Advice Clinic

How to network in the music industry

21st March 2018

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Networking has a bad rep. Chances are, you’re picturing a grey hotel conference room that reeks of sweat and desperation, full of bathroom salesmen in stick-on name badges trying to land the Toilet Kingdom contract. Thankfully, networking in the music industry is far less formal, much less tragic, and really just means hanging out at cool places and chatting to like-minded people (which shouldn’t sound too hideous or intimidating). Here’s how to talk your way to the top.

#1. Get out there

Nobody ever got famous by hiding in their bedroom. Social media has its merits, but pokes from strangers are easy to ignore and you’ll build stronger connections when you’re stood face-to-face sinking Jägerbombs. Presumably, you love music, so you should be hanging out at places where the industry congregates, whether that’s gigs, jam nights, open mics, trade shows, workshops or festivals. Any music-related happening is a potential goldmine of new contacts and friends, so try a spread of events – both local and national – so you don’t always shake the same hands.

#2. Make it natural

We all want to get ahead in our careers, but nobody likes the fast-talking chancer who butts into a conversation, launches into their pitch, blanks anyone they don’t deem important enough and follows the Universal chairman to the urinals to give him the hard sell. As an aspiring musician, you should be genuinely interested in what other industry players have to say, and a business relationship should grow organically from there. Fundamentally, try to come across as a human being enjoying a conversation – not an Apprentice contestant who deserves a restraining order.

#3. Sell yourself

At some point, a stranger will ask what you do or what your band sounds like – and if you just stand there fiddling with your belt and muttering: “Uh, we’re like, y’know, like, sort of metal, but y’know…”, they’ll assume your music is also muddled and lacking in purpose. While you don’t want to sound scripted, or bang on like a human sat-nav, it pays to think about your strengths in advance and boil them down into a snappy soundbite that makes people want to know more. Practising in the mirror is optional.

#4. Give something back

Networking isn’t a one-way street, and if you’re forever asking for breaks and advice – but never give back – you’ll soon get a reputation as a parasite. If you’re talking to someone who can help you, consider what you can do in return. Favours run out, but lasting business relationships are built when you scratch each other’s backs.

#5. Follow up

Handing out your business card is a no-brainer. But if you can do so discreetly, without coming off like a stalker, it’s best to get their contact details and put yourself in control. Don’t seem desperate by leaving a six-minute voicemail that same night. But don’t let the trail go cold either. If you make a connection, shoot them an email within a few days to pick up the thread. If you don’t, your face will fade and they’ll forget that brilliant joke you made about Gary Glitter and the rubber gloves.

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Author

Henry Yates

Henry Yates is a freelance journalist who has written for music magazines including Classic Rock, Total Guitar, Guitarist, NME and Metal Hammer, and brands including V Festival, Download, Epiphone, Yamaha, Roland and Universal. His proudest career moment was meeting Jimmy Page - and his toughest assignment was interviewing Pharrell Williams."