Whether you’re launching a band or solo career regardless of location, you’ve probably heard that networking is the key to success. Although there is no magic key to unlock every opportunity, having a strong network of people that support and assist you on your musical journey will certainly help kick a few new doors open.
When all is said and done, networking can be a great deal of fun or a huge inconvenience. It really boils down to your personality and how you go about building your network of support. For some, it’s just a matter of sharing your art with family and friends. In doing so, this network will act as any other, helping to spread the word about your music. For others, it may require you to step out of your comfort zone to schmooze a room looking for that one connection that can make it all happen.
The good news is that we live in a day and age where it is easier than EVER to network on a local, regional, national, and even global level! There are so many ways to build both a personal network of friends, family, and followers, not to mention a professional network of key players to help you in the achievement of your success.
What Is Networking?
Well, it’s a two part answer. I am going to explain what Networking is, but also how to build a network. They may seem like one in the same, but you will see how both processes differ.
First, let me tell you the definition of networking.
NETWORKING – A method or process of building your name/brand in the public eye, by way of promotional opportunities, word of mouth, and face to face interactions with fans and/or other industry professionals.
The aim of networking is to get yourself and your music into places and situations where you can drum up some interest, make a connection with someone, and leave a lasting impression. This can be as simple as talking with someone at a coffee shop that you overheard talking about a band you like, or as complex as going to events and shows every day to make friends with club owners and promoters. The key is to be creative and find your own niche to get your name and face in front of the people that should fall in love with your music.
A great way to start is by looking around for a minute and asking yourself where opportunities might be. For example, ask yourself “what gear do I use,” “can I reach out and do some free promo for these companies in hopes that they see potential in me and maybe endorse me as a new artist,” or “hey, my buddy plays at that club all the time, could he help get me a gig there.” If you consistently look around you in your daily life and ask “where is there an opportunity waiting for me in this,” 90% of the time an opportunity will present itself.
To give a personal example of this concept, I was working at an online music retail company that sold an innovative new midi guitar product. One day, the boss sent me to their local warehouse to pick up a shipment of them and I got to speak to the owner of the company. After a few minutes of talking about the great concept of their product, I randomly posed the question “Hey, do you have a local artist or clinician doing any promo stuff for you on these,” to which he answered no.
BAM! just like that I handed him my business card and told him that I have posted countless hours of product demo videos online for several music brands and I would LOVE to share my excitement for his product with others. Soon thereafter, I became “the face of the company” and hosted many webinars, tutorials, in-store events (Guitar Center, Sam Ash), and trade show demos (NAMM, etc.). They even put my picture on the product box! Needless to say, this opened up a number of doors for me and propelled me into the public eye as an expert on my craft. The best part about it is all I had to do was ask!
It’s important to be on your game all the time and constantly be looking for opportunities that may be right under your nose. Your confidence will build every time you ask and even if you hear the answer no over and over, you can bet you have still made an impression just by reaching out to inquire. You will find many unique ways to get the word out about who you are and what you do and, if you love making music and sharing it with others, then you’ve got the hardest part out of the way already. So be creative and leave no stone unturned when it comes to looking for opportunities to network.
BUILDING A NETWORK – Compiling an ongoing list or database of people, places, and things that will grow and expand with you alongside your musical journey (ie: musicians, managers, promoters, booking agents, clubs, etc).
Building a long term “network” of industry peers, fans, friends, and other connections that you can reach out to along the way is a major key to your band’s success. Yes, going around and speaking to anyone who will listen is important. But what about after you have spoken with them?
Creating a list or database is a way to build and keep track of your network as it grows. At first, it will probably consist of a shoebox full of business cards, some industry source books, and a stack of CDs from some bands you really loved sharing a stage with. But your network is much more than those things alone. It’s a culmination of every working piece of information that can get you to that next step. When something happens in your career take note of where and when it happened, and who helped you make it happen and then use those little nuggets of wisdom to make your next move. So while you’re out there networking, keep track of it and build your network.
When I was 17 (cue that groovy Frank Sinatra jam) I did a demo that landed me a gig in my first original metal band. They were the real deal and had a full crew, management, and connections to all the local venues, sound guys, and PA companies. I watched all these guys do what they do and eventually learned a little from each of them, from what goes into putting on a show, to booking a tour, etc. To this very day, we are all a very tightly knit group and, even though we all branched off to new projects, we fostered those old connections to help us seek out new ones, thus growing and building our networks.
Connecting and Reconnecting
It’s important to remember names and faces, even the associations you have with those people you work with along your musical pathway because that is how they come to remember you. Each time you sincerely thanked a club owner for allowing you to use their stage is a time you earned the respect of another person in your industry. Every time you reach out to that old bandmate and ask them to fill in for a couple of gigs, you re-open a connection. You never know what they have been up to for the last 5 years or what they might offer you in return. When you take note of the people, places, and faces that make up your local music scene, you empower yourself with a connectivity that keeps you plugged into it.
The other side of building your network is to find new opportunities to connect with fans, followers, and other “non-industry” connections that will be just as important to you as your pals in the biz. These are the real people that you love to hang out and share your passion for music with. It could be your favorite tattoo artist (love ya Jason), your buddy at the music shop, or the guy that tends bar at your work. These people you have connected with that have come about through a common interest of music, are the ones that will back you up and get behind you, whether you play to 10,000 people a night or 10. Harvesting these kinds of “musical friendships” will produce a feast of personal and professional support for you and your career that can last a lifetime.
Music Business Family
The music industry really is a relatively small, tight-knit family, once you actively participate in it. The more you get out there and get involved in your local scene, the sooner you become a fixture in that scene and accepted as part of the family. That’s also most likely when new and bigger opportunities will present themselves. Networking is all about building connections between people and the music and growing those connections beyond ourselves. With each new connection, we expand our circle of influence to encompass a larger area.
Before you know it, what you see as the big scary music industry will prove to be just a small, tight-knit family after all!
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