When it comes to the music industry, there’s one thing you can count on to make or break your career. It’s not how talented you are, or how catchy your music is. It’s not even your well curated band persona—though all of these things are incredibly important.
It’s the relationships you build.
Odds are you’ve heard this before—but what does it really mean?
In a nutshell, building relationships is about giving more than you take. It’s about offering support and guidance just as much, if not more, than you ask for that same thing back.
Successful relationship building comes from asking “what can I do to make their life better?” rather than “how can this benefit me?” It comes from genuine care for another person’s well being, and a consistent nurturing of that relationship.
So how can you start to do this?
One of my favorite ways to connect with new people is Facebook Groups. They’re extremely underutilized, and yet, can be incredibly beneficial. One of the beauties of the internet is that we’re able to connect with people from across the globe. That means if you want to meet someone who does licensing in Europe, you can. If you know you’re touring FL next year and want to make artist and fan connections there, you can. Simply put, the internet connects us to opportunities around the world, and Facebook Groups are one of the fastest ways to do that.
Of course, there are a lot of terrible Facebook groups out there, filled with spam, that have essentially become dumping grounds for “check out my band” posts. But there are also a ton of incredible ones that will put you in contact with supportive artists and industry professionals who actually want to help you. A few of my favorites include the Music Launch Hub, Music Biz Besties (ladies only), and The Rock/Star Collective.
So what do you do once you’re actually inside these groups?
First, take a moment to introduce yourself. Usually these groups have a no link policy, but the intro is the exception. Just try to keep it quick, but interesting. “Hi I’m Joe and I play in a band called Satellite from Austin, TX” is not interesting. But throw in an anecdote, a unique fact, or something that provides value to your audience, like “Hi I’m Joe, a 4-time pie eating contest champion who also plays in a band called Satellite from Austin, TX” and we have a conversation starter.
Don’t forget, this opportunity isn’t just about taking. The real value in these groups isn’t in how much free advice or support you can get for your own project, it’s in the value you bring to others, and the community you find and foster through that. So rather than just asking questions, take the time to go into these groups a few times a week and offer your own support and guidance to others’ questions. The more present you are, and the more you get involved in the community, the more value you’ll be able to find.
Meetups are by far my favorite way to connect with others in a genuine way. When I was first building my career in the music industry, I stumbled across an in-person meetup in San Francisco called Balanced Breakfast. Every Thursday at 8am we met for breakfast, got to know one another, and talked shop about everything from securing gigs to marketing ourselves, to how to create a lasting career. We were friends first, and that made networking feel pretty organic.
When I left SF, I took the spirit of Balanced Breakfast with me, and with the founders’ blessing, started chapters across the US and Canada. Now it operates in over 30+ cities across the world. Odds are, if you’re in a major city, you have a BB in your community, and if so, I’d highly suggest checking it and joining as a way to get involved and start building those relationships.
Even if you don’t have a BB within your city, I bet you have another meetup that happens monthly or quarterly. Some will post on Meetup.com, others are more a word of mouth deal that you’ll start to get word of the more involved you are with your local scene, and others still that are just waiting to be created.
That’s right, I’m saying if you don’t have a meetup in your city, start one yourself! Even if it’s just 5 people getting together for breakfast once a week to air their struggles and celebrate their triumphs, it’s a fantastic way to build and nurture your existing relationships. Before long, you’ll start to see your little group expand, and you’ll find new connections by way of introductions.
There’s no doubt about this one—conferences are a sure fire way to meet new people, and to be honest, the smaller the conference, the better for networking. Conferences like Launch Music Conference and Festival, that keep capacity at only a few hundred or so, allow you to really get to know the people you’re sitting next to, and so long as you put in the effort of introducing yourself, and getting to know them, you’re well on your way to building those relationships.
Of course, every city has shows, and this is one of the most reliable ways to steadily meet the people in your scene. Go to enough shows, especially at the same venues/nights (IE: open mic night at Venue X, Free indie night at Venue Y) and you’ll start to see the same faces. All it takes is chatting with one or two people a week, and you’ll start to get to know them, as well as be invited to other events, and get to know other people. Try to get on a schedule of attending shows regularly, and giving yourself a goal of how many people per night to talk to, and you’ll slowly start to see your opportunities expand.