Remember that old saying, “It's not what you know, it's who you know.” In an industry like the music business ran by negotiations with hustlers, smooth talkers, hand shakes, co-signs, politics, and popularity contests – that old saying couldn't ring more true. However, I'd argue that what you know directly impacts who you know.
But at the end of the day quantum leaping your music career from one big win to the next revolves around networking the right relationships. So how do you make these high value connections?
First, you need to figure out who they are.
Note: This isn't a basic guide on networking in the music industry. This looks at how to increase the chances of getting those high value connections and making them work. So if you're ready for advanced networking info, read on below. If you want tips for beginners guide however, you can see that here.
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Step 1: Target Relevant High Value Connections
I'd like to start out by mentioning that each of these steps are ongoing processes and not one time tasks. This method for networking game changing connections in the music industry should be cyclical with each cycle focusing on reaching a set of goals or milestones. The first step is identifying your current goals (the broken down, measurable steps of your current strategy) and then figuring out what connections have the power to help you reach them faster.
Here's an example to put this step of the method into perspective for you:
Let's say your current strategy is to build your reputation and audience within your local scene so that you can position yourself as the leading local up-and-comer. Your goals are probably to land the best and most coveted local show opportunities and press coverage. In this case, the high value connections you should be targeting are the local promoters that throw the best shows in your genre and the popular press outlets and bloggers in your area.
Here's a different scenario. Let's say you've already accomplished your goals for the above. You've successfully sprinted your way to the top of your local music scene. The support of your city is behind you and the local taste-makers have pegged you as the next to “make” it. All you have to do is prove them all right.
Your new strategy is to shift focus away from your local scene and to start branching out regionally and then nationally. Your new goals might be to land coverage on high traffic blogs in your genre or go on a national tour. Therefore, you should be targeting influential bloggers, publicists, booking agents, and more established artists in your genre with your relationship-building efforts. Look all over for these people, some can even be found on music business forums.
Step 2: Tactically Approach Music Industry Professionals
Now that you have a list of high value connections to target you need to develop a tactical approach to make your first impression and start building a good relationship with those connections. Good personality, social skills, and business acumen can go along way.
Having a mutual connection to name drop or (even better, to make the introduction) always helps too.
The number one way fans discover new music is through friends or artists they already trust. The number one way music industry people discover new connections is through connections they already value and trust.
Remember that people who work in the music industry are very busy, and on top of that they are constantly bombarded with new people trying to make it into their circle. This is especially true if they are in a position where they can add a lot of value for artists. So how do you cut through and actually make it onto their radar screen?
Here's the secret sauce: You figure out how you can add value for them and you make that the focus of your introduction. Because let's face it, at this point they can probably offer more value for you than you can add for them.
They are also probably more than aware of how they can add value for you because they have a hundred of you asking them to do it every day. Most of them are getting ignored, though.
If you want to reduce your chances of getting ignored then your strategy should be to figure out how you can add as much value for them as possible. Being mindful of how busy and bombarded they are, you also need to figure out how you can present this value proposition to them as quickly and concisely as possible while maintaining focus on what you can do for them.
Step 3: Figure Out How To Authentically Add Repeated Value And Nurture These Connections
The battle usually isn't over the second you get your foot in the door. In order to position yourself in the good graces of the people who can get you where you want to go faster you need to add repeated value.
You run into a lot of fair-weather people in this industry who will only make the effort when things are looking up. The people who advance are the people who prove they aren't one of them.
If you save someone time or make them money 1 time they will probably appreciate it. But what if you did it 10 times? It'd be hard for them not to consider you a friend at that point. Especially if you click well socially.
Now what if they could say “thank you” in a way you find 10 times more valuable than what you've done for them, but it takes them 10 times less effort? Why wouldn't they do that for you?
Step 4: Watch Value Get Reciprocated Naturally In New Connections And Opportunities
See what just happened? That booking agent that ignores 100 artists a day just offered you an opportunity to open a national tour that they are booking. Why?
Because you hung up flyers around your city for their shows.
Because you sold tickets for their shows.
Because you helped connect them with the best local venues and promoters.
Because you've spent hours talking on the phone with them so they finally decided to actually check out your music and they realized it kicks ass.
Because they respect your hustle and all of the times you've added value for them and they want to show their appreciation and reciprocate that value back ten fold.
Because it only took them a phone call.
Make sure you practice discernment, though. Although intentional and strategic this process is also organic and authentic. There's a lot of people in the music industry who only care about what's in it for them. You'll land the big connections by not being one of them.
But you also need to make sure you aren't wasting time trying to connect with them, either. You can waste a lot of time trying to add value for someone who has no interest in making the relationship mutually beneficial.
If you actively, authentically, and aggressively apply this process of networking game changing connections for your music career you will notice that the potential connections and opportunities will start to compound at such a rate it will be hard to keep up with the momentum. Then one day you'll wake up and you'll have to deal with 100 people in your inbox desperately trying to network with you as you move on up to even bigger and better circles.
One last thing that I think is important to note:
Although the focus of this article is networking connections in the music industry the #1 most important focus of your career should always be connecting with and nurturing relationships with your fans. That's the root. That's the core.
All these other connections are just faster routes to make new fans and most of these industry people aren't really friends. The fans are what matters most. And when you have an audience, the high value connections in the industry will come crawling to you for a slice of the eyeballs.
With that being said, can you think of any tips for networking game changing connections in the music industry that I left out? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.