One of the most rewarding things about my time in the music industry has been the friendships I’ve made and the relationships I’ve built. It’s not just about schmoozing an editor so I have a shot at a client feature or sweet talking a label to convince its execs that my artist is worth their time. Yet, when so many of us think of networking, we think only of our end goal, not of two human beings interacting.
To skip that crucial step is to ignore all the real joys of networking because, at its core, it really is about people bonding over music.
What if you stopped thinking about networking as this big, scary, business-card-swapping event and instead, started treating it the same way you’d make friends? Because when you get down to it, that’s really what networking is. Thinking of it that way really takes the pressure off. Here are a few ways to get started.
1. Ask for an Introduction
By far, the easiest way to begin your relationship-building journey is by leveraging the connections you already have. The bands you’re always sharing the stage with on a local level can be the first place to get introduced to bands and venues in other cities. Don’t be afraid to ask them to put you in touch with their contacts, and reciprocate the favor if and when you can.
Just one connection in your network can help spread your music pretty far and expand your relationships right away.
The same can be said for almost any connection you want to make. The more you build up your network, the more you’ll find that someone in it has a link to that one person with whom you want to connect. Ask around (and by this I mean one on one, not a social media blast to everyone you know).
You can use this method for almost anything. If you’re looking for blogs to pitch, find other artists in your scene who have found success with press coverage and ask their thoughts.
If appropriate, they may even be willing to introduce you to an outlet they feel comfortable reaching out to on a personal level. If you want to pick the brain of a local promoter, try to think of someone you know who has played one of his or her shows. Be realistic in the connections you want to make, but don’t be afraid to dream big.
You’re a lot more likely to gain the attention of someone through a trusted friend than through cold calling. Just make sure once you’re introduced, the material you wish to present is up to par!
2. Attend (Or Create) a Local Meet-Up
One of my favorites! When I first moved from Boston to San Francisco, I didn’t know anyone. For a gal who makes her living off the relationships she builds, this was a major problem. So what did I do? I started emailing every Bay Area music blog I could find, letting the writers know that I was new in town and would love to buy them a coffee and pick their brain about the city’s music scene.
And it worked! One of my emails landed in the inbox of Balanced Breakfast founder Stefan Aronson, and I was invited to my very first meeting. It was there that I found my tribe.
Every Thursday, I would leap out of bed, itching at the opportunity to attend the 8am to 10am meet-up. Yes, 8am. But every week, 30-plus people would pull themselves out of bed to be there, too, because the meet-up produced such a natural and strong sense of community, filled with musicians and industry professionals who truly cared about one another’s success. It was a completely organic networking opportunity, and two years later, I still owe the success of my company and some of my first clients to that meet-up.
But you know, it never felt like networking. It was always just a group of friends hanging out, talking shop, and helping each other get closer to their dreams. For me, that’s the most powerful way to network.
+ Learn more on Soundfly: Looking to network with other musicians? Here are some tips courtesy of bassist and bandleader Carter Lee from his free course Building a Better Band.
3. Attend Small Conferences
This is another one of those sneaky ways to have fun while networking. Any conference will be a great way to meet new people, but small conferences have a special kind of vibe perfect for starting new relationships and building existing bonds. Because these conferences tend to have a smaller turnout, you’re likely to see the same 50 to 100 people throughout the weekend festivities, which means you’ll be able to make the most of your time with these new faces, rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Small conferences also allow for more opportunities to get in front of the speakers and panelists themselves — something not always possible at larger events like SXSW.
4. Leverage Social Media
We all spend way too much time on social media, so we might as well start making it work for our career. There are plenty of ways to use Twitter and Instagram to your advantage, but I think the real meat of networking happens in Facebook groups. It definitely does not, however, include spamming groups with your music and saying, “Please listen.”
There are a couple of really spectacular groups out there, but one of my favorites is the Music Launch Hub. It’s truly my favorite place to hang out online in the music industry because it’s such an incredibly supportive, curious group of musicians and industry professionals who come there to learn, give, and share. It’s a chance for you to ask questions and seek advice, but also share your own knowledge and offer advice to others — one of the strongest components of relationship building.
+ Read more on Flypaper: “It’s All About the Relationship: How I Got to 1.5 Million YouTube Followers.”
Remember, the way we often feel connected to other people isn’t through them shoving their product at us, it’s through someone offering us a lending ear, advice, or bonding over shared interests (inside or outside the industry).
No matter which of these tactics you choose, remember this: relationship building, however contradictory it may feel, is not about you — it’s about the other person. Put that person and his or her interests first, learn to listen, and you’ll be swimming in new relationships before you know it.
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