Yuck. It’s like a dirty word. And not the sexy kind.
It’s a word that implies, “You’re not good enough to talk to this person. You need to have something to bring to them before they’ll help you.”
“Contacts” are like the mythical gatekeepers of the entire music industry. Like you have to come to the sacrificial alter with a virgin to throw into the volcano in order to move forward with your career.
That’s just so gross. And so not the way it really is.
I absolutely refuse to use the term “contacts”.
Instead, I have people I work with. People I’ve met at a workshop. People I know from that festival last year. Folks I’ve exchanged emails with. And most importantly, my friends. My team.
You don’t need contacts. You need a team.
Changing your Perspective and Finding Your Team
When I changed my point of view to friend-making instead of contact-gaining, my perception of networking got so much sunnier.
You see, “Contacts” are business relationships that have been built up over time. Different people have different strategies for collecting an address book full of contacts. But if you’re just starting out, it can feel like they’re the kind of people you have to wine and dine in order to get a chance to talk to them.
It can be easy to feel defensive – They’re the big boys, they need to be impressed, and they ain’t got time for you. “Who are these jerks, anyway? They don’t know me!”
For a long time, I felt so frustrated and disconnected from the people I thought my career relied upon.
My Perspective Changed when I Realized these things:
I wasn’t ready to run with the big boys.
I had to learn that just because I wanted to work with someone, it didn’t necessarily mean I was ready to work with them. The CEO of Publishing House X had every right to never respond to my emails or voicemails. He’s looking for someone specific, with a specific set of skills and accomplishments. While I have my own skills and accomplishments, that doesn’t mean I deserve to work with him – I have to earn it.
We’re all human.
Music industry professionals are human, just like all of us. Their inboxes are stuffed to the brim with people trying to reach them. They have families they’d like to get home to at the end of the day, so they can’t always come to your show. They’re friendly and have hobbies and regrettable photos from college and really aren’t that much different from all of us. So why bother getting all worked up when they don’t email you back? Have a little empathy and don’t take it personally.
The music industry is weird.
Let’s be real.
There are a lot of weirdos out there. And the music industry attracts the best of them. We all have to protect ourselves from the fame obsessed, overly desperate people that are trying to claw their way to the top.
My friends were already moving me forward.
I was already making amazing music with my friends. They were including me in their shows and opening my world up to new opportunities and more friends. It was so much fun.
I realized one day that I wanted more people in my life like my friends. “This is what my career should be like. Making great music with great people that I love. We just get each other.”
Your Friends are Your Team.
Think about it:
If you’re a songwriter, and your goal is to be a signed staff writer at a publishing company, then you probably imagine your days looking like this:
- Writing with other great writers, and having killer chemistry
- Submitting songs to your publisher who loves what you do, who gives you thoughtful criticism
- Being a part of a company that believes in your abilities
- Loving what your cowriters are coming up with and becoming their biggest cheerleader
Sounds a lot like friendship, right? Maayyybe even like teamwork?
These are the people you want to surround yourself with. These are the people you want to meet at mixers and exchange business cards with at networking events. You want to find teammates! Not distant, mysterious contacts.
Once you change your mindset over to finding those special people to join your team, networking becomes a lot more fulfilling. Dare I say it, you might even look forward to it.
Happy team building and write on!