Networking In The Music Industry

© 2011 Vinny Ribas

There is no denying that whether you are a band, singer or an individual musician, you need the help of other people to have a successful music career. It doesn’t matter if you can play every instrument, sing all of the vocal parts and make great recordings all by yourself in your own studio. You still need fans to buy your music, people to book you, people to show up at your gigs, and maybe people to help with the business and legal sides of your business.

There are countless ways to meet the people you need. However, there are three rules that can help you be most effective in this arena:[private_member]

  • Meeting someone in person trumps all other connections. Nothing compares to being able to look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. You can learn a lot from a firm handshake, a person’s attire, his or her professionalism, his or her mannerisms and experiencing a personal chemistry.
  • The next best thing to meeting someone in person is being introduced to /and recommended by a mutual friend or business associate.
  • Meeting someone without following up is no better than not meeting them at all!

Where do you meet people? Everywhere! Here are some quick guidelines for effective networking:

  • Always be in networking mode. Be prepared to meet people who might be able to help you everywhere you go. You never know who you are going to meet or who they might know. Also, be aware that many times influential people won’t reveal who they really are until after they have gotten to know you. I know one person who got major label cuts because they sat next to the grandmother of someone in the band in a diner!
  • Show Up. Put yourself in a position where you are always meeting people who might be influential in your career. Go to music industry networking events, join industry organizations, eat at the restaurants they eat at. Go to jam sessions, showcases and songwriter nights. Put yourself in the way of opportunity! You never know when you will have the chance to meet and/or help someone who can also help you, either now or down the road.
  • No Gherming: Gherming is the Nashville term for seeing someone influential and throwing your CD or song demo in their face. There is a time and a place when politely asking if someone would be willing to listen to your music is appropriate. In an office, at a convention or at an industry networking event are examples of places that are appropriate. Interrupting someone while they are in a social setting such as a restaurant is usually not. Respect people’s privacy.
  • Niche market your networking. Whenever possible, go to where the people you want to meet congregate. For example, you can meet people from all aspects of the music industry at Indie Connect meetings. You can meet potential co-writers and publishers at NSAI or other songwriter group meetings. You can meet college buyers at a NACA convention, and fair directors at one of the many fair conventions around the country.
  • Give before you receive. Also ask how you can help the other person before asking for anything for yourself. Have a ‘servant’s heart.’ It immediately erases any thoughts that you care only about yourself.
  • Tell your prospect exactly how you can help them. If you know that you can help someone, let him or her know. Make that all-important connection for them (if appropriate and if you are comfortable with it), give them accurate advice, tell them about helpful books or online resources etc. If you can help them in the future, offer that as well. You will get a reputation as a giver.
  • Professionally ask for what you really need. If you have offered to help the other person first, chances are they will want to help you. Be honest, realistic and specific. ‘I just need a big break’ is not specific. “I am good at writing melodies, but I need to meet a strong lyricist to co-write with’ is much more specific and realistic. You can still be professional and not come across as greedy. Everyone loves to help. Give them the chance to feel good by helping you.
  • Develop relationships. People like to do business with people they know and trust. Don’t miss the opportunity to build a real relationship with the people you meet. Get together for coffee. Find out about each other’s private lives (within the scope of general conversation). You never know when you or he will have cause to call on the relationship again in the future. And who knows, you just may find a great friend!
  • Follow-up. Whenever you meet someone new, it is always good to follow up with at least an ‘It was nice to meet you’ email. Also, when someone refers you to someone else, be sure to follow up on that lead within 72 hours. It makes you look more professional, and you’ll be fresh on the mind of the person who made the introduction.
  • Follow up with recognition for introductions. If someone refers you to someone else, be sure to thank them, thank them again in an email or with a personal thank-you note.
  • Always carry business cards. Always! Did I mention ALWAYS? Not having business cards (professional looking ones) screams ‘I am an amateur’.
  • Know your needs. If you know what you need now and what you will need in the future, then you will be more apt to recognize it when it comes along. Are you an artist looking for band members? A songwriter looking for a publisher? If you have a plan for your career, identifying your most important needs is a mindless task.
  • Meet as many people as possible. This goes back to never knowing who you are going to meet, or when and where you might meet just the right person to move your career forward. Make it a habit of meeting people, collecting and cataloging business cards, and building relationships. You can never know too many people!
  • Join organizations and get involved! It’s great to say you joined an industry organization like Indie Connect. But the real networking and relationship building happens when you actually get involved. Join committees or volunteer to chair one. Help with fundraisers. Don’t just sit on the sidelines! If you do, hardly anyone will notice you, and those who do will not get the impression that you’re a serious player.
  • Ask for referrals. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific referrals. If you know names, and you believe that the person who you just met might be able to connect you with them, go ahead and ask. However, here are the keys. 1) Don’t be pushy. 2) Don’t put the person who you are talking to in an awkward position. Tell them that you know that they rightfully guard their relationships and the privacy of their contacts, and you would never want to do anything to compromise them. Then ask them what they would need from you before they would make such a key referral.
  • Save business cards and contact information. Be sure to keep all of your contacts organized. You never know when you’ll either need someone’s help that you met years ago, or finally have a good contact for that person years after you met. It’s also good to have this information when someone asks you for a referral and you know exactly who to send them to.
  • Keep your promises! If you say you are going to call someone, do it. If you say you will make an introduction for them, do it. If you say you’ll meet someone at a specific time, be there. Do everything in a timely manner. Get the reputation as a man (or woman) of your word. People will be much more inclined to help you if they know you are professional and can be trusted.
  • Keep confidences. It is vital that you not repeat information that is told to you in confidence. Entertainment is an industry based on perception and reputation. Sharing confidential information can hurt or ruin their reputation (not to mention your own). It will also destroy any trust you might have built up with the other person.
  • Keep track of conversations. After you’ve met someone, write down what you spoke about on the back of his or her business cards. Also include any personal information that you hear that you want to remember, such as spouses or children’s names. Show them that you were paying attention by bringing up the information in your follow up exchange (e.g. How is your wife Jenny doing?). Also keep track of things you promised you would do for them, when to follow up, connections they might have for you etc.
  • Be generous with your leads. Whenever possible, be open with your referrals. Of course, you should only do this when you feel 100% confident that you will not be wasting your connection’s time or jeopardizing your relationship with them. In other words, you probably shouldn’t introduce a mediocre songwriter to a top publisher. The more you help others, the more people will rally around you when you need help.
  • Make personal introductions. If you have a connection for someone, take the time to make a personal introduction either by phone or email. The reason is that you are telling both parties that you ‘sanctioned’ the introduction. Nowadays many people lie and say ‘____ told me to call’ just to get past the gatekeepers, even though that referral was never really made.
  • Reward good introductions. If someone introduces you to a contact that turns out to be a profitable or beneficial connection for you, reward him. This reward might be as small as a thank-you note, a gift basket, a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, or as large as a percentage of the income that resulted from the lead. Be fair. Once again, people will do everything they can to help you if they know that you are grateful.
  • Keep in touch with your network. It is vital to keep in touch with your network, especially those with whom you have done business. This serves 2 very important purposes. First, it keeps you in the forefront of their minds. Secondly, everyone likes to know that they are important enough to someone else to receive an occasional phone call or email.
  • Get good at remembering names and faces. This is extremely valuable because it may help you avoid embarrassing situations. It’s also great because people love to be recognized! It shows that you were paying attention the first time you met.
  • Smile! This will attract people to you. People love to be around other people who are happy.
  • Find the centers of influence. Influential people often get that way because they are masters at networking. At any networking event or party they will be the one with the most people around them. Get to know them. They can lead you to a lot of other people who might be important to your career.
  • Reinforce your brand. Whether you are attending a formal business networking events, a conference or just going to meet someone for coffee, present your brand as much as possible. Maybe you have a polo shirt with your band logo on it that looks appropriate. Maybe you are carrying a computer case with your logo on it. Make your logo your screensaver as well. Of course, I am not saying that you should walk around in a stage costume. You just simply want to put your brand in front of as many people as possible. It will also spark some people to talk to you because they know your brand, even if they have never met you personally.
  • Be memorable. Do, say or wear something that people will remember you by. It can be as simple as having a very memorable business card. It might something that you wear, something you say or something you give away (e.g. CD sampler). The idea is that when you follow-up with them by phone call or email, you can say something that will trigger their memory as to who you are (e.g. ‘I was the man who gave away the chocolate business cards.”)
  • Initiate conversation. Get comfortable enough with talking to people that you can always take the initiative to begin the conversation. This serves 3 key purposes. 1) You can put the other person at ease right away with a warm greeting; 2) You get the reputation as a man or woman of action, and, 3) You meet more people! Complimenting someone on something they are wearing is a great way to get the conversation started. You may have a particular comment that you use as an icebreaker. I love to walk up to people and say ‘You look like someone important that I should know!” They can’t help but chuckle and introduce themselves!
  • Approach people who are shy or are standing alone. If you are at a formal conference or networking event, don’t ignore the people who are sitting, eating or standing alone. They might be shy but can still be extremely important to your career. Not everyone with influence is comfortable at these events. If you make them comfortable, they will open up and help you in every way that they can.
  • Be fearless. By this I mean that people, no matter what position they hold, are still only people. We all love to be recognized and appreciated, and we all need good friends. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Don’t let status keep you from making an all-important connection. Don’t let what a person earns stop you from introducing yourself. In fact, it is to your advantage to re-introduce yourself each time you meet that person.
  • Never feel guilty for networking. Everyone is looking to meet people who can help them or who they can help! Labels want to discover the next big star. Producers want clients. Songwriters want to meet artists or publishers to pitch to, or find great co-writers. Executives want to find people with business talent. Publishers and artists want to find that amazing song that they can take to #1. Make no mistake. This is why people go to networking events and conferences. Jump in and be someone’s solution!
  • Never eat alone! When you are at a networking event, never eat by yourself. This defeats the purpose of being there in the first place! Sit next to someone or with people you don’t know and introduce yourself. You never know where it will lead.

If you are shy about networking or prefer to have people to approach you…

  • Wear or carry something that will attract attention. This could be as simple as a stunning set of earrings or an attractive handbag. Something with your log on it big enough for people to see might also do the trick. It doesn’t need to be garish or gaudy – it just needs to stand out in crowd.
  • Play dumb. Ask questions, such as directions to where the beverages are (even if you know the answers). It’s a very simple icebreaker.
  • Volunteer to help! This will immediately give you something in common with the other volunteers. And most times you can’t help but make friends. In addition, you will get to meet a lot of attendees.
  • Offer to help someone else. Whenever possible offer to help someone else. You could carry an elderly person’s plate from the buffet line, offer to refill a drink, find a chair for someone who has trouble standing. Chances are they will ask you to join them and tell them about yourself.
  • Give away promotional items. Giving away promotional items can attract people as well. People feel guilty taking things from you without asking you about who you are and what you do. It also serves as ‘something memorable’ that you can mention in your follow-up with them.
  • Friends in common. Find someone you know and feel comfortable with who is a good networker and ask him or her to introduce you to people.
  • Jobs in common. Find people in the same field that you’re in so you automatically have something in common to talk about.

Above all, here are 2 important suggestions:

  • Be yourself! Never try to be someone or something you’re not. Most people will see right through you. And if they don’t, they will find out soon enough that you’re a phony. That will ruin your chances of getting any support from them at all.
  • Have a strong 20-second elevator pitch:One formula I have found to be successful is:
    • “You know how…. (fill in the blank)?” (e.g. ‘You know how musicians are always looking for a stable income?’)
    • “Well, what I do is…(fill in the blank).” (‘Well, I am a country singer who tours full time on the fair circuit.’)
    • “What I am looking for is… (fill in the blank).” (I am looking to find a strong country drummer with good backup vocals who wouldn’t mind being on the road 44 weeks a year.’)
    • “Who do you know that… (fill in the blank)?” (Who do you know who is a reliable drummer looking for a great, well-paying, long term road gig?’)
About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.