At this point, the word "connections" has probably been beaten into your brain so many times that you don't even want to think about it anymore. But what does it mean to actually "connect" with somebody, and how does that really help you?
Well, a connection is more than just somebody you've met once at your friend's gig. When you've made a real connection, that person has enough of a working understanding about your skills and personality that he or she knows when you'd be perfectly suited for an opportunity that comes about. And the same should be true the other way around.
Of course, this means that your connections can suggest your name or give you a call when those opportunities do come up. But the problem is, many folks seem to assume that that's all that a "connection" is good for. In reality, good connections, especially those farther along in their careers than you, can be a wealth of information, advice, and other connections that you can access to help your own career. These are the connections you really want to pursue. Even if they don't have a gig to offer you, the knowledge they have could be worth a lot more down the road.
Start with the musicians you know
Who should you be talking to? Who would be of most benefit? How do you go about finding these gurus to connect with?
Well, in a perfect world, you'd be able to meet up with one of your industry heroes to sit and talk shop. Maybe that will happen to you at some point, but most of those folks are going to be too busy to be accessible to young up-and-comers who are eager to shoot them a bunch of emails. Your goal should be finding somebody to meet up with who does the same (or similar) thing as you want to do, but is just a little bit farther along on the road. Imagine what the you of today would be able to say to the you of five years ago that could have drastically improved your life, or at least made it easier. That's exactly what a great session with a helpful new connection should feel like.
It might take a little digging before you find people like this. If you don't already know somebody who fits this description, just start with your friends who are active musicians. Meet with them one day and talk about exactly what you are wanting to do, and see if they have an advice to offer. Then, always ask if they know anybody else who does something similar to what you want to do. Most of the time they'll offer to connect you with somebody, but it can slip people's minds as something to suggest sometimes. Try not to leave a meeting without getting at least one more name to reach out to.
Eventually, after making enough musical contacts and having enough meetings and introductions, you'll start meeting people who meet the above description – people who are following similar career trajectories and with similar skill sets, but who are just one to five years of work farther along than you. These people will likely have really great advice to offer you and will be able to see if you could be shifting your focus to better achieve your goals. Not only that, but they'll likely have additional contacts who are all following a similar trajectory to you. This will allow you to get advice from many different perspectives and will also establish you into a group of likeminded people who all know each others' skills and work together to help each other out. By this point, after this long chain of meetings, your contact base will be large and very effective.
Use the internet to expand your pool of possible connections
So, besides asking other musicians, how do you actually go about setting these meetings up and making these connections?
The internet really is an incredible tool. There are probably hundreds of active blogs online that are written by active musicians and music industry professionals, all of which offer education and advice to those who are stuck or don't know where to get started. (The Sonicbids blog, of course, is an excellent example of this.) Understand that all of these writers are real people! If you're an active reader of a music blog and seem to really enjoy a particular writer, why not look him or her up? You might be surprised to find that some writers live in the same city as you! If that's the case, just reach out with a polite email. Oftentimes, if they aren't too busy, they'll be more than happy to meet and connect with you.
A quick Google search can produce some good results as well. If you want to be a session drummer in Austin, just search "session drummer Austin TX." Listen through some of the players who come up, and reach out to the guys you enjoy listening to and who seem to know what they're doing. It's likely that you won't hear back from many of them, but if you send out a decent number of messages, you should be able to meet up with at least one or two of them.
Typing "session drummer Austin TX" into YouTube will likely bring you even more local professionals you could reach out to. You can also try it with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or even other search engines such as Yahoo or Bing. Many of the people you find will have email addresses easily accessible that you can utilize to get in touch with them. If not, try just messaging them on their own social media pages. (Using Twitter or Instagram to do this is the least invasive way to go, as using Facebook might seem too personal to some people.)
Try sending an email to local studio owners about players/composers/business people they're connected with, and ask them nicely to share their contact information. Try looking at the classifieds (on the internet or in actual print publications), or on café bulletin boards. If you have a local chapter of a musicians' union in your area, it will typically have a large database of local musicians that have unionized.
If you're looking to really drill down and target bands in a specific location or genre, or with a certain amount of show history or social media presence, the Sonicbids Band Search tool is hands down the best way to go. Whether you're looking to connect with other groups in your area to get advice from or just looking for somebody new to play shows with, its advanced search filters are very powerful, and you don't even have to waste time looking up their contact information because you can message them right on Sonicbids!
There are tons and tons of ways to hunt down other musicians who can give you advice, and most of them are just a couple of emails away from a pleasant meeting. Don't be shy – just get in touch!
You may also like:
- How and Why to Find the Right Mentor for Your Music Career
- 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
Dylan Welsh is a freelance musician and music journalist, based in Seattle, WA. He currently plays in multiple Seattle bands, interns at Mirror Sound Studio, and writes for the Sonicbids blog. Visit his website for more information.