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5 Tips For Networking Like a Rock Star

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The music industry is notoriously cutthroat. As Hunter S. Thompson famously put it, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.”

success in the music industry requires being a talented networker as much as being talented. Whether you’re an aspiring artist, indie label owner or even a music journalist, successful networking is indispensable to working your way into the biz and realizing your dreams.

Although there may be certain networking strategies unique to the music industry, many are applicable to every business and will teach you to network more effectively within your own niche. Here are five networking tips that every entrepreneur and business owner can learn from the music industry to grow their company and achieve their business objectives.

1. Face time is a necessity. With the advent of the Internet and its ubiquitous communication tools, people seem to avoid face-to-face interaction whenever possible. However, face time is necessary for success in every industry. To make solid connections and build positive, fruitful relationships, you need to meet the people who can benefit your business and get to know.

The music industry is a particularly good example of the importance of face time, as an artist’s success is largely dependent upon name recognition. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know," and there is no better way to make sure people know you than to meet them in person. Make it a priority to attend networking events, trade shows, conferences, etc. Get to know the major players within your niche.

2. Know who you’re talking to. In the music industry, there are many people that will play different roles in the growth and success of an artist’s career. From label execs to music bloggers to managers and beyond, there’s a long list of people who an artist must build relationships with in order to reach larger audiences and expand their brand.

With so many people involved, it’s important to know exactly who you’re talking to and know how to communicate with them appropriately. For example, when an artist sends their work to a record label A&R executive, he or she will probably want to be more professional and direct. That approach may not work with music bloggers. In fact, many music bloggers simply ignore emails or messages that are too business-driven. To them, having a personal relationship with the artist is much more desirable and often leads to the best outcomes for both parties.

The same can be said for other types of businesses as well. The way that you connect and communicate with potential investors will differ from how you talk to your customers or employees. As an entrepreneur or business owner, do your research and know exactly whom you’re talking to and the best approach to build a positive and rewarding business relationship.

3. Be yourself. As a musician, there’s nothing that spells certain death for your career more than not having your own identity. What makes an artist easy to sell is their individuality and creativity, which is why it’s always important to be yourself.

Entrepreneurs and companies need their own identity just as much. People want to invest in other people. They want to feel good about the people that they have relationships with. So next time you’re at a conference or networking event, make sure that you’re not putting on a face or an act that isn’t true to who you are, as both a person and as a company.

4. Only discuss the packaged product ready to sell. A successful music release is made up of many moving parts. From the music itself to album art to marketing, artists tend to avoid promoting or even talking about their projects until they are completely wrapped up, polished and ready for consumption. Watch almost any pre-release interview and you’ll hear a lot of musicians say that they can’t or won’t talk about their next album launch until every detail is confirmed and it’s ready to hit stores.

This is a great lesson for entrepreneurs to take into consideration when it comes to networking. While it’s easy to be excited and anxious for new projects and upcoming product releases, it’s important you don’t get ahead of yourself and leak information before everything is ready. This eliminates chances that people will notice if something unexpected derails your work, ultimately hurting your reputation within your niche or amongst industry leaders.

Careful planning and proper preparation will always lead to better networking interactions, so before you reveal any of your secrets, be sure that you have a packaged product to sell.

5. Follow up. Any aspiring musician can attest to the value of reaching out to music writers, agents and label execs after they’ve met at a concert or other industry event. It’s a great way to remind influential industry figures who you are and start to build a relationship after making the initial connection.

Following up with new connections is always a great thing to do after any networking event. Always ask for business cards or contact information from people you meet at networking events. Shoot them a quick email the next day to follow up. Try to further your connection. Connecting and messaging on LinkedIn is also advised and, in many cases, may be even easier, depending on how tech-savvy the new contact is.

In the music industry, networking with other professionals and industry leaders is how you get your foot in the door. The music business is arguably one of the most competitive industries out there. Meeting the right people and forging positive relationships is vital to the growth of an artist’s career but none of this is exclusive to the music business. Thoughtful, consistent networking will help aspiring entrepreneurs and young business owners grow their own network and help take their business to the next level.

What are your networking tips?

John Boitnott

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John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.