As the title implies, I spend a lot of time on the go. I just covered 3200 miles in two weeks between Norfolk, Nashville, Tampa, Gulf Shores (Alabama), and back to Norfolk. Five days to get things in order and then off for a two week tour in France. While on the go, I try to think of what I can share here that will help you as aspiring and working musicians—and maybe provide some entertainment as well.
Stage plots, tools for songwriters… all pretty tangible things. This time, we’ll discuss anequally important skill, but one that is harder to grasp. Networking. Let’s assume you are going for the gusto and want to work at a national level. My examples stem from Americana/ Country, but the same principals apply to any genre.
First, who has time to network? You are busy all day long, everyday, working on your music or your day-job just to pay the bills. You are caught up in the day-to-day cycle while trying to take the next step in your music career. I recall watching, as the press releases for the national conferences (See list on Page 29 in this issue) rolled in and thinking, “Who has the time?” I would add up the costs of the time not working, plus travel, lodging, promotion materials, and conference registration and really question if it would pay in the end? I am pretty conservative when it comes to investing the bucks—they are just too hard to come by in this business. Despite my wariness, management and publicity people I know and trust kept urging me to get out there and network. “That’s how you’ll take the next step,” they said.
They were right.
The first leg of the recent 3200 mile “networking trip” landed me in Nashville for the Americana Music Association’s Annual Conference. Four days of panels, seminars and a trade show by day with artist showcases at night. My goal was to meet booking agents, event promoters, publicists, radio promoters and they were all there and willing to talk.
I went to practice the art of “whipping it out,” as a manager I know calls it. “Never shy away from using the skills you have—a handshake, self-introduction and a smile.” In a town like Nashville, this is your most basic tool. Use it. The amount of networking that takes place on the event shuttle buses between 10 pm and 2 am is astounding. People are relaxed and thrown together in an informal atmosphere. Come prepared with your arsenal of promotional materials—business cards, flyers, postcards, press kits, CDs—whatever you can get someone to take home and remember you by.
To make the most of this type of event, follow these five basic rules:
1. Have a pen and something to write on at all times. Write down names and notes so you will remember whom to contact and why.
2. Lay out your day ahead to make sure you see who you need to see.
3. Generally, listen more than speak. But when it’s your time to shine, go for it. Put on your stage face and be dynamic.
4. Come prepared with your arsenal of promotional materials: business cards, flyers, postcards, press kits, CDs—whatever you can get someone to take home and remember you by.
5. Make your investment pay by following up within 2 weeks after the event ends. This is where your newly collected stack of business cards and notes comes in. Review your contacts and stay in touch with them. If you can cultivate 1 or 2 relationships that help propel your career, the trip was worth it.
One of the unexpected benefits from this conference was the energy and inspiration I got from being around so much great talent. Being able to sit in a small room and listen to interviews with Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett and then going to the Historic Ryman Auditorium to see a show with Rodney Crowell, The Avett Brothers, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller and others was very exhilarating (and humbling.) It is great to watch others perform and see how your show measures up. There is always something to learn watching others.
So was this event worth the expense? Financially, only time will tell, but I believe so. As for recharging my musical soul and energy, absolutely!