Networking and “Working” Gigs Part 1
At the time of this writing (as well as yesterday’s blog re: Endorsements) the annual NAMM convention out in L.A. is wrapping up. Although I was not in attendance for this year’s show, the world of social media has kept me more abreast about the happenings out there than ever before. I guess that’s why these couple of topics have been on my mind and why I’m choosing to give my two cents on the art of networking along with some tips on procuring gigs and managing them.
Honestly, this blog may be more of a “do as I say and not as I do” type thing. What do I mean by that? In keeping with my goal to remain transparent in all of my blogs, I’m hoping that this writing will help give me a ‘kick in the pants’ to get back to some of the basics in networking. We all need it from time to time – it’s like getting back into the practice room and brushing up on some techniques that maybe we’ve let slide a little bit. It’s easy to become complacent in your little corner of the world but the truth is that networking is really the lifeblood of the musician. We simply cannot survive without it. Love it or hate it (and many people hate it) you have to be seen quite often or people a lot of times will forget about you. It’s just the nature of our business.
Forgive me if I jump around a little, but this seems like the perfect segue to touch upon the concept of social networking. You know – facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Times are changing. And I mean times are changing fast!!! There are still many acceptable ‘traditional’ ways of networking, but the fact of the matter is that if you want to be a viable commodity in today’s music business, you must be “linked in” to social networking. And really, if you have a product to sell (after all we ARE the product) why wouldn’t you want the most exposure as possible? Why wouldn’t you take advantage of the FREE advertisement you get by shooting out a Tweet (which hopefully gets re-tweeted) or publicizing information about your newest CD or blog, website, or whatever on your facebook page to potentially millions of consumers. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very time consuming process and you can’t simply keep up on every social site; but you should definitely start getting integrated into the web and get your brand out there. What do you have to lose? You most certainly have much more to gain.
The most important thing to remember when talking about anything that involves networking, whether it be on your facebook page or standing next to someone in a club, is that you need to build a relationship! Yes, there’s that word again: relationship. This concept is easy to remember when you’re at a club and you see someone you know. It’s about a greeting, a good conversation, and the hope that perhaps future work will come your way from this relationship that you have with this particular colleague, or perhaps he or she will recommend you to some of their friends. What a lot of people forget is that the same principles apply on your facebook page as well!!! It’s just at more of a massive scale. Don’t forget that there are real people on the other end of those emails that you write. Before you write that next scathing status update or think about ripping on someone else, think about if you’d do the same type of thing in the middle of someone’s dining room during a cocktail party?
Is it interesting that so far I haven’t mentioned one thing about how good of a musician you are? Well, lets look at that for a second. Never ever sacrifice your musicianship skills and always strive to be the best musician that you can be. However, in the art of networking, it really isn’t always about how well you play. Before you get mad at me, think about it. Ever been to a concert or club date and wondered why that guy is up on stage and not you? 90% of the time it’s because he/she just networks better than you do. Now let me make this point perfectly clear: you may not have to be great to get the gig, but you need to be great to keep the gig. There are definitely times when your phone will ring because someone recommended you simply on your musical merit. However, 9 times out of 10 a lot of people would rather have someone that’s good that everyone gets along with as opposed to someone that’s amazing that no one can get along with. Getting my point? Many times networking and getting work is about the hang, not wearing your resumé on your sleeve or printed on your business card.
Here are a few examples of some tried and true networking opportunities that still work really well to date:
1) Quite simply – go out and meet people!!! Go to clubs, concerts, local musician jam sessions, parties, etc. This one is hard for people like me. I have a tendency to be a recluse at times. Bad idea. I’m always amazed how sometimes people that haven’t seen me for awhile will ask if I’m still in town? All they needed to do was look me up, but this goes back to the out of sight/out of mind that I mentioned earlier in the blog.
2) Emails – yep – still work. Honestly, you’ve checked your email at least once today haven’t you? Statistically it’s still one of the most effective ways to get ahold of people and get information out. Don’t wear people out with them, but shoot them an email every once in awhile. Personalize it – remind them that you’re still here and you’re thinking of them as well.
3) Join professional organizations – NAMM, PAS, the musician’s union – any sort of organization where there’s a high concentration of musicians and people hiring musicians is where you want to be. The cost of joining can be a tax write off, most likely. Don’t worry about being a little fish in a big pond – remember we’re talking about building relationships here. Sometimes attending trade shows like the NAMM show or PASIC can be invaluable experiences. It’s good for building relationships with companies (see my Endorsements… blog) and colleagues as well.
4) Take every gig/playing opportunity that you can – this is one where your musicianship skills do matter from the onset. Look for ways to be seen on the ‘scene.’ Now as your career grows you can start becoming a little more picky on what type of gigs you choose to be a part of. But if you are a young player or new to a town or area, this one totally applies to you! Or even if work is really slow it may be time to reach out to some new connections and get introduced into a new pool of players. Sometimes our network of players can get stagnant and it’s always important to continue to pursue other musical avenues.
5) Befriend people that play other instruments – Seems like a simple concept but many people forget about this one. Myself included! It’s tough because it’s usually easy to be friends with other drummers, as you have so much in common. However, they’re looking for gigs too. No one turns down work just to be a “good guy” because this other drummer he met last night seems like he needs some work. Befriend guitar players, singers, producers, managers, club owners, etc. Think “outside the box” on this one…
6) Business Cards – Just like emails, believe it or not, these still work. Don’t tell me that you can just put the number in your cell phone the time that you meet someone. I personally have done that and 6 months later look through my contacts and wonder who in the heck “John Drummer” is??? Having a nice looking business card is still a way to stick out to someone and potentially remind them of you down the road.
7) Get a Web presence – Whether its your own website or a facebook fan page – get on the web and get your stuff out there often. It’s almost like a reoccurring business card. In other words, it’s a way to keep people thinking about you and what you are doing. Having your own website used to cost a small fortune. Not anymore! True you can still spend a fortune but there’s no need. At the very least get a MySpace page (which is FREE) and link it to your facebook and Twitter pages (also FREE). Don’t get left behind on this one.
As I’ve been writing about all of this I can’t help but think about a friend of mine here in Nashville – Keio Stroud. Keio number one is a great drummer and also happens to be a great guy. I would love to see him write a book someday about networking. This guy is the KING of networking, from what I’ve seen. And it pays off for him – every time I see him he’s just either gotten back into town from gigging or is headed out, or just stopped by on his way to another gig that night. He definitely keeps his face in the scene and fortunately can back it up with his skills as a musician.
So although networking can be a time consuming thing and sometimes a seemingly daunting task, comparatively the payoff/return is more than invaluable for any musician. In Part 2 of this discussion I want to start focusing more on the person that wants to book his own gigs and some of the do’s and don’ts of business etiquette. All of this will come full circle as many of these core principles of networking influence almost every part of your professional career (or semi-professional as this can apply to the “weekend warrior”). Remember – it’s all about the relationship!