You’ve heard the word a million times: networking. But what does it really mean? And more importantly, how do you actually do it?
With the world having gone almost completely virtual this year, we’ve had to move the art of networking completely online with it, making it possible for even the most introverted of introverts to excel at this past time — but only if you know how to do so in a way that’s beneficial for your musical career.
But let’s back up with a quick primer.
First, what is networking?
In a nutshell, networking is how you build relationships and create connections within the industry. Doing it can take many forms, including: conferences, mixers, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, and countless other online and in-person opportunities. And it takes time. You should never expect to develop an important relationship overnight, or after one coffee with someone.
At its core, here’s the one thing you need to know about networking: it’s just making friends with people that you believe you can help and who can help you. Networking is about wanting to grow together. That’s all it is.
When I was first starting out in the music industry I came across a weekly networking event called Balanced Breakfast. I went every Thursday morning and we’d just get to know each other and talk shop. None of us ever said “hey, why don’t you do this for me.” Instead, we just treated each other as people and over time, we helped each other where we could.
For instance, when people were releasing new music, they would know — from me being at these weekly meetings and offering advice — that I was a publicist and so they’d come to me and hire me, and I’d get a new client. That was a direct result of networking, even though it took time for those relationships to develop.
Or if Band A was about to tour in a different part of the country and knew Band B had been there before and had a great turn out, Band A would reach out to Band B and ask if they could connect them with a venue. They get a great new contact, an awesome show, and a solid turnout.
It’s a slow and steady process that when done right, should be beneficial for all involved.
BTW, here’s what not to do.
Ever get one of those spammy messages that’s just “hey thanks for the follow, check out my new music!” That’s not networking, that’s spam. No one asked for that and no one wants to help you or listen to your music before they even know who you are. So don’t do that.
Networking is about genuine relationships. Go into it with that in mind and always operate from a place of honesty and integrity.
Ok so how do you do it online?
Alright so a lot of what we’ve talked about is currently obsolete, since we’re still pretty much stuck indoors. So networking is going to have to happen one way or another online for the time being — and one of my favorite ways to network online is through Facebook groups.
We’ve done full articles on this, but here’s the short and sweet: search in Facebook to find groups that make sense for getting in front of the people you want to get in front of. Join the group, and start helping people out and responding to their questions. Within weeks, your online karma will return back to you in the form of recognition and respect.
The same can be done on Instagram, LinkedIn, or anywhere else you like out hang out online.
Just get in there and show up. Every day, adding value to the comments, being seen, letting people get to know you — later when you want to connect with someone to take your relationship off the group, send them a message or friend request and get to know then a bit more through genuine conversation.
Here are a few other ways to network online right now.
Since the entire world has had to move online, many conferences and festivals that are normally in-person have moved online, and this makes for a great opportunity for you to network from the comfort of your home (although it’s a bit trickier).
There’s certainly no shortage of one-off webinars and pop-up Facebook community challenges to join, but you can also check out sites like Eventbrite for workshops and events. Or, join one of the virtual Balanced Breakfast music industry meetup events. There are upcoming virtual conferences events happening in 2021 as well, like the Songpreneurs Conference next spring.
And speaking of community, when you become a Soundfly subscriber, you automatically gain access to our community of students, artists, mentors, and staff via our daily active chat forum on Slack!
Instagram is another great tool for networking, and it’s as simple as using the “explore” bar. You can also scour the Instagram feeds of your favorite blogs, podcasts, and festivals to find future fans and similar artists that you can begin to develop relationships with.
Quick tip: Scan a festival or similar band’s page, find the people who are commenting on their photos, and if they look like someone you want to build a connection with, reply to their stories. It builds instant connection and opens you up to a DM conversation right away.
If you’re not familiar, a mastermind is basically a group of like-minded people coming together to talk shop, brainstorm new ideas, get advice, and support one another. It’s like a creativity think tank, where you’ve got a constant support team full of ideas and strategy you may have never thought of yourself, and that helps you build your career faster.
You can organize this yourself by handpicking 3-5 other people you’d like to have regular check ins with to stay accountable, or you can join an existing one. It’s not just a great way to stay on track, but to meet new people and gain new introductions.
And that’s it! If you’re new to networking, know that it’s not nearly as scary as you think. After all, at the end of the day, it’s just making friends, swapping stories, and helping your fellow industry professional out.
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