There is no denying that whether you are a band, singer or an individual musician, you need the help of other people to have a successful music career. It doesn’t matter if you can play every instrument, sing all of the vocal parts and make great recordings all by yourself in your own studio. You still need fans to buy your music, people to book you, people to show up at your gigs, and maybe people to help with the business and legal sides of your business.
There are countless ways to meet the people you need. However, there are three rules that can help you be most effective in this arena:
- Meeting someone in person trumps all other connections. Nothing compares to being able to look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. You can learn a lot from a firm handshake, a person’s attire, his or her professionalism, his or her mannerisms and experiencing a personal chemistry.
- The next best thing to meeting someone in person is being introduced to /and recommended by a mutual friend or business associate.
- Meeting someone without following up is no better than not meeting them at all!
Where do you meet people? Everywhere! Here are some quick guidelines for effective networking, compiled by Indie Connect Magazine:
- Always be in networking mode. Be prepared to meet people who might be able to help you everywhere you go. You never know who you are going to meet or who they might know. Also, be aware that many times influential people won’t reveal who they really are until after they have gotten to know you. I know one person who got major label cuts because they sat next to the grandmother of someone in the band in a diner!
- Show Up. Put yourself in a position where you are always meeting people who might be influential in your career. Go to music industry networking events, join industry organizations, eat at the restaurants they eat at. Go to jam sessions, showcases and songwriter nights. Put yourself in the way of opportunity! You never know when you will have the chance to meet and/or help someone who can also help you, either now or down the road.
- No Gherming: Gherming is the Nashville term for seeing someone influential and throwing your CD or song demo in their face. There is a time and a place when politely asking if someone would be willing to listen to your music is appropriate. In an office, at a convention or at an industry networking event are examples of places that are appropriate. Interrupting someone while they are in a social setting such as a restaurant is usually not. Respect people’s privacy.
- Niche market your networking. Whenever possible, go to where the people you want to meet congregate. For example, you can meet people from all aspects of the music industry at Indie Connect meetings. You can meet potential co-writers and publishers at NSAI or other songwriter group meetings. You can meet college buyers at a NACA convention, and fair directors at one of the many fair conventions around the country.
- Give before you receive. Also ask how you can help the other person before asking for anything for yourself. Have a ‘servant’s heart.’ It immediately erases any thoughts that you care only about yourself.
- Tell your prospect exactly how you can help them. If you know that you can help someone, let him or her know. Make that all-important connection for them (if appropriate and if you are comfortable with it), give them accurate advice, tell them about helpful books or online resources etc. If you can help them in the future, offer that as well. You will get a reputation as a giver.
- Professionally ask for what you really need. If you have offered to help the other person first, chances are they will want to help you. Be honest, realistic and specific. ‘I just need a big break’ is not specific. “I am good at writing melodies, but I need to meet a strong lyricist to co-write with’ is much more specific and realistic. You can still be professional and not come across as greedy. Everyone loves to help. Give them the chance to feel good by helping you.
- Follow-up. Whenever you meet someone new, it is always good to follow up with at least an ‘It was nice to meet you’ email. Also, when someone refers you to someone else, be sure to follow up on that lead within 72 hours. It makes you look more professional, and you’ll be fresh on the mind of the person who made the introduction.
- Follow up with recognition for introductions. If someone refers you to someone else, be sure to thank them, thank them again in an email or with a personal thank-you note.
- Always carry business cards. Always! Did I mention ALWAYS? Not having business cards (professional looking ones) screams ‘I am an amateur’.
- Ask for referrals. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific referrals. If you know names, and you believe that the person who you just met might be able to connect you with them, go ahead and ask. However, here are the keys. 1) Don’t be pushy. 2) Don’t put the person who you are talking to in an awkward position. Tell them that you know that they rightfully guard their relationships and the privacy of their contacts, and you would never want to do anything to compromise them. Then ask them what they would need from you before they would make such a key referral.
- Save business cards and contact information. Be sure to keep all of your contacts organized. You never know when you’ll either need someone’s help that you met years ago, or finally have a good contact for that person years after you met. It’s also good to have this information when someone asks you for a referral and you know exactly who to send them to.
- Keep your promises! If you say you are going to call someone, do it. If you say you will make an introduction for them, do it. If you say you’ll meet someone at a specific time, be there. Do everything in a timely manner. Get the reputation as a man (or woman) of your word. People will be much more inclined to help you if they know you are professional and can be trusted.
- Be generous with your leads. Whenever possible, be open with your referrals. Of course, you should only do this when you feel 100% confident that you will not be wasting your connection’s time or jeopardizing your relationship with them. In other words, you probably shouldn’t introduce a mediocre songwriter to a top publisher. The more you help others, the more people will rally around you when you need help.
- Make personal introductions. If you have a connection for someone, take the time to make a personal introduction either by phone or email. The reason is that you are telling both parties that you ‘sanctioned’ the introduction. Nowadays many people lie and say ‘____ told me to call’ just to get past the gatekeepers, even though that referral was never really made.
- Reward good introductions. If someone introduces you to a contact that turns out to be a profitable or beneficial connection for you, reward him. This reward might be as small as a thank-you note, a gift basket, a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, or as large as a percentage of the income that resulted from the lead. Be fair. Once again, people will do everything they can to help you if they know that you are grateful.
- Find the centers of influence. Influential people often get that way because they are masters at networking. At any networking event or party they will be the one with the most people around them. Get to know them. They can lead you to a lot of other people who might be important to your career.
- Reinforce your brand. Whether you are attending a formal business networking events, a conference or just going to meet someone for coffee, present your brand as much as possible. Maybe you have a polo shirt with your band logo on it that looks appropriate. Maybe you are carrying a computer case with your logo on it. Make your logo your screensaver as well. Of course, I am not saying that you should walk around in a stage costume. You just simply want to put your brand in front of as many people as possible. It will also spark some people to talk to you because they know your brand, even if they have never met you personally.
- Initiate conversation. Get comfortable enough with talking to people that you can always take the initiative to begin the conversation. This serves 3 key purposes. 1) You can put the other person at ease right away with a warm greeting; 2) You get the reputation as a man or woman of action, and, 3) You meet more people! Complimenting someone on something they are wearing is a great way to get the conversation started. You may have a particular comment that you use as an icebreaker. I love to walk up to people and say ‘You look like someone important that I should know!” They can’t help but chuckle and introduce themselves! Approach people who are shy or are standing alone. If you are at a formal conference or networking event, don’t ignore the people who are sitting, eating or standing alone. They might be shy but can still be extremely important to your career. Not everyone with influence is comfortable at these events. If you make them comfortable, they will open up and help you in every way that they can.
- Never eat alone! When you are at a networking event, never eat by yourself. This defeats the purpose of being there in the first place! Sit next to someone or with people you don’t know and introduce yourself. You never know where it will lead.
Read more great tips on networking in the original Vinny Ribas‘ article on the Dotted Music website!
If you’re preparing to record your first studio album, you’re probably dealing with a mix of emotions that range from excitement to pure fear. You’re wondering how the final product will turn out and whether people will actually like it.
To ensure the recording process goes smoothly, though, you need to put these feelings on the back burner and prepare yourself in the following ways.
1. Listen to some field recordings of your music.
Sometimes what sounds great live doesn’t work well in the studio. New bands often rehearse in cramped quarters and play in small venues, so chances are band members might have different opinions about how well their parts fit with others. Make some live demo recordings so you can work out the kinks before you get in the studio. You don’t want to waste time and money by changing your parts in the studio.
Recording yourselves will also help you get used to playing when the “record” button is pushed. People tend to tense up with they know they’re being recorded because they know there’s little room for error.
Finally, be sure to give these recordings to your engineer ahead of time. This will provide them with point of reference to follow when working on your album.
2. Answer the following questions.
- Do you want live recordings? If so, you should be prepared to play each song multiple times in a row without tiring or getting burnt out. Practice this in your rehearsal space beforehand.
- Do you expect the recordings to be overdubbed with multiple layers? If so, you should be prepared to record with a click track. You’ll want to practice with a metronome to ensure consistency in pace. This will make editing, overdubbing and punching in-and-out easier for your engineer and better for your overall sound quality.
- Do you fully understand the studio’s policies? Failing to understand the studio’s policies could produce problems later on. For example, some studios allow a free grace period to set up and break down equipment while others start charging right when you get there. Without knowing the rules upfront, you and your engineer could have different budgets in mind.
- How much time and money can you afford to spend? Set a budget for time and monetary expenditures — then multiply both numbers by 1.5. It’s better to overestimate how much time and money you expect to invest in your recording than underestimate it.
3. Elect a project manager.
Although you should always make group decisions to avoid any conflict among band members, when it comes to recording you’ll probably find it beneficial to have a tie breaker vote when you face indecision and other lukewarm feelings. The point isn’t to have somebody be the boss of everyone else but to keep the band focused and on task. The levelheaded person you defer to in these situations should be able to understand how the details you’re working out now will fit into the big picture later on.
4. Make sure all equipment is in perfect working condition.
About a week before you’re set to record, change all strings and drum heads. This will give you enough time to break them in while still ensuring they don’t sound worn. Check amps and pedals for hums because they’ll be much more noticeable in a recording. Be prepared for minor bumps in the road; bring extra strings, batteries and other supplies as necessary to avoid wasting time.
5. Remember to keep an open mind throughout the process.
Not every band is the same, nor every recording studio, nor every project. What works for one band might not work for another. At times you might have to just go with the flow and make quick decisions. However, the better you prepare yourself now, the more confident you’ll feel when you’re in the studio recording your first studio album.
Danielle Rodabaugh is an online marketing specialist for SuretyBonds.com, a surety bond insurance company. She also manages online branding and PR for We Live In Public (an electrified folk/pop/rock band based out of Columbia, Missouri). Check out more articles on the Dotted Music website.