When it comes to networking, I can’t imagine a more useful truism than the one above.
In essence, networking is an process of community-building in which we keep people informed about our activities and interests.
Entrepreneurial musicians who construct powerful networks win copious bookings because presenters and colleagues know their work and can count on them.
Lively networks also spawn artistic benefits by connecting us to other creative people with whom we can collaborate.
But effective networking takes planning, skill, and persistence.
It’s often a subtle undertaking in which, ninja-like, we steadily become valued members of artistic and professional communities.
In this post, I itemize strategies that help musicians grow their networks via in-person networking. Part II, which I’ll publish in the future, will look at online tactics.
1. Meet and Greet
A vital component of in-person networking is the so-called ‘elevator speech’ – a compelling nugget that communicates your artistic identity and is short enough to be conveyed during an elevator ride.
Veteran artist manager Edna Landau offers a couple of examples on a recent blog in which she advises that, as opposed to an elevator speech sounding boastful, “The key element is your naturalness and ability to genuinely convey enthusiasm for something that is very important to you.”
Once you have an introductory snippet prepared, along with some business cards, you’re ready to meet and greet. One tried-and-true way to engage experts in your discipline is to join professional organizations and attend the likes of conferences, festivals, master classes, and workshops.
Approach people you don’t know, introduce yourself, deliver your elevator speech, exchange cards and conversation (e.g., discuss career opportunities), and then follow up with a concise email. Include your social networking links in your signature lines.
A complementary strategy is to attend professional performances in your genre and then mingle afterward: in addition to congratulating the performers backstage, greet other audience members – they’re all people who share your interests.
2. Ask the Pros
If you’re a budding professional, it’s usually worthwhile to sign up for lessons or coaching sessions with local pros: soloists, conductors, ensemble players, freelancers, or contractors.
Ask not only for feedback on your musicianship and repertoire but also for leads to being part of the music culture in your region and beyond.
Then, periodically stay in touch with the contacts you make. Let them know when you release a recording or otherwise break new artistic ground, but don’t over-communicate.
In tandem, you might volunteer in your community, using your music to take part in social action. For instance, you could perform for people who wouldn’t hear music otherwise, teach after-school lessons to disadvantaged children, and join local organizations that share your values.
Then, the people involved in those organizations connect you to countless others in your community, many of whom will want to support your music career by hearing your performances, contributing to your fan-funding drives, and even hiring you to perform.
For more about building relationships through helping, check out Liz Ryan’s article “Six Networking Coups to Win Jobs.” The examples aren’t arts-related, but they’re telling nonetheless.
Various organizations offer performers chances to connect with prospective presenters, often through showcases that take place at conferences. Here are links to a number of them:
- US Regional Arts Organizations (A consortium of the six regional arts organizations in the US – an excellent portal to access regional and then state arts agencies.)
- International Performing Arts for Youth
- National Association for Campus Activities (Their Artist Matching Service “helps self-represented artists make connections with NACA member agencies.”)
- Association of Performing Arts Presenters
- Chamber Music America (Next-generation artists – 25 and under – can attend the Jan. 2012 conference for only $10!)
- North Carolina Presenters (The site includes links to other presenting consortia, some in Canada)
- Thousands of presenters can also be found via SonicBids.com.
5. Exemplify Professionalism
The reputation you build in the music community will be your most valuable networking asset. So whether you’re in school or working professionally, always arrive early and be thoroughly prepared for rehearsals and performances.
Be supportive of conductors, colleagues, and band or section leaders – help them look good and feel successful. Project a pleasant demeanor even under trying circumstances and strive to be a resource that others can rely on.
If you’re currently in school, keep in mind that your teachers all have massive networks that you can plug in to. Maintain positive relationships with all faculty, and seek out their mentorship in regard to networking.
Remember, too, that your fellow students will be your future professional colleagues, and they’ll probably spread out across the globe. Keep in contact as you go your separate ways – both independently and via your alumni office.
The network you share will be a lasting source of employment and inspiration.
© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © SVLuma, licensed from Shutterstock.com