Musicians hate the word “networking.” It feels contrived and dishonest. Marketers and entrepreneurs love the word and the act. These people are constantly out meeting new people and… wait for it… networking.
So why do musicians hate it so much, but traditional entrepreneurs love it (musicians ARE entrepreneurs too you realize)?
Musicians are on an endless pursuit for authenticity and respect. If anything about our project even has remote hints of unoriginality we fear the full wrath of Pitchfork coming down on us in all its decimal point hipster glory. The reality is, the majority of the bands who worry about this the most aren’t even a blip on any reviewer’s radar – let alone Pitchfork.
In Skip The Party Tonight (Become a Rockstar Tomorrow) I stressed the importance of staying in. I now (in all its hypocrisy) am stressing the point of going out!
Ok it’s not necessarily hypocritical because every action we musicians take must have a purpose. If you’re going out to get blasted and wake up in a rando’s apartment with a new itch… down there… then you aren’t doing it right. Use protection and stay the fuck in! If you’re going out to a show to get to know your scene, other musicians and local “Gatekeepers”, the club’s sound guy, door guy, booker and bar tenders and possibly hand out flyers for an upcoming show, then you have just taken the first step to successful networking.
That’s all networking is. Meeting people, being likable and building new relationships. It only has to be as sleazy as you make it.
LA gets a bad wrap for this – and rightfully so. People who live here quickly realize that everyone here is constantly networking in a “how can you help me” way. It’s quick and to the point and leaves little room for actual relationships to flourish. I do not recommend this. People in LA do this because everyone has a temporary job (on short-term entertainment projects like a commercial shoot, TV show, part time music journalism, casting, music scoring for TV shows, etc) so everyone is constantly on the look out for their next job and don’t have time to waste with “relationships.” BUT this is quite shortsighted.
So when you meet people don’t hit them with a “how can you help me” vibe. Genuinely get to know them and who they are. Make the conversation about them and if there’s an opening, offer ways that you could potentially help THEM and who you could connect them with. Talk about everything BUT business and then if they bring it up (once you’ve earned their trust) then you can dive in.
When an opportunity pops up people will always turn to their friends and acquaintances first. Nurture the relationship of the person you just met (friend them on Facebook, invite them to BBQs, have them over for dinner, invite them to join you at friends’ concerts), and when an opportunity comes up for you that falls in their lap, you will be the first to hear about it.
GO OUT OFTEN
Whenever I go out I treat it as a networking event (much to my girlfriend’s chagrin). Everyone I meet (especially in this town) is a potential fan, resource, ally, friend. Single people understand this mentality. Once single people reach their late twenties they treat every going out opportunity as a chance to meet their potential mate.
Before a big show, I will make sure to go out as much as possible and reconnect with as many acquaintances as I can as well as meet new people. Inevitably it will come up that I’m a musician and inevitably they will ask me when my next show is. I’ll get their email and then email them the next day a reminder (or if we made it to the texting level I’ll hit them with a text). More times than not they will make it out to the show. However, don’t expect them to remember you in 3 months and come to that show if you haven’t been nurturing the relationship.
Yes musicians need them. Don’t have it halfway out your pocket when you first meet someone, though. Wait until they ask for it. New friends who discover you’re a musician will want to know how to check you out. Non-musicians (or people in entertainment) get an instant ‘cool’ buzz when meeting a gigging musician. They will most likely run right home and look you up (or do it right there on their iPhone when you walk away). If you’re a singer/songwriter put your face on the card so they can remember you. Hell, if you’re in a band, make separate business cards for each member and on one side have all the band’s info and on the other side have each member’s info with their photo. It doesn’t need to be cheesy if you don’t make it cheesy.
When you get a card, take a photo of it on your phone immediately so you don’t lose it! Follow up with them the next day and mention how nice it was to meet them. Now you’re thinking this feels contrived. It won’t be if you’re genuine about it. Everyone loves a personal connection. Keep it personal and don’t hit them with spammy “come to my show” requests right away.
If you approach every person as a potential friend then you will treat them differently. Sure, they could turn into big fans someday, but they won’t come to your first show unless they like you as a person first. They aren’t going to throw opportunities your way if they feel you are using them.
Take a shower, put on your favorite Ramones T and get out there and network!