5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.

Women in the Music Industry: A Guide to Networking

[Editors Note: This article originally appeared on Point Blank London’s blog.]

 

Recently, topics such as the comparatively low number of female producers and the persistence of all-male (or majority-male) event line-ups have raised pressing questions about the state of the music industry in the 21st century. In a piece for The Fader, Ruth Saxelby asked why more women aren’t becoming music producers, before turning the platform over to high profile female artists to set out their proposals of how best to redress the balance. In 2016, the prevailing sense is that, while the industry remains male-dominated (women represent less than 5% of music producers and engineers), there’s a real desire to call for effective change.

At the sharp end of this development are a number of networks and platforms geared towards helping women in the music industry, from Discwoman in NYC to the Berlin-based platform female:pressure. In this guest post, Point Blank Music School spotlight a range of networking resources and collectives in a bid to help the next generation of women artists to make their mark.

At Point Blank they’re committed to equipping artists of all genders with the industry skills to succeed at the highest level. Want to get out there and alter that 5% statistic? Start by discovering their range of courses.

female:pressure

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Since its launch in 1998, female:pressure has built an international network of over 1,600 female artists across 66 countries working across the spectrum of electronic music. Not only is it an invaluable grassroots resource (their research into the amount of women artists on festival bills made for enlightening reading) but they also represent one of the key platforms for new artists, both through their events – including the Berlin-based Perspectives Festival – and their own label. Their recent release Rojava Revolution was the product of an open call for musicians, and made Fact’s Bandcamp Release of the Month. Get involved here.

Shesaid.so

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Founded in 2014, Shesaid.so is a carefully selected global community of women who work in the music industry. Where female: pressure tends to focus more on artists and creators, Shesaid.so connects women across all industry sectors, from PR to management to record labels. As well as acting as a forum where members can seek advice, share jobs and events and announce new projects, their regularly updated programme of events and panels encourage conversations on vital topics. The next panel, which takes place at LISTEN! 2016 is entitled Girls, Geeks & Music: Where are the female producers?, and aims to explore a male and female perspective on the intersection between women, tech and electronic music. Join in here.

Discwoman

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New York-based Discwoman started out as a two-day festival back in 2014 and has grown into  a platform, collective and booking agency with events taking place in over 15 cities, working with over 150 producers and DJs. Founded by Frankie Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson and Christine Tran, Discwoman’s remit is, essentially, to represent and showcase artists who identify as female – and their parties are incredible, as evidenced by their recent Boiler Room session featuring the likes of Julia Huxtable, Bearcat and Uniiqu3.  They also have a regular mix series, spotlighting new artists. Discover Discwoman here.

Women In Music

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Of all the groups mentioned, the US-based Women In Music is surely the most established. Now well into its third decade, WIM brings together a broad group of music industry professionals to offer support and cultivate a network of women working across all areas of the music industry. From official panel discussions at SXSW to free legal clinics, the organisers work hard to produce a diverse programme of events throughout the year. Their recent free Women In Music Tech event was hugely popular with panels and presentations delving deep into the topic from a variety of key angles. You have to become a member to take part in these events, so head over to the WIM website for more details and sign up.


Point Blank Music School are super proud to be helping the next generation of female producers, artists and industry figures prepare for a successful career in the music industry. If you’re feeling inspired and want to join the ranks of PB alumni like Monki, Madam X and Nicole Moudaber you need to sign up to one of their courses based either in London, Los Angeles or online. Point Blank’s Online Music Production Master Diploma is not only the most comprehensive course available online, but it offers 1-2-1 tutorials between you and your instructor every two weeks, alongside live masterclasses and the opportunity to receive customized feedback for your work as you progress. Check out the full range of online Professional Programmes.

4 Pro Tips to Find Music Supervisors and Get Your Foot in the Door (That Actually Work)

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Paul Loeb and was originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog. Paul is a producer and founder/CEO of both DropTrack and No Ego Records.]

Now, more than ever, songwriters and producers hunger for visual-media placements as opportunities for sync licensing surge and traditional record sales from CDs and downloads sag. Busy music supervisors hold the keys to placements in ads, films, TV, and video games, but how do you find them and get your foot in the door?

Of course, once you’ve introduced yourself, you’ve got to create great songs tailored to individual projects with high production values. Hundreds of articles tell how to do that. But trying to sell your music cold without having met or corresponded with music supervisors is likely to fail. If you’re not affiliated with a song plugger, licensing firm, or music library – and don’t want to be – outreach to individual supervisors can work. Still, to even get a listen, you’ve got to meet as many music supervisors as possible and make first impressions count.

I’ve helped secure over 20 sync placements on MTV, Comedy Central, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, and elsewhere through my company, DropTrack. Our personalizable music marketing platform connects artists with music supervisors, label reps, DJs, and radio pros. To maximize placement opportunities, I advise musicians who use DropTrack – as well as those who don’t – to apply the following techniques.

1. Study up

Good old Google is a fine place to start researching music supervisors and choose your targets. SongwriterUniverse has an excellent directory of them, and Tunefind shows what music many are interested in. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is a great tool for identifying who works on TV series and films. You can even get a free 30-day trial of IMDB Pro, where you can find contact information. The National Association of Record Industry Professionals is another resource. Go to NARIP.com, search with keywords “music supervisors,” and read articles telling who they are and how best to approach them.

Also, search phrases like “music supervisors looking for music.” Once you know names, Google them for more information. Watch their ads, shows, and films. Get familiar with them. Be fluent in how music is being used, know the common practices in the field, and embed this knowledge into all the strategies discussed below.

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t submit songs to music supervisors who’ve never worked in your genre. Personalization leads to monetization.

2. Get on LinkedIn

Everyone on LinkedIn is looking for the same thing: professional advancement. Pitching music through Twitter and Facebook is done to death. Music supervisors don’t have time for the former and use the latter for friends, family, and fun – that’s not where they’re looking for the perfect hook for their ad. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is ideal for forming business relationships. It’s expected to request connections with people you don’t know.

But do it right. Make sure your profile is up to date and describes your skills and experience. When you invite someone to connect, delete the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” message, and instead enter a personal note like, “Hi Scott, I’m a big fan of your work on Entourage. I’d like to see if you’re looking for music for upcoming projects. I run an independent record label focusing on dance/electronic music, and I’d love to send you some tunes.”

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t connect until you’ve completed your profile with a good photo and a clear description of what you do. Crush the first impression.

 

3. Attend trade shows and conferences

Passes can be pricey, but conferences are worth it if you stay in the target market for your genre. Ones worth attending include (but aren’t limited to):

  • SF Music Tech Summit (San Francisco)
  • Billboard/THR Film and TV Music Conference (Los Angeles)
  • Sync Summit (Los Angeles, New York, London)
  • ASCAP EXPO (Los Angeles)
  • MUSEXPO (Los Angeles)
  • MIDEM (Cannes)
  • Winter Music Conference (Miami Beach)
  • EDMBiz Conference and Expo (Las Vegas)
  • Amsterdam Dance Event (Amsterdam)

With meetups, mixers, and message boards, contact opportunities are endless.

Prepare by finding out who’s going and research them online. Make a list of your marks. Email them in advance and ask for an appointment to meet during the show. Alternatively, tweet them during the conference to see where they are and if you can come to them.

Attend the biggest panel discussions, sit in the front row, and be the first to ask a question. Stand up, introduce yourself loudly, and make it a good one. Many conferences have panels featuring sync reps and supervisors, though some cost extra. When you’re first building relationships, the added fee is worth being part of an elite group of attendees.

The best networking happens in the hallways, the bars, and the line for coffee. Ask lots of questions about what kinds of music they need, and ask even deeper follow-up questions that show you’re genuinely interested and you’ve done your homework about their business. Make yourself relevant. And don’t forget to exchange business cards.

No more than a week after the conference, email each contact to follow up and allude back to your conversation. Say, “John, it was nice to meet you and talk about your work at Disney. You mentioned needing dubstep tracks for an upcoming project. Would it be okay for me to send you a few songs?”

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t just sit and listen. If you leave with no business cards, you’re doing it wrong. Also, don’t hand out flash drives or CDs at conferences. Now’s the time to form one-on-one bonds, not pitch your music.

4. Seal the deal

Ask your new acquaintances to add you to their email lists and let you know when they have specific needs for songs. Offer to tap them into your network of other industry pros to fulfill those requests as well. Mention that you understand they would only consider music that’s easy to clear for both master and publishing copyrights. If applicable, mention that you have instrumental versions and vocal splits available of all tracks.

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t send MP3s as email attachments. Send links to your website or DropTrack playlist promoting no more than three tracks for a specific project.

Following these recommendations will boost the likelihood that music supervisors will at least listen when you submit your music. Laying the groundwork makes all the difference to meeting and dazzling the right people and getting decent shots at the deals you want.


SXSW 2016: On Networking & Making Connections

Right now as I type this, thousands of indie bands, solo artists, and songwriters are gearing up for a trip to SXSW 2016. Also gearing up for this trip, though with slightly different goals and agendas, are tons of music industry professionals – from label folks and publicists to booking agents and managers.

While these excited artists may have their sights set on playing as many shows as possible and getting their name in front of as many new music fans as possible, a major part of SXSW throughout the years has been the ability to network and make connections. We’re talking career advancement, here, people! But when you’re soaked in sweat (and maybe beer), running from venue to venue with drums and guitars in-hand, some artists may feel these ‘opportune times to meet’ escape them with each passing minute.

I chatted with longtime Austin resident and music industry vet Amy Lombardi, who was hired by TuneCore as Manager of Entertainment Relations, about navigating SXSW as an artist. She’s managed artists like Neko Case and Kelly Hogan and spent time in the music PR game, founding companies in each category herself.

In other words, she’s got some cred.

“Making connections at SXSW happens when you’re off stage, too,” Lombardi says. “Meeting industry professionals and fellow artists, and developing relationships happens all over Austin, even in line for tacos.”

But what about those artists who are truly just starting out – unsigned, lacking huge internet buzz – it’s understandable to be a little nervous when approaching a publicist or A&R pro, right? Of course. But as Amy points out, if you link up with folks in advance via email, it’s a lot easier set something up knowing you’ll both be in town. But don’t be discouraged if plans change or get cancelled, she says, as that simply gives you a chance to live in the moment and meet someone else.

“Be a human being first! Most times the conversation will come around to, ‘What are you working on down here?‘ Then have info on your showcases, and maybe share something of note about your band,” explains Amy. “Be professional, and leave out the hard sell. SXSW is high-volume and citywide, but networking is organic.”

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You might be wondering, though, who should you be trying to interact with? A lot of artists will be keeping their eyes on connecting with managers and music supervisors. Amy’s advice is to connect with people outside of the traditional ‘decision maker’ roles, too.

“Becoming successful in the music industry takes a village,” she says, “And depending on the stage your career is at, a variety of people can help build your brand and better your operation, such as publicists, promoters, journalists, tour managers, sound engineers, etc.”

If you’re picking up any one thing from what Amy is laying out here, it should be that opportunities to meet people can pop up at any moment at an event like SXSW. Without trying to be too ‘schmoozy’, there’s some key conversation points you (and maybe your bandmates) will want to have in mind for these very moments.

Amy recommends that artists be ready to discuss, “a description of their sound, talking points that might include healthy streams or sales or tour dates (and tour partners) or sync placements. Also if there’s a guy in the band who stands stage left throughout your shows holding a sword or something, I guess that would be worth mentioning.”

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What about having stuff on-hand to give out?

“I may be in the minority here, but I like the idea of calling cards (business card-size) or small flyers with links to your website and/or SoundCloud or YouTube and showcase info.” Lombardi goes on, “Also, keep a Sharpie on hand. Personally, I would borrow it to write myself a note on your flyer reminding me where we met and what we talked about.”

Seems easy enough right? Just don’t party too hard and use that Sharpie to write your name all over town. No one’s cool with that. And speaking of things not to do when trying to connect with industry folks, it goes without saying that not everyone was born with sophisticated social skills. That’s fine! Just try to keep some of this stuff in mind when chatting with a new connection:

“During SXSW, I have a few minutes to talk with you about your music, especially if I’ve not yet heard it. Please don’t be offended, it’s a busy time and maybe not always an opportune time to get into discussions about release strategies and marketing plans. Think of SXSW like conversation at a cocktail party, not a camping trip. Mingle!”

Now it’s all over, and you’re on your way home from Austin, maybe you’re doing tour stops. You begin to look back on all the awesome people you met – musicians, fans, and industry pros – and you hope they remember meeting you.

Don’t treat these genuine connections you made like a first date with someone you liked, scared you’ll be coming on too strong if you contact them too soon.

“Having been a publicist,” says Amy, “I consider follow-up to be key and luckily, it’s generally important for success in most areas of one’s life. Don’t be offended if it takes time to get a response. If you don’t hear back after a few tries, maybe that one’s not going to happen, and it’s OK because something else will.”

But be sure to think about what you’re dropping in that email before hitting the ‘send’ button:

“I also think it’s important to consider what your ‘ask’ is. For example, I may not be able to reply with an overall assessment if you ask, ‘What do I do next in my career?‘ but I can review and edit your bio or press release, or suggest markets and routings for a regional tour.”

So there you have it, folks. Some very practical advice from TuneCore’s own Amy Lombardi when it comes to navigating the behemoth that is SXSW. Take notes and enjoy your time in Austin!