“It’s all about who you know” is a cliche repeated so often that we simply tune it out. But the fact is, it’s true. And it’s not just who you know – it's also what kind of relationships you have. There are artists who have been very successful simply because they're great "hangs."
If you're only able to do one thing to improve your music career, it should be working on your ability to make and maintain great connections. It’s something that I’m always trying to work on, and it’s something that you can start working on right now. Here's how.
1. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People
This classic book will change the way you make friends and connections forever. It may sound cheesy, but it’s 100 percent not. It'll teach you how to make great connections without forcing anything and how to approach those connections with the right attitude. Seriously. Do it.
2. Remember names
Remembering names is super hard, and I believe it’s even harder for musicians. We meet 15-plus people in a night easily. And usually it’s dark and the music is loud and everyone has had a few drinks.
But have you ever met someone once, then met that person again later on, and he or she remembered your name right away? You instantly like them. On the flip side, if you’ve ever been that person who remembered someone’s name, you can tell right away how much people appreciate it.
Here are a few tips for remembering names:
- Keep a spreadsheet of nearly everyone you meet. My bandmate started doing this, and it’s amazing how well it works. He organized it by city, included where he met the person, what they talked about, etc. Then, when we toured back to a city, he would review the spreadsheet and remember way more names.
- When someone tells you his or her name, repeat it back. Then try visualizing the individual letters in the name. Try to bring his or her face to mind along with this visualization. This works for me about 70 percent of the time.
3. Stay in touch with people you meet
My band started doing this thing where we email people who sign up for our mailing list that day or the next day. It’s easy enough to do, because there’s usually travel time to sit around and send emails.
These emails are as personal and individual as possible, usually referencing something in the conversation that we had with the person who signed up. Immediately, people feel valued and appreciated, and when you’re fighting for every fan, they are!
You can extend this to everyone you meet. It never hurts to send a quick text saying, “Hey, I loved hanging out with you!” And beyond that, meet up with people in person. If you’re traveling through a city or have a free lunch hour, that’s the perfect time to meet up with someone and develop a friendship.
The thing is, you can’t do it with the ulterior motive of using someone for business. People see right through that. You need actually want to be friends with someone and literally just hang out.
A lot of the time, if I’m hanging out with a someone who also happens to be a great industry connection, I just don’t talk business. Nobody wants to talk about work all the time. Usually, it will come into the conversation naturally. Don’t force it.
4. Be flexible and helpful
A big part of making good connections is being helpful to other people. There are often times when someone will ask you to do something that may be an inconvenience to you. Whether it’s switching around a slot on a three-band bill or playing a festival a day later than planned, these things happen, and you can make someone very happy by being accommodating.
If you have a manager, he or she can say yes or no to these things without impacting how people perceive you. If you don’t have a manager, then your decisions on things like this directly impact how people see your band. If you’re accommodating, flexible, and helpful, people will be much more likely to work with you. That’s the reputation you want to have.
All that being said, you don’t need to be a pushover. You don’t need to be constantly giving away opportunities. It's perfectly alright to say no if that’s the best decision for you.
5. Don't be pushy
Everything takes longer than you think it will. This is pretty much the main thing I've learned over the last three years, and I continue to relearn this lesson over and over again.
Don’t push relationships farther than they're supposed to go. A relationship that develops naturally over time will be much stronger than something forced. And the truth is, if it’s a business relationship, it takes time for people to get a sense of how serious you are, what you’re like to work with, and whether or not you would be a good fit for whatever it is they’re doing.
Have patience, remember names, be nice, be helpful, be genuine, and good things will come your way.
Get more networking tips and tricks:
- How to Nail Your Networking and Have Genuine Interactions
- 3 Ways an EPK Can Supercharge Your Networking
- 10 Steps to Master Networking at Music Conferences
- How to Make Meaningful Music Industry Connections (Not Just Contacts)
Liam Duncan is a full-time musician from Winnipeg, Canada. He likes to record music with friends and tour with The Middle Coast.