The very thought of stepping outside the comfort of your studio can be daunting for a lot of musicians. We spend so much time tweaking snare drums, and gawping at expensive gear that we can't afford, that it becomes too easy to forget that there's a whole world outside filled with people that may actually want to hire us. I'm assuming that like me, you might have a few personality traits that align with those of the introvert, and your social skills might not be too well polished. But you're aware that networking can be a very powerful thing.
I was at “Game Music Connect” in London last year, and I think it may have been James Hannigan (Composer for the Harry Potter games, Transformers Universe, Runescape) who was on stage as part of the panel. The discussion turned to the importance of having a solid network, and he said that having a strong network is more important than your past work. This statement resonated with me, because we can sometimes fall under the assumption that once you've had your “Big Break”, you're set for life.
I've put some tips you can keep in mind when you're making the effort to connect with people:
Know what to say when you're going to meet people in person, and push past your nerves.
Approaching people and starting conversations won't come naturally at first. If you're armed with research, you'll find the process to be a lot more seamless, and the conversation will flow more smoothly. If you're nervous about what to say, remember that the best way to engage with someone is to discuss common topics. Ask them how they found out about the event you're attending, or how they know the organiser. You don't need to be scared, because you should be focusing on asking questions and listening, not talking. A great tip is to throw yourself into a conversation with someone who's standing on their own. Think how grateful that person will be you've chosen them to speak to! You can replace the fear of approaching people by focusing on what you can gain from the whole experience.
Providing value to the people you want to contact gives you bonus points.
‘Important' people are busy. In order to grab their attention, give them no choice but to reply! Find out something that the person you're contacting needs, and prepare it for them. You could dig out a helpful article, or fix a problem they've been having, or connect them to one of your contacts. Anything that provides value to the person, and ensures they won't forget your efforts!
Reach out people on ‘your level' (not just VIPs)
Networking isn't just about meeting people who are more successful than you, it's also about connecting with people who are at a similar level . You never know where these people are going to be in the future, and they're going to relate to you instantly so you'll definitely have lots to talk about. You're likely to be surrounded by people at a similar place to you, so take advantage of this opportunity.
Practice your social skills (it's not weird)
Nobody is born a ‘social butterfly'. The only way people become adept at social skills is through trial and error. Test out different jokes, stories and approaches to connecting with people, and you'll see patterns in how they react. The more you interact with people – particularly ‘important' people, the more you'll refine your skills, and the easier it will become. If it seems too scary at first, then you can practice in front of a mirror, or record yourself. Your fears will soon turn into excitement
Follow up with everyone you meet
If a person you connect with is of a higher status than you, it can be encouraging for them to know they've helped you in some way. An effective way to keep in touch with an ‘important' person like this is to tell them what you found most valuable about meeting them, and how you're going to implement it. Everyone loves knowing that they've been influential, and this will display sincerity in asking their advice, so they'll be likely to give you more. If the person is more ‘on your level', then you can simply arrange a follow up meeting or call, and it's up to you to decide what type of relationship you maintain. Either way, once you've developed relationships with new people, you'll begin to attract more opportunities.
Dish out quality complements!
Flattery will get you everywhere. After someone hands you a well founded compliment, it can stay in your mind for months – and so will the person. Saying ‘you look nice today' is a good start, but you can do better than that. If you're familiar with a person's work, then take the time to think of something original and truly credit them. Show your gratitude, and they'll really appreciate it. “I saw your blog post on networking the other week, and it's really transformed my approach to meeting new people. It was an area I've been uncomfortable with, but your simple and actionable tips have given me the boost I needed”. If you said that to me I'd be your new best friend.
80% Of your networking can be initiated online
Ok, so you don't HAVE to step out of your studio if you don't want to. Messaging someone you meet on a forum, or in a Facebook group, and arranging a Skype chat can be a very simple but effective way of kick-starting a new relationship. The beauty of this approach is that you'll know that person has a common ground with you right away, because you're both part of the same online community.
Be aware of the power of networking
When you meet someone, no matter who that person is, you're not just being introduced to them, you have the opportunity to be connected to their entire network. Once you realise this, you'll view a quick chat over coffee in a whole new light.
Start The Process Today!
A good habit to form is to reach out to at least one ‘successful' person in your field every week. Start chatting with people, and ask questions – follow their advice. One day they might turn around with an opportunity for you, or at least give you some guidance. Start by emailing the author of a book that has helped you in the past. Tell them how they helped you, and what results you got from following their advice.
Guest Post: Oliver Denyer is a composer who specialists in sound for interactive media. He runs a music production company called Undercurrent Audio, who have provided the soundtracks to several mobile and pc games, and other software. He's currently running a course to help amateur composers find their first paid project. http://www.howtodiscoveryoursound.com/first-paid-project/