In this episode, I’m going to explain why I think networking in the music industry is a bad idea and what I believe is a better approach. I’m going to show you the three key ingredients that I find most important when it comes to building relationships in the music industry.
The problem I have with networking in the music business
Do you know this other artist in your local scene who seems to know everybody and their grandma? The one who shakes hands with all the club promoters, who gets on every guest list, and is maxing out the friend count on his or her personal Facebook account? That’s a person who we assume is “great at networking”, right? (And we even get a bit jealous sometimes…).
Now here’s my take on that: The number of people you have in your extended network doesn’t mean anything. Superficial connections like party friends don’t add any value to you and your progress.
Sure, it’s nice to be a known figure in the scene. The question is: What are you actually gaining from that, except guest list spots? While it doesn’t hurt to superficially know a lot of people (and be known), I believe that you shouldn’t focus on that side of networking in the music industry.
Stop thinking about “what you get” out of your relationships in the electronic music community
You might have come across a saying like this: “Your net worth is in your network”. That means: The better your network is, the more you’re worth (financially). While there’s certainly a lot of truth to this statement, I really dislike its perspective. It’s a very egoistic and economic way of looking at interpersonal relationships.
Yet, many upcoming electronic music producers have exactly that mindset. Their thinking, when it comes to networking in the music industry, revolves around the question “what do I get out of this?”. This mindset will prevent you from growing a meaningful network because:
- You’re not genuinely interested in the other person
- You’re too focused on yourself, which creates a barrier between you and the people you want to connect with
- It leaves a bad taste in your mouth every time you’re helping someone but don’t receive anything in return.
Since networking in the music industry can quickly become a very frustrating experience, I’m now going to show you my three pillars of forming meaningful connections to people that matter.
How to replace networking in the music business with something that actually helps you
The number one strategy I recommend is to build genuine, personal relationships with a selected, small group of people that actually make a difference. If you’re just starting out, it can be as little as one or two people. Over the years, more of these relationships naturally develop, but you won’t have more than fifteen to twenty.
These connections are special because they are based on deep mutual trust, sympathy, positivity, and a true interest in the other person’s success. This is the most important aspect of these relationships.
If you remember my conversation with Christopher Jarman aka Kamikaze Space Programme (check out part 1 and part 2), you might remember that he’s basing much of his current success on relationships he has built with people over the last decades. So let’s take a closer look at how you can establish this type of genuine, meaningful relationships.
Factor 1: Authenticity is the foundation
These relationships develop organically, there’s nothing forced about it. It all starts with your genuine interest in the other person. Let’s say you’ve casually met a booking agent from one of your local top five agencies. She’s also producing music and you’ve checked it out and actually like it a lot. That’s already a great foundation because you have a shared interest.
Notice that I haven’t talked about related to her being a booking agent (that might potentially be very beneficial for your career)? It’s not about that. You shouldn’t build that relationship on a thought in the back of your head that revolves around “what you get out of it”. That’s at the core of authenticity. Nothing’s fake here, you simply develop a professional (and also personal) relationship with someone you actually care about, no matter what she or he has to offer you.
This greatly influences the way you’re behaving in conversations. Whereas in traditional networking in the music industry it usually ends up being a big and boring ego-show, you can stay relaxed and simply be yourself because you’re truly interested in the other person.
Factor 2: Always be the “Go-Giver”
There’s an amazing book by Bob Burg and John David Mann called “The Go-Giver”. The authors are portraying a fictional character who used to be an egocentric “Go-Getter” who then transforms into a “Go-Giver” and ends up being way more successful and happy than before. He was able to achieve that transformation thanks to his mentor, an older man who had built exactly these types of relationships that I’m talking about here.
The idea is to focus on the other person’s success, without a single thought about what could be in it for you. You’re offering your help, your skills, your ideas, your feedback… whatever it is that enables the other person to get to the next level. Now you might ask yourself: “But what if they start taking advantage of me?” – That brings us back to the point of authenticity: You would never want to spend time with someone who’s clearly trying to take advantage of you anyway. If you truly like the other person and want him or her to succeed, then you won’t even think about them taking advantage of you.
Factor 3: Create longterm, mutual value for your relationships
This is another critical aspect that differentiates this approach from traditional networking in the music industry. It’s not about a little exchange of favors here and there. It’s about helping each other reach big milestones in your professional lives. This involves sharing these goals openly with each other so the other person also has a chance to help you when he or she can.
Another important aspect is that you have to invest much more time and other resources into maintaining these relationships compared to the traditional networking approach. Your connection should reach a deeper level of trust and understanding each year. It can become this strange mixture of friendship and professional relationship, which I think is totally okay.
People are sometimes afraid of what is going to happen when you have to talk business (let’s say negotiating a contract). I see this as a great test of your relationship because if you’re both interested in creating a win for the other person, you are naturally going to end up in a good place with your negotiation.
Summary: A better approach to networking in the music industry
Focusing on authentic and meaningful relationships with a selected group of key figures in the electronic music community will be a game-changer for your career. Authenticity, the Go-Giver mentality, and the will to create longterm, mutual benefits are the three pillars that create a solid foundation for this approach.
Putting it into action
So how can you implement this now? I’m going to give you three action steps that will kick things off. Please bear in mind that this takes time and you should never try to force these types of relationships.
1. Start to be aware of your current mindset in regards to networking in the music industry.
- Have you been guilty of having lots of party friends in the scene but little to none real deep relationships with key figures?
- How would it feel to be part of a selected group of people who help each other grow?
2. Write down two to three people maximum in the electronic music community, who you already know, like, and trust and would love to see succeed in their careers.
- Preferably, they are within your local reach, but even online connections can turn into this type of relationship.
- Choose carefully, you should have an authentic and deep interest in their success
3. Think about ways to help them reach their goals with the skills and connections you have
- Meet with them and start a conversation that slowly drifts into the bigger goals and milestones. Figure out what it is they want to achieve and ask follow-up questions. Show that you’re genuinely interested in their path.
- Figure out smart ways of helping them with your skills and connections. To begin with, it doesn’t have to be a big move.
- Start being the Go-Giver and do what you can to get them to the next level. Don’t ask for anything in return, it will happen automatically over time.
I’m now curious to hear your perspective. Have you already established such a connection? And what’s your stance on the traditional way of networking in the music industry? Let me know in the comments, I read everything.