Let’s talk networking. First thing’s first: the music industry as a whole is a network. A network of people, musicians, creatives, industry experts – the list goes on. I know it can seem scary at first, but networking is one of the most crucial tools within the music industry. And in the long run, it can help develop opportunities and contacts – all based on introductions or referrals; this could be online or face-to-face.
Now, you may be thinking: why should I network? The answer is simple! The majority of the time, both parties will benefit in some way. What each individual gains out of the experience will be unique to them. For example, if you are a songwriter and want to know how to get your song published, networking is a good step to find out more information on how to do that. A speaker at a conference can share their experiences from working in publishing and the requirements they’d expect from a published songwriter, or a fellow musician who you follow on social media is published and can share their experience from the songwriter’s point of view. Networking is also great for making new contacts and clients/customers.
If you haven’t taken part in a networking event before it can seem daunting and you may feel anxious – even seasoned networkers still get anxious. It just takes a bit of time to become comfortable with it An organised approach can help overcome these anxieties – doing your research, feeling prepared, and finding the relevant opportunities can make the experience more enjoyable.
There are loads of different events and opportunities that lend themselves to networking, such as:
• Music conferences/seminars
• Training courses
• Songwriting camps/industry camps
• Speed networking events
• Festivals and gigs
• Social Media
• Email Introductions
• Online Forums
When networking, it is important to identify specific connections and industry experts that are relevant to you. Finding which connections are relevant to your field can be based on several factors, such as common interests, which sector of the music industry you are in, what stage you are at, location, specifically organised networking events or mutual connections online or in general. The more relevant the targeted contacts are to you, the more useful your networking outcome will be.
When you’ve identified your targeted field that your desired connections are in, you may ask: who should I be networking with? This really depends on what you aim to get out of talking to someone. This will become apparent when you have developed a clear and concise strategy.
It is crucial to make sure you don’t aimlessly seek just any networking opportunity. It is imperative to remember that connections must be quality over quantity.
Devising a networking strategy
It is crucial to make sure you don’t aimlessly seek just any networking opportunity. It is imperative to remember that connections must be quality over quantity. Therefore, when devising your strategy, ask yourself: who can help me achieve my personal aim?
It’s also good to be able to give something back, so ask yourself how you are able to help them too.
A networking strategy will provide you with a clear and concise purpose – this will help you know who you want to speak to, how they can benefit you and ensure that you are not biting off more than you can chew. You can do this by:
• Writing out networking aims and objectives
Setting out your aims and objectives is effective in ensuring you get the most out of your networking experience. They could even be as simple as talking to three booking agents.
• Plan and prepare for each event you attend
Once you have your main aims set, you will be able to hone in on these and make them even more specific to the networking event you are planning to attend.
• Research. Research. Research
Research is key and maybe one of the most important aspects of networking. If you want to talk to a specific industry expert, make sure you know about their company, what they do, and even more importantly, what they look like.
• Be an active networker and follow up
Taking the time to follow up can leave a lasting impression, which in turn will make you get more out of the experience. This is why being active, using initiative, planning and following up can be an important part of your strategy.
• Review and Evaluate
It’s really important to review and evaluate your strategy. If your networking approach isn’t working and bringing in opportunities, then it’s time to change it up! With more time and experience, you will be able to improve it and really home in on the skill of networking.
Usually, networking will begin with your peers. Take BIMM for example (which is a great place to begin).
It is a hub, which consists of musicians, lecturers, producers, future managers and many more. A lot of people meet, form a band, attract the eye of lecturers and then go on to play gigs such as Live and Lyrical and End of Term gigs. This can sometimes lead to other opportunities to play at well-known festivals such as Glastonbury and 2000Trees. Without even realising it… You. Are. Networking.
It is important to be aware of ‘hard networking’ vs ‘soft networking’. The term ‘hard networking’ is given when people are at specific industry events, such as conferences or speed networking events where they are expected to push a hard sell. For example, trying to pitch your music to an A&R representative in 5 minutes. At ‘soft networking events’, the hard sell is to be avoided. It is important to have an awareness of the type of situation you are in (formal or informal) and adapt your networking style accordingly.
6 TOP NETWORKING TIPS
• Have a pitch prepared – what are you selling?
• Have a unique selling point (USP) – what makes you stand out of the crowd?
• Be you – authenticity is key
• Be relevant – what can you bring to the table that’s new and exciting?
• Plan your networking – fail to prepare. Prepare to fail
• Follow up – actively follow up to leave a lasting impression.
I will leave you with this – don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Most people are open to networking! Always remember: if you don’t ask, you don’t get!