Anyone interested in working in music has heard the age-old phrase "it's all about who you know." It's undoubtedly true - your connections will determine how far you will go, just like in any other business. People often use this phrase to justify why they haven't gotten where they want in their careers - no one will reply, and everyone wants to keep you down, right?
While at first, it may seem unfair and that it's impossible to meet the right people. However, everyone starts in the same place. How you handle yourself and the way you meet people will impact your career for years to come. The quicker you realize this and some other fundamental principles, the quicker you'll start seeing results in your networking and music career.
Let's take a look at some of these principles:
First impressions are vital
The first impressions you make on people will last a lifetime. This is critical to remember in the early stages of your career, so make sure to always treat everyone professionally. Be kind, fun, but also direct. It takes a while to master, so don't worry about nailing it every time. What matters the most is the intention you have behind your interactions - they'll guide you along your path if they come from a good, wholesome place.
Get in the right places
I know, I know… the first response to this is usually "But I can't get the right wristband to end up in the artist lounge and meet everyone." While it may be true that this is tricky, it isn't impossible, especially if you handle yourself professionally and focus on networking outside of events. To get into places like that, you need to have something to bring to the table, and you need to have the right contacts already.
One of the best places you can meet people outside of private areas at events is at events like Dancefair. Dancefair is doing a virtual edition this October, where industry professionals will be networking from their own homes in a virtual world. These kinds of events are the perfect places to learn from professionals and to meet the right people who can help you achieve your dreams.
Even in times like this, it's possible to meet the right people and make stuff happen - you just have to pay attention, find the people you want to meet, and work on your elevator pitch.
Don't be annoying
This piece of advice is blunt but also something you need to take to heart. There's a fine line between being enthusiastic and hard-working, and being annoying and pushy. While you need to make sure you give off good energy and show that you care, it's important not to talk too much and to remember that it's possible to be too enthusiastic. Often, extreme enthusiasm shows an underlying emotional immaturity, something music industry professionals tend to avoid.
All you need is that one connection
To enter the scene of your choice, you only need one close connection who is willing to bank their reputation on introducing you to everyone else. If you can find this person, you'll be in the circles you want before you know it. Finding this one person is a difficult thing to do, and requires a lot of work on your end. You need to become like the people you want to meet before you meet them. Once you reach that right person and you're ready, everything will fall into place.
Be sure that you can back up your claims
The music world is full of people who are all about talk, but who can't deliver. People like this don't last long. Ensure that you don't oversell yourself and that you're honest and authentic with who you want to meet. Business is based on trust and results, not just conversations. While overselling yourself may be a great way to make a first impression, it will bite you later, and you'll lose that connection anyway.
Find proper, emotionally mature mentors
It's pretty easy to get involved with a music project if you want. Lots of people will open their arms to anyone who comes along, but this is something to be wary of. Often, people that have been around the music industry for a long time but have not succeeded will happily bring you on to their projects. Eventually, you'll start to see the music business in a dark and negative way that resents people who are doing what you actually want to do. Make sure to believe in yourself and to look for the people you actually want to work with. Getting involved with random people who you don't see eye to eye with will be a teaching experience, but it will also take up a lot of your time, so it's best to try and identify this early on.
The way to do this properly is to find someone you connect with and who you see doing the things you want to do. Odds are if you approach several of these people and ask if you can work with them somehow, even as an intern, you'll get a positive answer (even though you may have to try a few times).
Don't burn bridges
This is such a tempting thing to do in the music industry, but it never helps anyone. The only thing that burning bridges does is limit your contacts and make events awkward. Keep in mind that the right thing to do is to let things go, and not create bigger issues out of what has already happened. Everybody talks, and getting involved in drama rarely has any benefits in the big picture, even though it may be fun and activate some brain chemicals that make you feel like you're doing the right thing. Be smarter than that, and don't stoop to a lower level!
Don't brag about your connections, and don't trust people who do
We all know the person that hangs out at the club and refers to artists by their first names, pretending to know everyone, and saying they'll get you to this person or that person. If people have a professional relationship with someone important, they will be careful with who they introduce to them, and not just offer them up like items on a menu. Don't forget it's in an artist's interest to be nice to everybody, and many people can misinterpret this as a business connection.
If someone offers to make an introduction for you, take the opportunity regardless, but don't be disappointed if it doesn't work out or if that person gets weird. You'll run into this a lot if you want to work in the music world, so the best thing to do is be aware, be friendly and take your chances, but don't get hung up on someone's empty promises.
If you want to meet the right people, do your research, figure out what the network of the person you want to meet looks like, and try to enter their network by doing something valuable. This is a business at the end of the day, which means that everyone has to give something to take something. If you have something valuable to offer, odds are people will be interested in working with you, because they want to benefit from it themselves.
Don't take it personally when people don't reply
Often, people simply don't want to deal with you. That's the pure truth, although it's a bit painful to realize. No matter how much work you've put in, if you contact someone, there's a good chance that you won't hear back until you've established some form of working relationship. Don't take it personally and accept that it's life in the music industry - you will get left on "read" a lot. People are busy, and if they don't have the right answer to give, they probably won't say anything. Do your best to push through without being annoying, and you'll be alright.
Everyone is human
The music world has a way of idolizing people and making them bigger than life. Remember that we're all human after all, and that people who work in music as professionals aren't any different. You'll be amazed at how normal it is inside the industry once you actually get involved.