While it’s easier than ever to break as an independent artist these days, “who you know” still plays a part in growing your career. Networking is a valuable skill to have on so many levels, from simply meeting fellow artists and fostering relationships to possibly making a connection that changes your trajectory entirely. Communication and putting yourself out there go a long way in expanding your reach and building your community.
That being said, we know it can be intimidating to go into a music industry networking situation unarmed and underprepared, especially when you know it’s going to be packed wall-to-wall with high-profile people. (As if a smaller networking mixer weren’t stressful enough, right?)
Don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Before going to your next networking event, prepare yourself with these 35 musician networking tips to make sure you’re ready to make the most of the opportunity.
1. Be open, friendly, and confident. If you’re nervous, fake it ‘til you make it.
2. Work on creating genuine connections. Don’t start self-promoting as soon as you meet someone.
3. Research attendees. Sometimes this is impossible, but if a particular group, company, or person is hosting the event, you can probably guess at least some of the folks who may attend.
4. Reach out before the event. If the event has a hashtag or handle, keep tabs on who’s mentioned or posting. If anyone seems promising, reach out to them via the same hashtag, or including the event handle, to say hello.
5. Post on socials that you’re attending. Be sure to use event-sanctioned hashtags and handles, too.
6. Practice beforehand. If you know you’ll be nervous, practice having conversations with friends or yourself in the mirror pretending you’re talking to strangers.
7. Dress to impress. Leave your ratty jeans and torn T-shirts at home. You can and should stay true to your “brand” and sense of style, but remember to present yourself professionally. First impressions are everything.
8. Make a loose set of goals. It can be as simple as, “I want to meet X amount of people and attend X amount of sessions.”
9. Show up on time. Sure, maybe the event won’t be in full swing right away, but you’ll be able to meet more people while the group is small in the beginning.
10. Take business cards with you. If you don’t have business cards, either get some made or have some kind of takeaway for the people you meet, even if that’s a card with a link to your Spotify or Apple Music profiles.
11. Don’t impart your music on people unless they ask or you’ve built up a rapport. If you hand everyone you meet a demo, it’ll be obvious you’re just there because you want something.
12. Don’t drink too much. Lots of events have alcohol, and you want to be remembered for the right reasons.
13. Listen more than you talk. Networking can be quite fast-paced, and you might feel the need to say your piece and move on, but being a good listener goes a long way.
14. Initiate conversations. Be bold — break the ice with as many people as you can!
15. Don’t intrude. If you spot two people having a conversation, don’t insert yourself. Wait your turn.
16. Don’t interrupt. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting signals that what you have to say is more important than what the other person is currently saying.
17. Be nice. It should go without saying, but lots of people show up at networking events with a sense of entitlement and/or a bad attitude.
18. Keep it real. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not; be genuine, because if you’re not, people will see right through it.
19. Make notes. Ask for a business card, then as soon as you have a private moment, jot down one or two takeaways from your conversation to use when following up.
20. Offer introductions of your own. If you know someone that might be a great connection for someone you meet, offer to introduce them. You never know when you may need that person to do it for you.
21. Don’t just focus on the bigwigs. Recognize that everyone there regardless of status can be a valuable connection in their own way.
22. Pre-prepare some talking points. Speak to your strengths and things you’re more-or-less an expert on (e.g., songwriting, amp repair, tour planning, etc.).
23. Read up on the latest industry trends. That way, if you’re at a loss for words, you can at least bring up a huge merger or massive signing.
24. Repeat people’s names. It’ll help you remember them and show them you’re listening.
25. Be respectful. Some people might be… not so nice. Don’t retaliate; be kind no matter what.
26. Put your phone away. It’s tempting to bury your face in your phone, especially if you’re feeling awkward, but don’t. It’ll give people a signal to leave you alone.
27. Stand, don’t sit. You’re more approachable when you’re standing up straight with a friendly smile.
28. Offer to follow on social media. Ask if you can follow the person you’re talking to on Twitter (IG and FB can be a bit too personal); they’ll appreciate the follow, you’ll have a way to get in touch, and you may even get a follow back!
29. Work the room. Don’t just hang by the bar or in the same spot all night. Move around, and meet different groups of people.
30. Know your brand. Be able to give people you meet an instant and lasting impression of who you are.
31. Develop an elevator pitch. Boil yourself and your career down into a 30-second snippet. Include who you are, what you’re working on, and what you’ve done. Prepare a few “soundalikes” for your music to give people an idea of what to expect.
32. Find common ground. Listen for cues that you might have a mutual friend or mutual experiences that could connect you.
33. Have gum. Bad breath is a bad practice so always be prepared. Plus it’s usually high demand from others so it’s a nice ice breaker (pun totally intended).
34. Close the loop. Ask how you can follow up, then do it.
35. Always thank the facilitator on socials. A quick shout out goes a long way, and it may even warrant some retweets from your fellow attendees.
Overall, the most important thing to remember going into a networking event is the eternal “golden rule” — treat people the way you’d want to be treated. And relax! Remember that everyone in that room is probably, on some level, nervous and you’re all there with one common goal: meeting new people. With these musician networking tips, you’ll be well on your way to making those quality connections.
If you’re ready to meet fellow artists and learn from music industry pros, check out AWAL Sessions, a new event series for independent artists!