There are many skills that go into being a successful musician and sadly most people avoid one of the biggest keys to success: Networking. Networking is the necessary art of developing meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships between people, companies, organizations and groups – which, for drummers, can make the difference between playing in your basement and playing in front of 30,000 people.
So why doesn’t everyone network? A few reasons are:
1. People don’t know how to network properly.
2. People are too scared/shy
3. Networking is sometimes viewed as “sleazy”
4. People don’t know where to network
Proper networking is a skill that takes time to perfect, just like any other skill that you may learn, but trust me, it CAN be learned. The first thing to keep in mind is that when fostering a relationship you must have something to offer as part of the relationship. When I was a young musician I didn’t have many connections so I would often offer to help people with their promoting, website, street team, bookings, etc. I would do anything that I could do to contribute to the relationship. Second, ask questions about things that you want to learn more about. Third, do your research on people with whom you would like to connect. If it’s “company A” or “John Smith from Awesome Band B” find out what their interests are, and most importantly look for ways to help them get what they want. It was the great Zig Ziglar who said “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”.
If you are too shy to network, a good way to build up your confidence is to start small with emails, phone calls and small networking events in your area. I’ve personally emailed and cold called hundreds of people to make connections and I never had to leave my house. This approach is easier than going to a large conference and trying to strike up a conversation with someone with whom you have no prior connection. If you have exchanged emails or phone calls a few times prior to meeting that serves as a great ice-breaker when you actually meet in person. Additionally, small networking events or small clubs/bars are great places to meet other musicians and music industry professionals. You may not run into Sting at your local bar’s open mic night but it will give you a chance to work on your skills and help you get over your fears.
Of course there are many people who only care about themselves and will do everything that they can to get ahead. These are the type of people who give networking a band name, but rest assured, these people get weeded out pretty quickly. Just be yourself, be genuine, kind and curious….oh, and check your ego at the door. No one wants to work with a jerk!
Depending on your level of playing and experience there are numerous places to network. Some are more obvious and some you’ll have to seek out and spend some time researching. The most common places to start are local open mics, jam sessions and other live shows in your town and surrounding areas. If you’re from a small town, it may be a little more difficult to find quality players in your area. If that’s the case, try trekking into a larger city, cold call / email musicians for advice, and go to conferences such as PASIC or NAMM. Or, for those who are ready to jump in, take the ultimate approach to networking and move to a major city like New York, Los Angeles, Nashville or Austin.
Remember, networking is something that takes time, dedication and patience. Just keep cool, relax and be yourself.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when networking
- Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial
- Offer to help others before asking for their help
- Start small and work your way up to larger groups
- Cold call and email people and ask for advice
- Attend conferences and networking events
- Be genuine, kind and curious and leave your ego at home
- Ask questions
- Always follow up after meeting someone and thank them for their time
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