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.

How To Get Writers to Actually Open Your Emails

[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’s often said that the internet and home recording has made it possible for anyone to explore their creative side musically. Another positive effect of the DIY culture the internet has nurtured is that as these bedroom musicians begin the process of turning their hobby into a career, they are able to handle a lot of the business and promotional side themselves to get the ball rolling.

Chief among these early efforts that an artist can use to start spreading the word is press. A little interweb stalking will turn up the contact info for most of the writers that you would want to cover your music. With a carefully-crafted pitch, you might start to see your music start popping up among the new songs and videos of your heroes that your favorite blogs are covering.

On the flipside, this instant access to press contacts means that most of the writers you want to reach out to are simultaneously getting hit up by hundreds of other artists on any given day. As a result, publicists devote a lot of time to figuring out how to cut through the clutter and get writers to prioritize checking out their clients ahead of the droves of other submissions.

If you can’t yet afford to hire a publicist, here are five tips on how an independent artist can get their favorite music bloggers to give their new music a spin!

 

  • Be Personal – The fact that you are an artist hitting them up directly gives you a leg up with a lot of writers. But if you send them a generic pitch, chances are you’re going to lose that favor. Tell the writer why you’re writing to them specifically.Which artists have they covered that leads you to believe they’d be into your music? What articles that they wrote made you a fan of theirs? Do you really love them on Twitter? What about your music is unique? These are the elements that are going to entice a writer to hit play on your Soundcloud link or YouTube video.
  • Is There A Certain Regular Feature You’re Interested In? – Another good way to approach writers is to reach out about a specific feature they oversee.For instance, is their blog pushing to promote a Spotify playlist? Do they run a “track of the week” series that you find a lot of your new favorite music on? These are the sort of deliberate pitches that might garner a quicker, more favorable response.
  • Be Precise: One thing that often goes overlooked with pitching writers is that brevity is key. It’s understandable why you want to cram every iota of information that you find interesting about your project into your email, but your life story might push your message to the TLDR folder.Stick to the necessities; (1) why are you writing to them specifically, (2) why they would like your music, and most importantly (3) a link to the music. Also, make sure it only requires one click in your email for the writer to be able to listen. If they like the music and decide to cover it, they will ask for more info at that point.
  • Get To Know The Writer (For Repeat Pitches): This is probably the most important key to continued coverage of your music. Get to know the writer! Is there a certain way they like to receive pitches? Do they prefer text or twitter messages to email? Do they want a full press release or personal message every time? Will they even cover non-exclusive tracks? These are all key to success with developing a rapport with writers. Even better, if they live in your city, see if they’d be down to meet for coffee, a drink or even to check your project out live. The better you know their personality and preferences, the more accurately you’ll be able to pitch them. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to make friends with another music fan!
  • Always Have An Angle: We mentioned the ‘special feature’ angle already and have hopefully made it abundantly clear that you need to speak to how you’re unique when contacting writers. But how specifically are you going to frame your music in an enticing way? Is there something interesting and quirky about your personality that you can use in the voice of your email? Is your music a part of a bigger vision that spans multiple artistic mediums that you will be unveiling in the coming months? Is your new song part of a concept album or tell a specific tale?There has to be something about you and your sound that makes it endearing because there are a lot of talented musicians out there you are trying to beat out for coverage.

 

If your music is good and you can translate your special qualities to the writer quickly and precisely, you’ve greatly increased the chances of a writer actually clicking play. And getting them to listen is half the battle!