic in Nashville a few years ago, I was part of the audience during a speech by top music business executives. During Q&A, a girl in the audience asked, So many people tell us to network, network, network, but my question is how do we network and who do we do it with? Her question was very valid. How many of us truly know what networking means and how to do it? The president of Sony Record: Nashville gave her this response: Well, start by talking to the people sitting next to you.
Definition And Examples
Networking can be defined as meeting people who can or will potentially work together. I believe this is different than saying you have connections. What are connections? Sure you may know people, but do they know you? How have you worked with them? I know almost every local band in my rural area, however I have only worked and helped out with a handful of them. Those are the people in my network. We know what everyone can do and often refer people to each other. This is bringing connections into the network. A connection does not really mean anything until they do something for you or you do something for them.
I currently have a job as a sound engineer at a top nightclub on the east coast that puts me in spotlight to meet many different musicians, agents, managers, other sound engineers, etc. One of the sound engineers who I worked with one night used to be the head of the sound department for this club and owns a recording studio. After talking and sharing similar views, he offered me a short-term subcontracted job at another club. The same week that happened, I got a message from a band composed of some former bandmates of mine asking for recommendations for a studio to record their demo. Who do you think I referred them to? Let's look at who benefited from this networking circle: I was able to get more work experience and money for running sound at the other club, the sound engineer got a potential new project and money, and the band could receive a place to record their demo. Everybody wins.
Other musicians can always be found at shows. A promoter/local musician in my town once said that if other musicians started going to each other's shows more often, bands would always have an audience and it would build a stronger community. Where else can you meet people? The answer is anywhere. Where do people in your town eat, hangout, and shop?
Music conferences are usually the Mecca for networking. Major ones include SXSW, but you may want to attend a local one first before hitting the majors. Even if your town has a music festival, it could be the closest thing to a minor music conference in your area. Your area may also have clubs for things such as songwriting or audio engineers.
Consider volunteering for music-related events in your town. Whether you are running sound, taking tickets, or cleaning bathrooms; you will be around people who you could potentially work with. Make sure you are on top of your game when volunteering and present good work ethic.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever learned in college was to start your music career now. Even if you are cleaning the toilets of a recording studio, you have a better chance of meeting important people than you do if you are an accountant at a chicken processing company. Think of all the jobs in your hometown that may put you in a spot to meet others. Working in music retail is a key job considering every musician needs gear and you may hear of a lot of younger musicians looking to start bands. DJing at a radio station is another potential job. What about freelance writing for the entertainment section of your local paper? Even if you cannot get a paying job, you should make it an effort to devote some hours out of the week to place yourself in settings that will allow you to network.
Parts of this article may seem obvious, however certain aspects of communicating with other people are often overlooked. You may also find new ideas on how to approach meeting people. There are some common sense issues such as avoiding racist or sexist talk, but I have been in situations before where the people I was with did not realize this and it made us all look bad.
Unless you are an outcast that has very few friends, you may already know the techniques you use to meet new people. That is good; keep using them, but what about in business situations? You have to talk to different people in different ways. A few weeks ago, I spent a day at the beach with a date and then went to the nightclub I work at to have a few drinks. When I went into the concert hall to say hello to a few people, I ran into an older band manager there that I met before. His first greeting was, Hi, you look refreshed. It was obvious that I was drunk, but I had the mentality that I was not going to clown around and tried to carry myself in the same respectable manner I always did around him. Had that been a band member that I knew, they probably would have made a few jokes and clowned around a little bit.
Approaching people is easier than you think. There are a number of different routes to take when meeting someone for the first time. It could be as simply telling them your name and title, for instance Hi my name is Ted and I play guitar in the band The Sneakers. You can also start the conversation by giving them a compliment such as Your guitar rig sounded great, what amp is that? If you are meeting a business professional, simply telling them your prime objective may be efficient: Hi, my name is John and I heard that you are a publicist for Orange Marketing. I have also gone up to people and just started the conversation with You look like someone I should know. Your handshake should be firm, but not too aggressive. Avoid intimate touching as well, I have had people put their hands on my shoulder when meeting me and I felt that was a little too much.
As for conversation topics, I have never met a musician who did not like to talk about gear. Having a variety of knowledge of name brands, new products, and industry standards will help you. You can also ask standard starters such as How long have you guys been together?Where else are you playing? etc. People like to talk about themselves and if you listen you may receive some pointers as well, just don't be obnoxious about asking questions and don't let them push you around either. With music business professionals, people are usually excited to talk about current business trends. Most will also be willing to give you some basic advice considering they probably started where you are at now.
Be sure to avoid saying anything rude when meeting someone. A few weeks ago, I was running sound for a multi-band show at the nightclub. When I met the guitarist for one of the bands, he asked me So are you in the other band here? When I stated that I was the sound guy, he replied with, Oh, wellnice to meet you anyways. He said it with a laugh, but in reality, I was very offended. That made me think that this guy did not care about meeting anyone besides other musicians.
If you see that the person is looking around the room or their interest is dwindling, end the conversation on a key note such as Well, it was nice meeting you and I'll be sure to e-mail those files tomorrow or I'll be sure to come to the show on the 13th. If you plan to talk to the person later in the evening, you can also simply state Excuse me for a moment. or I'll be around the club tonight. It is better to end the conversation prematurely with a keynote than it is to drag the conversation out trying to get your point across to a potentially uninterested person.
Please do not hand your band's demo out to everybody. Some music law people will reject it right on the spot because of copyright issues and others may frown upon this practice considering they probably receive thousands of CDs from people each year. The point is to only give your demo to people who ask for it. If you are in an environment where many other people may be giving CDs/press kits away, odds are against you that they will accept your material. Consider making some high quality flyers with a link to your website and a good picture on them. I've been at conferences before where panelist said, If I can't carry it in my pocket when I leave here, I'm not taking anything. When I was studying with a drummer who is considered one of the best in rock, has Grammys, gold records, etc. he told me that after all the years he's been in the business, he's received hundreds of demos from other drummers asking him to help them out. He said out of those hundreds, there were maybe 14 who he thought could make it.
You may be in a situation where you want to meet someone, but they are in a bad mood or seem to be unpleasant. Do not force yourself onto people, but you can attempt to change their spirit. I was once running sound for a regional act and the guitarist during sound check did not seem happy with the way things were going. I had learned through a source earlier that day that the owner of the club had taken the band out on his private yacht and the weather was beautiful. I then said to the guitarist, How was the boat trip? Right then, his eyes lit up and he went onto explain that it was one of the best days the band had ever experienced together. That right there changed the entire mood and made things go over a lot smoother.
Although people usually exchange numbers with cell phones on the spot, it is a good idea to have business cards made for you. Make sure they list your name clearly, title (e.g. Guitarist/Songwriter), e-mail address, Myspace link (optional) etc. You can make business cards on your computer, professionally made at Kinko's, and there are even a few companies that specialize in music business cards. Do not spend too much money on them if it is your first time. Remember that business cards are just reminders. Avoid corny music notes or other clichs.
Do not just network with other musicians. Networking with other musicians may provide you with potential session musicians, future band mates, shows together, etc. but they should not be the only people you network with. Music managers, agents, publicist, songwriters, producers, retailers, and promotions directors are just a short list of people in the music field that you could work with. You should also network with people from other fields; I guarantee your band will at some point need a graphic designer and photographer. Why not start asking around the nearby college campus? Art students are always looking for projects to add to their resume. You should also meet people from the press so you can get some coverage in the local paper.
You should especially network with people on your level and above, but never feel like you need to know top people and weed out people below you. When one of my cousins first moved to California a few years ago trying to pursue a career as a film producer, his girlfriend was best friends with Chris O' Donnell's girlfriend and they all had dinner together one night. Sure, he was having dinner with a Hollywood actor and probably gained some industry tips that night, but Chris never directly helped my cousin out. It should not have been expected.
Meeting people on your level and above creates the best chance of working together in the near future. Never tell yourself This guy is too good for me or I don't have a chance. How do you know that? Some people just need to see determination in someone to notice potential. You also never know who else is out there and where your standing is in your community.
Do not feel as though you need to know everybody. Having strong relationships with 10 people could do more for you than having 25 weak relationships. Especially do not believe you have to be friends with everyone, it is impossible.
Myspace changed the way musicians communicate. While not everyone is a fan of the site, there is no doubt that it is a great way to meet and keep in touch with people. When messaging people on Myspace, be sure to use proper English and not Internet slang. Be sure to personalize your messages so it does not seem like a mass e-mail. When messaging someone you meet recently, remind them where you meet them and who you are.
No matter how good you are as a musician, no one is going to discover you if you are just playing in your bedroom in front of a hamster cage. Ask yourself Who cares? or Who is going to care? about you. People need to know about you and those are the people you need to get in touch with.
This article is meant as an introduction to networking. You should continue to practice networking as well as research techniques that work best for your individual personality. I myself used to be an extremely shy person and still have trouble mingling in certain social settings, but I discovered techniques that worked best for me where I did not have to act like a different person and felt comfortable. I also made it a goal to meet at least two new connections a week. This means that within a year I will meet over 100 new people. It does not matter whether they are an amateur musician or a professional; the point is I am expanding my database. Think of all the people they may know.
The Art of Mingling- Jeanne Martinet. Great book on how to adapt yourself to certain social settings and various techniques you can use.
Networking in the Music Business- Dan Kimpel. Excellent resource for aspiring musicians. Provides general career advice along with networking tips.
Never Eat Alone- Keith Ferrazzi & Tahl Raz. More professional based, but still contains techniques that can be useful.