How to network (without being annoying)

I’m sure you have heard a million times that success in the music business is all about who you know. Well, it’s true: the music industry is very small, and some of your best opportunities are going to come through referrals and introductions via mutual friends – not applications, interviews or traditional channels. With that in mind, networking is your key to the industry. So what’s the trick? Becoming a proactive networker without becoming “that guy” – the over zealous guy – who everyone wants to avoid.

Here are a couple of pointers: 

Don’t be a punisher

This is the first and most important rule. A ‘punisher’ is, as you might guess, someone who makes you feel like being around them is your punishment for committing some horrible crime. The key trait of punishers is that they take and never give: they talk about themselves all the time, go on way too long whenever they talk, force themselves into social situations where they’re not wanted, and so forth. Within the music industry, having the punisher label is basically the kiss of death, so avoid this at all costs! And word travels FAST: we all talk to each other all the time. If you say something off-putting or just dumb, it may even end up in an industry group text within seconds.

Incubus manager Steve Rennie on making networking a priority from “Music Business 101: Networking.

Ask for advice, not a handout

In general, it’s a bad idea to ask people – straight up – for an opportunity. It puts them on the spot, and makes you come off as desperate and awkward. In fact, it’s the easiest and fastest way to become a punisher.  Instead, ask for their advice and let them offer the opportunity if they feel like it. For example, let’s say that you really want an internship at Studio X, and happen to see one of the owners at a party. Rather than cornering him and asking for a job, casually approach him and ask for his advice— “Hey man, I’m dying to get an internship at a game-changing place like Studio X. If you have a minute, I’d love any advice you might have for me.” Listen, ask a few smart questions, and if he likes you he will probably end the conversation by giving you his email and telling you to send over a link to your work. Boom!

Matt Halpern of Periphery and Outerloop Management founder Mike Mowery on the importance of relationships from The Working Musician Playbook.

Be specific about how you can help

Once you do get an opening, your mission is to show them exactly how you can make their lives easier. It might seem like “I’ll do ANYTHING!! Just tell me what to do,” is helpful, but it’s actually not. If you think about it, you’re actually adding another item to their to-do list (“write a job description for this guy”), and the last thing anyone in the music industry needs is one more thing to do. Instead, come to them with a specific idea of how you can help them (with minimal handholding needed): “Hey, I heard you saying how much you hate editing drums. It might sound weird but I actually love doing that— want me to take care of it for you on this track? I’ll have it done tomorrow and it will be perfect.” Be the guy that “just takes care of stuff” and you will quickly find new opportunities coming your way!

To learn more about how to make it in the music industry, check out CreativeLive’s Music & Audio channel — streaming free online classes 24/7.