There as an old adage I’m sure you’ve heard many times:
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
Add that to another popular quote:
Your network is your net-worth
Then stir them together with this idea:
DIY doesn’t mean do it ALL youself
And what do you get?
The idea that other people can be extremely beneficial to your career in music!
At its heart, this concept is about building relationships with people.
In business, this is often wrapped in a term with a tint of negative connotation; “Networking“.
But not only is networking not the sleazy stereotyped idea that many creatives have, it can be fundamentally pivotal to rapidly launch you closer to your dreams and goals.
A quick google search “define networking” brings up this definition:
network – interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts
Essentially, you create a relationship with another person and both exchange value from it.
In that sense, it’s no different from any connection you make; your friends, your family, etc.
The difference is that with business networking we tend to proactively “do” it; we actively seek out new connections.
Basically, we try to make new friends.
Because underneath the business label of “networking” that’s all it is; making friends with people.
And that’s something we knew instinctively how to do as kids, lost a little once we left education, then perhaps gained a bit if we became parents
(because mums and dads tend to develop a new “network” of other mum and dad friends once they hit that stage of their lives; yep, I’m talking from current experience!)
Regardless of stage or reason for wanting to make new friends, we tend to do so over a common ground; a shared interest.
At nursery, it’s playing with the same toys.
At school, it’s being in social groups and sharing hobbies.
As a parent, it revolves around our kids.
But somehow when it comes to making friends in the music business, to networking, many people view it as something different, some dark art skill that only some people have.
It’s simple; just make friends with people over shared interests.
Those interests might be a musical genre.
They might be your own music.
They might be the mutual ability to make money from your activities.
Whatever the common interest, the rules of friendship apply equally to networking; be nice to people, listen to them, give them time, always seek to help where you can, don’t be a dick, etc.
Above all, don’t rush straight to asking something of a new acquaintance; no-one wants to spend time with that guy, who’s always “Me! Me! Me!”.
And, just like it is a lonely and pretty boring life without good friends, so too is a career in music, without a good network.
A good network will give you more opportunities than you’ll be able to deal with.
If you’re a songwriter, your songwriting peers will give you collaboration opportunities. Often this is a route to your first cut; you never know which songwriter friend might end up signed to a publisher, giving you a chance to write with them for a signed artist, or even using a co-written song to get a cut.
If you’re a performer, your performing peers might help you get slots on bigger shows.
And these are just your current peers. Many “industry people” are easily reachable, open to chatting and will readily help you…if you’ve first built up a good friendship with them.
This doesn’t mean taking them out for their birthday and having them round for dinner once a month. It simply means that you’ve met them a few times, often at multiple music events, and developed a good rapport; they can see you’re genuine, polite, nice and are happy to be around you.
The point is, if you take time to cultivate your business relationships in a relaxed and amiable fashion – like you would with friends – you’ll be amazed at what opportunities will turn up, and how, almost overnight, you can jump rungs up “the career ladder” that would have taken you years to achieve, if you’d been staying at home on your own and trying to do it all yourself.
Obviously one can meet people “online”. Twitter can be a great resource to make new connections. As can leaving comments on someone’s content; if you like or find value in what they say, let them know – everyone likes to have this kind of feedback.
But nothing will beat face-to-face; if you really want to connect, you need to get “out there” and see people – and be seen; if people recognise you from multiple music-related events they’ll know you’re serious about what you do. And they’ll take you more seriously as a result.
Obviously, events and opportunities to meet people vary enormously from city to city, so sometimes you might have to travel to meet people (or start your own event), but think of it as an investment in your career; if you’re not prepared to invest in yourself, why do you expect anyone else to?
Regardless of where you are, a good starting place is looking on Meetup and Eventbrite. Look for free events, paid events, workshops, seminars and courses; all of these will bring you into contact with more people – industry and peers – who will have more information for you, more ideas and more events you could go to.
Search out, join and participate in Facebook Groups too.
At first, you might not uncover much, but with a little persistence, and especially talking to other people, you’ll soon start finding more and more opportunities to network.
And, if you go to them, you’ll start seeing more and more familiar faces – that’s when you know it’s working!
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take it easy, small steps. Before you know it, you’ll have covered a great distance.
And you’ll have a solid network, bringing you opportunities and, perhaps as importantly, a support group of like-minded people, mentors and people on the same crazy journey as you.
BONUS: if you are in London, probably the biggest (and surely the best!) networking event is John Saunderson‘s Notting Hill Music Networking Monthly events at Tileyard Studios (see featured image at the top of this post). They are free. The next one is November 17th, 2016. Details here.