When I think about the times I’ve been happiest in my life, I can tie each and every moment back to one central theme: community.
Inside the music industry and out, a sense of belonging, support, and understanding is crucial to not only our basic sanity and survival, but our ability to truly thrive.
When I first decided to create a full time career in the music industry, I already had 5 years experience as a part-time industry professional doing a variety of writing assignments both on my own blog, Infectious Magazine, and others. When I decided to venture into the world of public relations and open my own agency, Muddy Paw PR, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the timing couldn’t have been better. It just so happened I had moved to San Francisco and stumbled across an incredible in-person weekly music community called Balanced Breakfast—and it changed my life.
Through the strength of that community I found some of my closest friends, supporters, and my first clients. Five years later and I still consider Breakfast one of the most incredible, inclusive, supportive communities I’ve been part of, and credit it for the start of my career.
Take that in for a second—without the power of community, I may never have launched or had success with my company. I might not have been in the music industry at all. I almost certainly wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
The strength of community has literally changed my life.
While I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by so much support since the early days of Muddy Paw, I spent many days in the first half of my career when I was running my music blog, feeling completely isolated, which led to frustration, depression, and complete anxiety. And although I didn’t know it at the time, I wasn’t alone. So many in the industry feel this way.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the idea that to succeed in this industry, someone else has to fail. I’ve never believed that to be the case, and I certainly don’t believe it today—not with all the wonderful people I’ve met in the last decade and the vibrant communities that are popping up online and off.
So if you’re ready to ask for help, support others, and take your career in a new direction, read on for 5 ways to begin transforming your career through community and collaboration.
Get involved with something outside your comfort zone
First and foremost, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable before you start to see progress. There’s that old saying that true transformation happens just outside your comfort zone, and it couldn’t be more true. Every major positive change that’s happened in my life has come with some serious discomfort beforehand—it’s just a fact of life. So the first bit of advice I have is simply this: get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and trust the process.
Find (or create) an in-person meetup
Now for you introverts, you’re going to need to hold that advice close to your heart for this suggestion—it’s time to get out there and meet people in person. Believe it or not, I’m an introvert myself, and the first time I went to a Balanced Breakfast meeting I was borderline terrified. I knew when I was invited out that I had to go, that networking was important, and that it would be a positive experience, if only for my own personal growth. But when I actually got there and walked into an already crowded room and didn’t know anyone, I was overwhelmed.
I was lucky in that moment that the co-founder who had invited me took me under his wing and introduced me to everyone—a favor I now try to return anytime I see someone who seems uncomfortable in an environment I’m comfortable. But there have been plenty of moments since that first Breakfast meeting where I’ve had to force myself to walk up to a group, introduce myself, and make small talk, trusting that it would lead to more substantial conversation, connection, and collaboration in the future. If you put in the effort, it comes back to you.
As a starting point, I’d check out the Breakfast website linked above—it’s in over 30 cities, and may even be in yours. But if not—get out there and create your own event! Even if it’s you and 5 other people at the start, having even one or two other people to bounce ideas off and to know have your back is crucial.
There’s no magic advice here—it really is as simple as get out there, introduce yourself, and keep meeting new people. At some point you’ll find a few people to take you under their wing—that’s how you’ll know you’ve found a valuable community.
Join online communities
Breathe a sigh of relief at this one—the next piece of advice I have is to get involved with online communities. There are SO many out there, but I suggest starting with Facebook groups. There are a lot of amazing ones (and some not so amazing ones), but a couple go-tos that I love are the Music Launch Hub and Music Biz Besties (ladies only.) I’m an active user of both, and co-hosting a 7-day live digital summit with the former this Nov 1st -7th, which is chock full of community and collaboration opportunities. In fact, that’s kind of the whole point of it!
Being part of a group that includes people from across the world, in a variety of genres and industries means you have access to a mix of experiences. Not only does this lead to a stronger community and access to tons of different knowledge next time you get stuck, but it really opens the door for a slew of collaboration opportunities
Offer your expertise
Remember, for involvement in any community to work, especially these online ones where you’re missing the natural element of in-person interaction, you have to give more than you take.
This means answering more questions than you ask, volunteering your expertise on other people’s posts and questions, and being there for advice and support. If we’re all looking out for one another, we can’t go wrong.
Find a mentor
I’m a big believer in having at least one, preferably 2-3 mentors in your life. Ideally at least one of these mentors will be someone you have direct access to, who you can ask questions when you’re feeling stuck, or go to when you need support after a rough day. However, we can also find inspiration in mentors that we can’t speak to (maybe they’re mega stars, passed on, or just otherwise inaccessible). Still, we can find guidance in their paths via past interviews, bios, books, and studying the moves and marks they’ve made on the world.
Getting out there and making connections is the best way to find introductions to new opportunities. As someone who spent the first half of her career insistent on going it alone, and the latter half embracing an incredible network of supporters, take it from me—together really is better, and we can get so much more done if only we support, encourage, and lift one another up.