For most musicians, this is something that most know they should do but feel uncomfortable with or don’t know how to approach. However, it’s something that can open the doors to better shows, a record label, a new sponsor, or even more fans. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years about networking:
1. The Value You Bring to Others: Many networking events can feel like a shark tank, with people fighting to get business cards out and meeting the right people. It can often be inherently selfish, people seeing who can help them get what they want. However, networking is about building partnerships, so you can often stand out by finding ways to deliver value to other people, whether that is simply connecting other contacts to one another or helping someone solve their problem. That’s far more effective than finding ways to show off or impress others.
2. Ask Questions: Whether you are connecting in person or through email, the best thing you can do is open up communication by finding out what the other person needs. The better you understand them, the better you can build the relationship. That interaction matters more than the pitch you’ve carefully constructed about yourself.
3. The Pitch: That being said, find a way to accurately describe what you do in an interesting way in 15 seconds or less. This article on pitching your band might help.
4. Be Intentional: Whether it is at an industry event or online, you don’t want to spam everyone about what you do. Instead, identify the people who are most relevant to what you do, what you offer, or what you need. Focus on them. It’s better to have one solid connection than 100 meaningless ones.
5. Stay Alert: This is one of the reasons why I don’t drink; acting tipsy in front of others can be a sign of weakness and lack of self-control. It’s also important to proofread emails before they are sent, both for spelling and grammar as well as content and length. All of these things reflect you and your work.
6. Think Outside the Box: Don’t always focus on record executives or promoters. Sometimes, it’s good to go outside of your industry and just focus on the general needs of your music career as a business. You’ll always need printing (business cards, download cards, posters, etc.), so why not connect with a printer?
7. Make Connections: The best way to meet people is to be the person that connects others. Offer to introduce someone to one of your contacts who can help them. If you’re known as a connector, people will be more willing to connect with you as well as return the favor.
8. Accept Rejection: Sometimes, people are too busy or they are uninterested. Don’t take it personally and don’t fire back some kind of hurtful email. Be careful about leaving bad reviews on sites like Sonicbids, you might be viewed as petty.
9. Get Your Hands Dirty: Remember, the payoff for networking comes when you help others. Offer to donate time or resources, volunteer, offer advice. Some of my strongest connections have come from volunteering for non-profit organizations and meeting contacts who believe in similar causes.
10. Follow Up: Following up is one of the most important parts of building relationships. Emails, text messages, and phone calls are often forgotten about. Everyone can get busy and need a reminder. Other times, it’s just good to check in. Make it a habit to follow up with an important contact every few weeks.
Whether you are heading to a music conference like CMJ or SXSW, or you are trying to connect with others via Linkedin, keep the above 10 tips in mind to help you stand out as a vital member of the community rather than someone who is only pursuing their own interests. Keep your communication short, to the point, and valuable to others!
If you’d like more advice on how to find, develop and win over contacts, check out How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements.
Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam