This month our NYC-based columnist, British singer-songwriter Lisa Redford, looks at the importance of getting out there and meeting people
’m looking forward to a summer of festivals and, later this week (at time of writing), being part of a music conference where I’m on a panel discussing social media and being an independent musician. Following the conference, I’m attending a festival where there will be industry people and musicians within the genre I perform, making it a great networking opportunity. This has led me to thinking about networking in general and how you can create mutually beneficial connections to hopefully further your career.
Last time I talked about the importance of social media and how, as a musician, you can utilise the wealth of websites out there to promote yourself. Social networking online has become a daily and integral part of our lives. However, at the same time, it’s crucial to get out there, go to gigs and music events, interact and meet those in the music industry face to face to build genuine relationships. It can be frustrating sending your music to radio and blogs and then waiting and hoping for airplay and press coverage. Why not get out there and actually meet those DJs and bloggers in person?
During my time in New York, I’ve attended various music networking events and been impressed by the confident and direct US approach. I admire the way some American artists talk about themselves and their music with a natural ease. But it can feel like a real challenge to those musicians who are naturally more reticent and less confident in social situations, so how do you make an impression and those valuable contacts?
“If you’re at a gig, make an effort to speak to the artists”
One of the first things I’d suggest is to go to gigs and music events happening in your local area and just get talking to people. Introduce yourself to other musicians, the venue staff and local promoters. If you’re at a gig, make an effort to speak to the artists to say you enjoyed their performance. If you’re anxious striking up conversation, because it is nerve-wracking approaching strangers, then starting small like this is ideal. I know it’s tempting to stay with your friends and observe from afar, but try to talk to one or two new people each time you go out. Music is a perfect conversation starter: find out what they’re listening to, what’s going on in the area and the more people you get to know, the bigger your network will become.
These initial steps of getting to know the people who are influential in your area will help make your presence known. I did this when I first arrived in NY, finding and going along to gigs and the busiest open mic nights and meeting songwriters who are now great friends that I’ve gigged with and done gig swaps. While you hope to make contacts that can help you with your career, you can also offer to help others and exchange information and contacts. This has definitely happened to me, I’ve put musicians in touch with each others and vice versa. It creates nice word of mouth where people will speak positively about you.
If you’re lucky enough to attend a music conference, this is where there’s going to be major press and industry presence. They can be expensive so volunteering should help in getting you amongst the action. I volunteered at the CMJ festival in New York and this enabled me to gain access to all the shows going on. Beforehand, it’s important to do your research and be prepared, find out the relevant people to approach who are going to be potentially interested in your style of music.
Here the internet comes in very handy, allowing you to discover who’ll be attending, their biographies and current projects. It’s impressive knowing a bit about who you might get talking to and lets you ask relevant questions so you have some good conversation starters. I also ensure I’m equipped with plenty of my promotional material, business cards with my contact info and CDs to have something tangible to hand out, should the opportunity arise.
I’ve been at some events where people are just randomly handing out their cards without any conversation or attempt at really getting to know anyone. While this is a very confident approach, rather than just meeting as many people as fast as I can I prefer spending quality time engaging in a worthwhile conversation with those who show a genuine interest. It’s all about creating a rapport, being personable and being yourself.
“An important part of networking is following up”
Now it’s time to maintain your new contacts. An important part of networking is following up. Again, this is where the internet is essential. You can write a brief e-mail saying how it was great meeting, ensuring you add a cool and informative signature with links to your music and of course your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn details. I maintain a contacts folder in my Gmail, making a note of where I met the person and also keep them updated on my music activities, new releases and important gigs.
The internet has been amazing for helping in reaching out to people, but face-to-face connection is still the most immediate way to get to know people and so ideally you’d get both working together to build some valuable contacts. Take and create any opportunities you can to meet influential people in the industry and you never know who is going to hear your music and make that big difference in your career. Every connection made is important, even if takes awhile to feel like things are gaining momentum.
Networking doesn’t have to be awkward and I hope this helps you feel a bit better about doing it. Good luck, get out there and make things happen!
Regular Songwriting columnist Lisa Redford has been described by BBC Radio 2′s Bob Harris as “one of our finest singer/songwriters.” She has earned acclaim for her heartfelt acoustic music with gorgeous melodies, stunning pure and soulful vocals. Lisa recently released an EP called Reminders, recorded with musician and producer Jeff Hill who has worked with Rufus Wainwright and Teddy Thompson. It has received glowing reviews and BBC radio airplay.