If I could stay in my studio and compose all day I would. If I could go out and gig when I wanted and be compensated fairly for it, I would. If I never had to “sell” or “brand” myself I would be content with just doing my thing. If I never had to “network” I’d be a happy musician. If I could live in a dream… well there’s the rub. Networking is the pin prick to my bubble-dream of the perfect artistic life.
As I stated in the previous blog post, going through this course is like going through therapy. This has been all about me facing my fears and moving past them in order to get my music heard and appreciated. It’s like I have this beautiful thing for you to see, but you can’t see it because I’m afraid to tell you about it. Because I have told myself – “I don’t network…”
Networking and talking about what I do has never been easy for me. Insecurity, fear of rejection, an unfounded feeling of inferiority have lead me to avoid promoting my music in the past. It has only been recently that I’ve adopted a paradigm shift and an attitude readjustment so that I view my music as a product and a business as well as an artistic expression.
In chapter 8, Ariel gives practical advise on the why’s and how’s of networking and how to approach people in networking/social situations. The advice is simple:
- Be a Listener
- Know What to Ask For
- Be a Gatherer
- Have a Plan ~ Be Prepared
- Follow Up
They work. I’ve tried them. They’re easy. They work.
Let me share some recent examples.
I went to an Open Mic in Cleveland where I knew absolutely no one. I had just played a show to a packed room of fans two nights previous to this and now I was going to play for total strangers. I went there with one goal in mind and that was to get 3 email addresses from a crowd of strangers and to play a few tunes (that’s two really…).
I succeeded in getting 2 email addresses and the name of the person that books the coffeehouse where I played. 75% plus a bonus, not bad.
I got one email address while I sat with a couple as I waited to play. They had just happened to be there to get a coffee and hear some live music. I started the chat by asking them what style of music they liked since we were hearing a bunch of different styles. I told them I got compared to Hiatt and Springsteen a lot and because they seemed interested I asked them to be on my email list. I also gave them a CD because they were a cool couple. I got the other email address after I played my 2 songs from someone who came up to me and told me they liked my music.
Both came as a result of my listening to the other person: what type of music they liked, what they thought of my music, what they were doing at the open mic and how they liked the coffee. I then asked them if I could add them to my email list because they were, in my opinion, the type of people I wanted on my list and because we had struck up a sort of relationship. They both said yes.
My wife and I were visiting my sister-in-law at her office while in Ohio recently. She’s a counselor at a community college in Ohio and as we were leaving I asked my sister-in-law if she knew the director of student affairs (plan). She surprised me when she not only said yes, but then said – Let’s go meet her, she’s just down the hall. As I walked down the hall to meet this woman I began creating a goal or two – 1) get a paying gig; 2) get a business card and a date to talk later.
My sister-in-law introduced me as her brother-in-law the musician and her sister as her sister the motivational speaker. This got some laughs, and I was asked what style of music I played and my wife talked a little about her credentials, but then the conversation turned serious. The DSA asked both my wife and I to participate in the school’s beginning of the year convocation. When is it we asked? The day after TOMORROW!!! We just needed to send her a bio, tax info and an invoice. AN INVOICE!?! Goal #1!
OK, that was a bit weird to just happen into a gig like that, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t been thinking about networking even when I was just visiting my sister-in-law. I think this brings us to the moral of the story: Always Be In Networking Mode. Does that mean that I always have to be selling myself? Should I approach every conversation with a goal in mind? No, but it does mean that I should have my radar up for the possibilities that are hidden around the corner. You never know who you are talking to.
After the Community College gig I followed up with the DSA and she not only signed up on my newsletter list but she invited me back to play again as a featured performer.
Networking is something that I find I have to work at and it takes practice and strategies to get better just like my songwriting. The idea of having a goal before going into a networking situation makes it more manageable for me. If I achieve my goal, I can relax a bit, get a drink and sit down.
I have two gigs coming up this week that will place me in front of audiences that don’t know me. I have to come up with some goals, put my finger to my head and look beyond my fears of networking because there really isn’t anything to be afraid of.