There's one thing about the music industry that stands true no matter how many changes come about year after year. That's networking. It has to be done, it can't take a backseat, and you can't move your career forward without it.
This is also the one thing that so many new bands are stumped about when it's time for them to start making connections. The key is to start EARLY and START at the bottom, without having the attitude that "This person isn't important, they're just the contact for a venue that's not even busy" or "I won't waste my time with this person because they're just a fan who wants to be around bands all the time".
Stop right there.
Everyone, and we mean EVERYONE you meet, could potentially be that person that drives you into a forward motion you never thought possible.
The basis of this article is just "getting out there", but the truth of the matter is, there are a ton of solo artists and bands with extraordinary talent who will never see a large crowd let alone a record deal, simply because they're under the impression that they're "good enough" to just rehearse, perform, release a video, post online and repeat.
The results are in on that one. There's so much talent at our fingertips now that if it were THAT easy, everyone would be driving a Rolls. You have get out there and impress the people who can help you make it happen for yourself.
How do you get there?
By being EVERYWHERE, and being there with a smile, and swallowing your pride and the fear that tells you're “too shy" to do it. Get out there and meet everyone you can. You never know who you're going to end up talking to and forming a very important relationship with.
Small band just playing local venues? Make yourself an asset to those venues. Get to know the promoters, show them how hard you work at getting people in the building, always ALWAYS be polite and professional, and before you know it you'll be getting calls from them to open for bigger acts coming through.
Heading out for your first tour? Meet every single person working at every venue. Maybe the guy in charge is too busy all night to give you any time for chit-chat. That's okay…go meet the bartender. Hang out front meeting fans in line and start a rapport with whoever is manning the door. Make sure someone remembers your name, and your band.
ALWAYS have a business card on hand to give that person after you've noticed they're interested. This random venue person is most likely still involved in the day-to-day workings of the establishment. They most likely overhear conversations about bookings and nights when they need a fill-in. If he or she remembers you because you were just THAT cool and likable, chances are they're going to throw your band’s name out there as an option. It happens all the time.
While you’re traveling around to all these new places, make sure every time you stop somewhere you look for an opportunity to tell someone who you are and why you're in town. Most people are very receptive to conversations with touring band members because it's interesting to them. It's something different. You might talk to ten people in ten days at fast food restaurants and it's nothing more than simple promotion, but the eleventh one might be the best-friend/girlfriend/sister/brother/uncle etc. of someone you NEED in your life. If that happens, do NOT immediately drool on them and throw a jewel case in their face. Just make sure you make a fantastic impression, and don't leave the situation, if at all possible, without at least connecting on social media so you can further conversation at a later date. If you do “exchange numbers”, make sure you GET their number and not just give them yours.
You never want to seem desperate and annoying. You are just forming relationships.
Always be polite. One thing that stands true, is many times you're talking to someone who won't reveal who they are until they've gotten to know you a little better. Nobody wants to keep the lines of communication open with someone who seems arrogant or disassociated with what they're saying. Stay interested into the conversation. If an opportunity opens up for you to offer them some type of advice or help, do it. One hand washes the other, and it's always going to be that way.
Always be polite. One thing that stands true is many times you may be talking to someone who won't reveal who they are or who they know until they've gotten to know you a little better. Nobody wants to keep the lines of communication open with someone who seems arrogant or disassociated with what they're saying. Stay interested in the conversation. If an opportunity opens up for you to offer them some type of advice or help, do it. One hand washes the other, and it's always going to be that way.
Join industry organizations and go to activities, conventions, writer’s nights, shows, open mics, EVERYTHING you can go to that will put you in a place where the people around you are doing what you do.
When you do meet someone who you think can help you move your career ahead, be prepared to already know what it is you need from them. Don't meet an A&R rep from a major label and say "Hey, so, it'd be way cool if you could like..uh...give me a record deal". It's not happening. They're not even going to acknowledge you after that, and if they do, it's going to be because they genuinely enjoyed your conversation and liked you as a person, and THEN continued to develop the relationship further.
FOLLOW UP! For goodness sake do NOT leave a situation where you've met someone and didn't at least get a business card if the chat you had allowed you to comfortably ask for one. In addition, don't leave that spot until you've given them yours. A simple "Can I give you my card?" is an opening for them to return the favor. Don’t be afraid to just do it. It is industry protocol and not considered unusual in any way. If they say "No thanks, actually that's ok, my wallet is pretty full", you’ve probably struck out on that one and that’s okay. Just find the next opportunity and revise your pitch.
If you do run into somebody that can help you, maybe not directly, but through a friend or co-worker, politely ask for a referral. Referrals are HUGE in the music industry. Most of the big acts you hear on the radio and hear on the chart or have a publishing deal or booking agent got those because of referrals. In general, people trust referrals.
The entire idea is this: out of everyone you meet in a single day, there could be one, or even two, people who could possibly help you evolve into what you're striving to be.
If you're in the cycle of rehearse, perform, release video, post online, but you're not getting out there and actually networking, you're going to chase your tail. No matter how many people "like" your videos or songs, you're going to chase your tail for twice as long unless you get out there and become part of the community.
And when you do become a part of it, pay it forward.
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