Networking at Music Events is one of the most important skills that I’ve developed over the years and is a critical skill for connecting, and developing relationships with people in the music industry. This principle is true in any industry, and it’s especially true in the music industry. You’ve heard the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I remember Nelly telling me that this music industry in 80% business and 20% talent.
That 80% business, outside of understanding publishing, contracts, etc., is developed through networking and establishing relationships. You can be the most gifted and talented individual in this business but if you’re not connecting with people and building those key relationships then that talent and gift become useless. You can’t just expect to sit in your basement, make music, and then expect for someone to find you in the vast sea of independent artists jockeying for attention.
When you think of networking, what do you think of? Possibly business people rubbing shoulders, schmoozing each other while kicking back drinks at the open bar? Or engaging in small chatter, passing out business cards with the hope that they’ll remember and call you? For some, the mere term discourages them from connecting with others. For others, the financial cost involved attending events and conferences can be staggering. No matter your viewpoint of networking, the facts still remains that if you want to succeed in this business you have to come up out of the bedroom or basement studio and start engaging with people. I myself am attending five major events this year.
In this article, I am going to share with you what I’ve learned while attending music events and conferences and arm you with tools to help you start connecting with others. John Wooden, ex-coach of the UCLA Bruins used to say “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” This principle applies directly to the success or failure of your networking efforts. You can’t just show up and then expect for things to go the way you want. You have to plan your efforts so that you can maximize your presentable opportunities to their fullest. Here are a few things that I picked up:
- Do Your Research.
Determine what types of events you will directly benefit from and what these events offer you to help position you for success. While you may want to attend as many events or conferences as possible, you can’t. You may be an up and coming hip hop producer but attending a folk music conference may not best benefit your career. As a producer and songwriter, I look for events that cater to my style of music and afford me the opportunity to connect with others in my genre.
Part of developing your game plan is determining your outcomes. You need to understand your overall purpose for attending. Is it to solely make connections and pass out your newly designed business card? Is it to make people aware of your services? Is it to promote your new album? This will help you focus your efforts and develop your personal brand message (explained later). You need to also figure out who are the people that are going to matter most to you? You can’t possibly connect with everyone at the event, so decide beforehand those 5-7 key people you want to connect with. Make sure that you do your research prior so you know about them and what they may be able to offer you. If I want to place a song in a movie or TV show, I’m going to talk to music supervisors. I’m not saying that someone else may not have a connect within that arena but you’ll have better chances with those who are directly involved and make decisions.
- Determine Your Personal Brand Message.
The adult attention span has dramatically reduced the past several years. Keeping someone interested can be a difficult task since most people are prone to get bored or drift off within the first ten seconds of a conversation. You have to keep in mind that you’re not the only person that they’ll be meeting, so you need to make sure that you engage your listener early, capture their attention, and make yourself memorable within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. You may have heard this called an “Elevator Speech.”
This is something I’ve learned a long time ago due to my career in Corporate America. An elevator speech is a clear, brief message or “commercial” about you. It communicates who you are, what you’re looking for and explains your overall purpose and intent. It’s typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator.
How does it work? Here is a structure to help you develop a great “commercial” for yourself.
- Introduce Yourself Memorably and Professionally
Make sure to state your personal name and give a quick intro of what you do musically such as “Hi, I’m Brian and I am a music creator, producer and songwriter.” Make sure you shake their hand in the process.
- Flatter the Person
This will go a long way especially if he or she is in your top 5-7. Compliment the person in a way that shows you did your homework. It could be that they’ve won a recent award, or wrote a hit, or that you enjoyed their topic during the event. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to sound like an over-excited fan.
- State Your Differentiating Factors
You should be able to succinctly describe what you do and what sets you apart if you’ve done the planning piece appropriately. What’s different about you and your music? Why should they come to you rather than someone else? Do you have a unique sound or style? Are you a trendsetter or a follower? Whatever makes you unique, just be sure to state it concisely.
- WIIFT (What’s In It For Them)
As a sales trainer for many years, uncovering this element is critically important to closing the deal. How can you clearly describe how they will benefit from your product or service, your skill set, your connections, etc.? In other words, don’t focus on you; focus on the other person.
- Request a Meeting
Since you may not be able to get into a full-fledge conversation, try to schedule a meeting where you can provide more information about what you have to offer. Utilize the “two positive choices close” where you offer two convenient times and locations for the meeting. For instance, “Can I buy you lunch in the hotel restaurant when we break at 11:30 a.m., or meet for a beverage in the bar tonight at 6:00 p.m.?” Either solution meets your goal.
- Have Your Information Ready
If you’re going to request a meeting to discuss things further, then you better make sure that you have your information squared away. After all you just gave a great commercial only to have it flop because you’re not prepared. Determine what information you’ll disclose. They may not want you to disclose your 10-year plan but you might say more about your short-term goals, your plan to promote your career, how much money you may need to fund an upcoming project, what your biggest risks are, and how you plan to reduce these risks.
- Business Cards!
Rather than just randomly passing out your card, offering your business card now has purpose and context. This way they can be sure to keep your card rather than just throwing it in with the stack they already have. Ask kindly for a card in return, and be sure to follow up in a week or two from the initial meeting.
- Develop Purposeful Questions.
This is something that I learned from singer/songwriter Priscilla Renea in 2016. The purpose of engaging with others is to have a meaningful dialogue within a short period of time, pitch your commercial, determine their WIIFT, and make it memorable. Most people can’t even accomplish the first part of having a meaningful dialogue. The barely scratch the surface with their questioning technique. The goal is to anticipate the kind of people you are likely to meet and think about what you would like to ask them, what you would like to learn from them. Have a list of pointed questions ready such as:
- What projects are you working on?
- What is your main focus this year?
- What do you see hindering your success?
- How can I help you accomplish your goal?
Here are some Dos and Don’ts that you need to consider as well when networking. This list is not an exhaustive and I am sure there are others to consider as well.
- Be intentional.
Focus your efforts while at the event. Don’t spam the audience with your business card. While attending an event I intentionally connected with Focus, producer for Dr. Dre and others. I waited until the masses dispersed and then I made my move. We had a great conversation about music and possibly being related to Dennis Edwards from The Temptations. You have to know when it’s the right time to approach someone. Don’t interrupt an already established conversation.
- Be yourself.
Don’t try to be someone your not or put up a front. Combine your personality with professionalism while engaging with other. It goes a long way believe me.
- Accept rejection.
You will have to accept the fact that people are too busy or they are uninterested. Don’t take this personally. Don’t post on your social media that he or she was a jerk. That’ll be a sure way to ruin any chance you may have. Think about how you might be able to overcome that rejection. You could say something like “I know that your time is precious and I don’t want to waste it. Is it possible to connect with you later over dinner?”
- Follow up.
Following up is one of the most important parts of building relationships, well that and doing what you say your going to do. We live in a busy world and emails, texts, and phone messages are often forgotten. It’s good to check in and follow up with an important contact every few weeks.
- Quid Pro Quo (This for That).
You can’t expect to get something without offering something in return. Offer free help, favors, information, advice, reduced services, etc. You have to live by the principle of reciprocity.
- Rudely interrupt.
There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break. You may be able to find a space to squeeze in but if that doesn’t present itself, you’ll have to wait until it’s over. What I’ve found to be funny is that sometimes people know that you’re waiting to speak to that connection so they’ll monopolize their time and hope that you’ll leave.
- Don’t give your business card to everyone.
Most people just give out business cards like their throwing dollars in a music video. The reality is that most people throw them away. The purpose of handing out your business card is to make a meaningful connection after the event. When I ask for or give a business card it’s because I want to truly connect with that person.
- Don’t “work the room.”
Don’t try to meet as many people as possible at the event. Focus on establishing a few solid connections. People can sense when you are just trying to shove your card, or your latest Mixtape in their face. These types of strategies never work and in reality they work against you.
- Don’t be deceiving.
I attended an event where the guest speaker joined via Skype and was accepting questions from the audience. There was a long line and limited time to interact with the speaker. One guy got up and not only did he not ask a question, he hijacked the Q&A session by introducing his artist who did an impromptu performance for the speaker. While he may have done something unforgettable, his approach was certainly unwelcomed and rude.
- Don’t be that “guy” or “gal”.
- Avoid overzealous self-promotion.
This is likely to annoy rather than build a valuable relationship. See above!
Well there you have it. Now you can go forth and experience successful networking opportunities and establish meaningful relationship.