I get it. Networking is a scary word. Just the thought of putting yourself out there, having to come up with a myriad of topics to discuss with people you don’t know that well, and let's be honest, putting the added pressure of making a life-changing connection on yourself is enough to make anyone sick with fear. But networking doesn't have to be so scary. In fact, it can be just as fun as it is beneficial. If your idea of networking still consists of putting on your best outfit to go chat with the big wigs, try these four alternatives.
1. Strive to meet at least one new person in every city you visit
One of the most valuable ways to connect with others is through face-to-face interaction. As much as we can form and maintain bonds through emails and social media, meeting face to face still remains the best way to really connect with others. Unfortunately, in an industry so spread out, it can be difficult to meet the people we work with on a regular basis, never mind new people. One thing I've made a point of doing over the last year is whenever I'm traveling – be it for business or pleasure – I seek out the people I've worked with and try to meet up with them while I'm in town. It doesn't have to be an all-day excursion, but even a quick cup of coffee to catch up can make all the difference in maintaining those relationships, as well as forming new ones by way of introduction. Speaking of which...
2. Ask for an introduction
This is an industry built almost entirely off who you know, so don't be afraid to ask those you know well for an introduction to those you don't. You have a much higher chance of success if you know the right people and can act on that. Be genuine and don't abuse your connections, but if there's someone you'd like to connect with, do some digging. It's a much smaller industry than it initially appears, and odds are, you already know someone who can offer that intro.
3. Attend small conferences and festivals
There's certainly something to be gained from attending huge festivals like SXSW, but I'd argue there's just as much, if not more, to be gained from attending smaller conferences and festivals, such as Launch Music Conference. They still attract a lot of heavyweight panelists and artists, but because they're so much more intimate, there's more opportunity to meet those you already admire, as well as make new, lasting connections. Remember, as much as you may want to get the attention of that major-label A&R rep or that manager who seems to have a never-ending stream of clients, your success, at least in the beginning stages of your career, is most likely to come from connections with smaller, growing artists and companies like yourself.
4. Find (or create) a music industry meetup in your city
One of the best ways I've found to unintentionally network is becoming a part of, and later founding, free weekly music industry meetups. In my case, it's Balanced Breakfast, a group that started in San Francisco, which I later helped expand to Boston, Toronto, and Nashville. But when I first arrived in San Francisco, I found myself lonely and desperate to meet others. That's when I accidentally came across Balanced Breakfast, and my life was forever changed. What had started out as a way to meet new friends almost instantly became an incredible networking opportunity – and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It introduced me to other like-minded people, gave me a sense of community belonging, and as it turns out, a slew of clients as well. And if you're wondering, I also made a few lasting friendships along the way. Which, if you think about it, is really what networking is all about. The more you think of it as an opportunity to meet new friends and inspirational people, and less like a life-changing stress fest, the more you'll enjoy it, and the more connections you'll get out of it.
Get more networking tips:
- How to Nail Your Networking and Have Genuine Interactions
- 6 Music Industry Networking Tips Nobody Tells You
- How to Make Meaningful Music Industry Connections (Not Just Contacts)
- 3 Ways an EPK Can Supercharge Your Networking
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the owner of Muddy Paw Public Relations and Infectious Magazine. She has also founded several chapters of the free weekly music industry meetup Balanced Breakfast. Muddy Paw specializes in working with up-and-coming artists on personalized campaigns designed to bring their careers to the next level. To date, we’ve secured placements on sites such as AbsolutePunk, Substream, Property Of Zack, PureVolume, Anti-Music, and many more.