Music Business Careers

Networking vs. Schmoozing

Hi Laura-
My question is this: I realize success in every industry requires networking but (a) I hate schmoozing and (b) isn’t that tacky for an artist to do? Is there some sort of balanced combination I’m missing? Help!

-Career in Nowhereville


You’re right – networking is a necessary evil for major success in any industry, including (some would say especially) entertainment. While there are certainly those who have given it a bad name with their manipulative, smarmy tactics, there are also many ‘good guys’ around who likewise are seeking to find the gems among the stones. The fastest way to make these types of connections is generally through formal or informal networking of some kind – informal being the best kind usually.

First, start with the obvious: memberships and affiliations that enhance your professional credibility as well as continually introduce you to new people in the field. Join ASCAP, BMI or SESAC and go to their events. Also check out NARAS, the Songwriters Guild and Billboard Events. Even if you are not a member, these organizations offer unique weekend conventions in different cities around the country specializing in various topics across the entertainment industry.

I personally love industry conventions that are out of town. You get to travel, it’s a tax write-off, and you meet people from all over the country who are just as passionate and committed to their careers as you, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. They are also usually in one of the major entertainment hubs which is an excellent way to make connections in other cities. Furthermore, you are completely immersed in your creative career for 48-72 hours which helps you focus better on your specific goals, unlike a weekly class in your hometown which you may rush to get to after a hectic day at work or occasionally miss and feel behind. In particular, I highly recommend checking out ASCAP and Billboard, who both have some great conventions coming up this Fall.

Keep in mind that it’s smart, not tacky, to do things to further your career and improve your knowledge of the industry. What’s tacky is the way some people do it, a.k.a. working the room constantly with their eyes instead of making eye contact while they talk to you…giving a sweaty business card or demo to everybody in the room (which is a waste of money) …pretending to send a personalized email which is just a spammed copy and paste job most people can see through… Don’t be that guy!

Social networking sites offer mostly superficial networking opportunities on a massive scale, but are great tools for maintaining contact with people you already know but might otherwise lose contact with over time. Craigslist and other local sites are hit or miss depending on the city and its saturation level, but there are many unexpected gems among the stones there too.

Most successful artists have found that a small minority of connections have done more for them than the majority combined. A few powerful individuals or experienced mentors are far more valuable than 10,000 virtual “friends,” which, unless you’re famous already, is really more of an egotrip, don’t you think?

Finally, exploit your local scene to the fullest if you haven’t already. Go to free workshops in your city, take classes and support other artists. In Chicago, the Chicago Music Commission regularly sponsors free panels on music business topics with plenty of time for networking and business card trading afterwards.

Just be a genuine person who is helpful to other artists on some level, and you will attract the same in return. Ultimately, the highest tier of any industry is still accessed exclusively through networking alone. So try to find a style of networking you can be comfortable and sincere about. Remember, it’s still “who you know.”

Best of luck-