10 Tips For Networking In The Music Industry
Networking is defined as the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional contacts. Networking is key in any business, especially in the music industry. Without networking, artists may find it hard to get signed, find gigs, and grow an audience.
Sure, networking is the bread and butter of the music business. But how does one go from making music in the bedroom to getting an extensive list of useful contacts in the industry? Well, the 10 tips listed below should give you an idea of how and where to start.
1. Be Ready
Sadly, one never knows when the opportunity of a lifetime is going to present itself. You may be just waiting for the subway to arrive when, next thing you know, a major-label representative is sitting right next to you! To succeed in an industry as ruthless as the music industry, one must be prepared to take all of the available shots. What this means is being ready to network at all times.
What does this mean? Well, musicians should have business cards and/or demos with them every time they leave the house. This way, they will never miss an opportunity to shine, even if it reveals itself in an unexpected place—like, say, when they’re waiting for the subway.
2. Be Present
Just like it’s fundamental to be ready for every opportunity, it’s also extremely important to make sure opportunities do happen. One of the best ways of trying your luck as a musician is to be present, i.e., attend as many music-related events as possible.
Yes, you can find a major-label representative anywhere, from the subway to the laundromat, but you will more likely stumble upon one during a live show, a music convention, or a showcase festival. One thing’s for sure: if you don’t leave the house and engage with other music-business pros, you’ll have a hard time building a network of contacts.
Needless to say, being present isn’t enough: you also need to have the right mindset. You need not only to be prepared to mingle but also to force yourself to do so if that’s necessary. Following these 10 marketing strategies for musicians should also come in handy!
3. Be Nice
All people (music pros included) prefer to speak, hang out, and work with nice people rather than rude people. So, to build strong connections in the music industry, one must behave as professionally and nicely as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party: you just need to do your best not to be lazy, impolite, or obnoxious.
Networking isn’t always a leisure activity, but people tend to bond with people they actually enjoy spending time with. Be conversational without being boring, show up on time to every appointment, and don’t go straight to the point—sometimes, a little bit of charm can make the difference.
Oh, and a quick reminder: because there’s so much music networking going on in places like music festivals and bars, do your best to stay sober! Alcohol and business are never a good match.
4. Follow Up
Not following up is one of the fatal mistakes of networking. Imagine that, last night, you spent hours talking with a nice record-label representative who said he likes your music. You feel great the next morning, believing that you have a record deal in the bag. But then, the record-label representative never gets back to you.
In 9 out of 10 cases, this happens because you’ve decided not to walk the extra mile and do some basic following up. Once you get along with someone, you need to build on top of that initial connection to turn a casual conversation into a serious professional partnership.
It’s a bit like dating: no matter how great a first date was, you’ll never get more out of it unless you continue to stay in touch.
5. Watch Out For the Big Folks
One thing about networking that people often forget is that some contacts are more relevant than others. Networking isn’t about quantity, but quality. It’s better to know one super important booking agent, for example, than 20 struggling musicians who have nothing to offer your career.
So, it’s fundamental to watch out for the big folks, know where they are, and try to be as close to them as possible. A good way of doing so is by identifying key future contacts and following them on social media. Through their publications and reels, you can have a general idea of what they’re doing and get as close to them as possible.
“Mr. Major Label just posted on Instagram saying he’s going to watch tonight’s show.” If that’s the case, don’t hesitate in buying a ticket to the show and trying to reach out to him in person.
6. Give Back (To the Right People)
Musicians, even struggling ones, have more power than they imagine. And when it comes to networking, it’s vital to know how to use that power…
Here’s an example: you and your bandmates are playing a show in a super cool venue and you can name 10 people in your guest list. Amateur musicians won’t hesitate in filling up the 10 slots with their family friends, significant others, and best friends. Professional musicians, on the other hand, will try to identify key players (such as local promoters or famous musicians residing in the area) and invite them to watch their show for free—now that’s how you make the most of a guest list to give back to the right people!
The same applies to, for example, record giveaways. While amateur musicians will give a bunch of records to their closest friends for free because they’re so excited about their new album, professional musicians will send their records to record-label representatives, other musicians, and members of the press.
7. Collaborate with Other Musicians
Music used to be a social endeavor, a form of communication between two or more people. But in the heyday of the lone bedroom producer, when a basic DAW can virtually replace any advanced recording studio, going solo is more popular than ever.
The upside is that musicians have better control of their output. The downside is that they end up becoming isolated and stagnated.
Collaborating with other musicians is not only fundamental for evolving as an artist, but also an extremely effective way of growing your contact list. Invite a local rapper for a feature, and there’s a good chance you’ll be introduced to his or her manager; make a split record with another band, and they will probably help you book one or two shows.
The key message here is that the music itself (its composition, production, release, promotion, and so forth) is also a great tool for networking, as long as you’re open to working with other people.
8. Respect Everybody in the Game
Sure, networking is about quality rather than quantity, and it’s adamant to know which people matter (from a business perspective) and which people don’t. That, however, doesn’t mean you should only pay attention to the big players and ignore everybody else involved in the game.
Be respectful of other musicians who are also trying to make a name for themselves, and you will be rewarded in the future. Who knows? Maybe that punk-rock kid who’s always watching live shows in your local venue will be a big star someday! And if that happens to be the case, you’ll surely want him to remember you fondly.
9. Be Informed
Part of being good at networking is knowing what’s going on in your industry. Top civil engineers, for example, will probably want to hang out with other top civil engineers. The very same applies to the music industry.
Being informed is great for networking because people (and important people in particular) tend to pay more attention to people who know their stuff.
Being informed involves not only knowing the ins and outs of the music business, but also being mindful of the latest trends, knowing who the trendiest artists are, and being familiar with multiple music scenes. To keep up, do your best to stay informed by watching online videos, reading music magazines and books, and sharing valuable information with other music professionals.
10. Learn to Live with Rejection
Fear of rejection is very common, but it’s not impossible to overcome. When dealing with other people, rejection comes naturally. But if you give up after being rejected, then you’ll be hurting your chances of making meaningful new contacts from the get-go.
Again, the dating metaphor proves useful. If a man or woman rejects you in a bar, you may feel like it’s time to go home and sleep alone. But, unless sleeping alone is your goal, that’s far from the right course of action! Instead, you should accept rejection as a natural part of life and try your chances with someone else.
Networking involves a lot of rejection (even more so than dating!), but rejection shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of one’s incompetence. While there are effective and ineffective ways of approaching other people, it’s vital to interiorize that failing is just part of the process.
Even if 10 record-label executives snub your call, who’s to say you won’t get lucky when you reach out to the 11th?
In the end, networking is about being prepared to take a shot, knowing how to deal with other people, understanding as much as possible about your industry, and being self-confident without being obnoxious. It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it: after all, nobody can make it in the music business without the help of one or two important friends.
As a final disclaimer, though, I should add that not all music people who look important happen to be important. There are lots of posers in the industry, and some just want to waste your time or, even worse, take your money! To avoid getting in trouble, be sure to check out the worst music industry scams.