In my dealings and conversations with successful artists, managers, labels, and other industry workers, it has become abundantly clear that increasing your chance of success can be done by embracing two very simple concepts: create great music, and develop great relationships.
Unfortunately, the second half of that equation is sometimes (mis)labeled as simply ‘who you know,’ which implies that an existing connection is required in order to succeed. Sure, having an uncle that works for a label, or having a friend from high school who is now the guitar tech for Coldplay can help, but that’s rare. Those who have succeeded have done so by working hard at developing, and maintaining, great relationships with those they work with.
Here are some tips for developing contacts with meaning:
• Be proactive. Successful artists actively seek connections with those in the industry, at workshops, conferences, events, shows, as well as on their own time via phone and email.
• Meet face to face. Sending emails or making phone calls to those people you want to connect with are fine if they’re half way around the world, but there’s still no replacement for meeting someone face to face and looking them in the eye. An email that starts with ‘Dear Sir, My name is..’ is FAR less likely to get a reply than ‘Hi John, My name is Joe and we met at…’ Industry people are out there, constantly. Find out where, meet them, and give them a reason to remember you.
• Be social. The music industry is one where personality matters. A LOT. A manager of a major label artist once told me that the personality of an artist was “equally as important as the music.” Everyone in the industry wants to work with social, interesting people, so if you want to develop a relationship with someone you aspire to work with, get to know them on a personal level.
• Be nice. This probably goes without saying, but just in case, it’s important to always be nice, friendly, and respectful. Our industry is small, and word spreads quickly, so if you’re a jerk to someone, people will find out. On that same note, don’t ever EVER badmouth someone to anyone else. If you have a negative opinion about someone, either keep it to yourself, or word it in a way that won’t burn a bridge.
• Build & Maintain. Just having someone ‘on file’ isn’t good enough. If you want to succeed, you have to turn those first meetings into relationships. Sending them an occasional update, a quick hello, or a relevant compliment on something they’ve done (IE, one of their artists gets nominated for an award) is a great way to keep in touch and keep yourself in the forefront of their minds.
• Pay It Forward. At some point (probably earlier than you think), you’ll be in a position to help someone else in the industry out. It may even be someone who had helped you in the past. The industry as a whole can only thrive if everyone supports everyone else, so do your part and give back with your time and energy.
Lastly, but absolutely most importantly…. don’t forget your fans! All of the above advice on developing and maintaining relationships can and should be applied to them, through the use of online mediums, opportunities at live shows, and any other way possible.
Making connections is a big part of our industry. If you want to increase your chances of success, it’s important to turn those contacts into colleagues by developing relationships with everyone you meet.
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