NNobody achieves anything in life on their own, and this especially holds true in the music industry. Speak with some veteran musicians, and they’ll tell you that some form of effective networking was crucial to their success. As such, emerging musicians should develop a networking strategy to promote themselves as comprehensively as possible.
1. Speak with fans after shows
Photo credit: derxdennis on Flickr
If you’re lucky enough to have connected with people through the music you’ve written, showing appreciation for these fans is one of the best ways to promote yourself. Taking the time to meet fans who have found a connection to your music shows them you’re a genuine person. For hardcore fans, such experiences are never forgotten. Far too many of today’s musicians have self-important attitudes; they think they have more important places to be, things to do and people to speak with than random fans they’ve never met. Next time you play a show, take the time to speak with the crowd once your set is over and exchange numbers when appropriate. You never know who you might meet. Word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the most cost-effective ways to increase awareness of any given product, and your music is a product you obviously want to sell.
2. Develop relationships with musicians in other geo areas
Drawing a crowd outside of your area can be a challenge when you’re a new band — or an experienced-but-still-relatively-unheard-of band. One reliable way to expand your fan base is to seek out bands from other geographic areas and set up show swaps. In doing so, they’ll agree to bring a decent-sized crowd to a show they’ll host for you if you’ll do the same for them. Sometimes the hosting band provides room and board to help the visiting band save on expenses. Show-swaps work best if the two bands have similar sounds or sounds similar enough to warrant a crossover fanbase. Show swaps do not work if one band holds up its end of the deal while the other fails to bring out a crowd as expected; such an experience can ruin the relationship.
3. Get in touch with industry professionals
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As with any kind of promotion, start small when building professional relationships. Dreaming big is admirable, but you can’t expect to make sweeping impacts on industry professionals without paying your dues first. Talk about your music to any industry professional who’s willing to listen. You can later leverage these relationships as you work your way up the totem pole. Build meaningful relationships with individuals who respect you as a musician and want to see you succeed. When a big opportunity arises, these are the type of people who will throw your name out on a whim. But remember: don’t ever let down an industry professional who put his or her neck on the line for you. You could miss out on an opportunity, or, even worse, leave a bad taste behind.
4. Play new venues frequently
If possible, visit every venue you play both before and after your show to get in good not only with management but also the employees who work directly with you. Make them aware of your ambition through the professionalism you portray during your encounters. When setting up shows at a new venue, don’t lie about your ability to draw a crowd. Overstating your fanbase’s enthusiasm means venues could lose a great deal of money by agreeing to give you X amount of stage time. To avoid the pressure of drawing a crowd at a new venue, swallow your pride and offer to open for local musicians who are more popular. Or, play some low-key open mic nights; you have little-to-no obligation to bring out fans, and you could expose your music to people who might not have seen you perform otherwise.
5. Prioritize online engagement
If you’ve read my other articles, you know if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Bands working in today’s music industry simply must find ways to promote themselves online. Herein, the previous four steps can be rolled into this one as well. Use online marketing and branding to engage with fans, fellow musicians, industry professionals and new venues. And, most importantly, find ways to engage with those who have never heard of you. There are a seemingly infinite number of websites, blogs and apps specifically designed to help fledgling bands increase their visibility; many are inexpensive if not free.
Networking really isn’t that hard; its primary challenge lies in finding the time, rallying the energy and making the effort. With a compressive networking plan in place, bands can easily find countless opportunities to increase their visibility.
Danielle Rodabaugh is a branding consultant and online marketing specialist for SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide surety bond agency. She also manages online branding and PR for We Live In Public, an electrified folk/pop/rock band based out of Columbia, Missouri.