While being an independent artist is liberating and allows you to be unapologetically yourself, it does have problems.
For one, you don’t have some paid-for suit and tie out there finding you new ‘friends’ and contacts, people that you can work with or even tour alongside.
As an independent artist, nobody is making or handing out business cards on your behalf. That duty falls to you, and is going to need you to really push hard with the best ways to network.
If you are not some schmoozer, though, it can feel hard to make the move into ass-kissing just yet. To help you get out of your comfort zone and actually succeed, here are some effective tips for networking with other independent artists.
Why networking is important for independent artists
You’re only as good as the company you keep. Like any other industry, you succeed because of who you know, not so much what you know.
While some people are just talented enough to get influence through quality alone, it’s very hard to get that kind of recognition regardless of talent level. So, you have to work your way into the industry.
To be truly successful as an independent artist, you need to surround yourself with good, reliable people who are passionate about what they do.
Whether it’s an event promoter who can help secure gigs for you, a graphic designer who can assist with your branding or a promotions company to help build your fanbase, surrounding yourself with the right people will make the difference between success and failure in your recording career.
You’ll soon find that by building good rapports with other independent artists – hip-hop or otherwise – you can start to get those opportunities you missed out on before.
Why? For instance, maybe that guy you just made friends with happens to be real close with the owner of the venue. He recommended you, and now you can get that gig.
It’s all about making the kind of friends who, when you find a genuine connection, you can benefit from.
So, now that you can better understand the importance of why all that small talk and card swapping is worthwhile, let’s look closer at it – you might just find some tips to help make that big break possible.
One of the smartest things that you can do as an eager artists to make sure that you get involved with chatter at events. Many people hang around, hoping for someone to talk to them, but that’s not networking.
It’s waiting for someone to recognize you, or mistake you for someone who is lost. As such, you can find that by not lingering and just entering conversation, life is going to become a whole lot easier.
Think of it this way – you literally want to get up on a stage and perform in front of hopefully thousands of people. That means you are comfortable with crowds and have belief in yourself.
Don’t be scared about talking to someone about your music or getting out there. It’s nowhere near as scary as putting on a show that is a genuine success – nothing like it, actually!
Face to face networking
Speaking to another artist on a semi-regular and informal basis? Then arrange a meet-up to brainstorm and see what you can both do for one another.
Talking face-to-face is better than any kind of connection of online or on the phone, so ensure that you make a habit of being able to meet in person when requested. Social media is great for keeping in touch with people, but just like any fan engagement, face to face will always be more effective.
You will have to get into the local community a bit more, so get out there. Start going to other hip-hop gigs or artists who you think would do a good collaborate with you in a genre mash.
Go to their shows, support them, and make contact afterward. Engage with them, supporting them for gigs and being a source of positivity and inspiration.
One of the true arts of networking is being there, not pushing content or your music. Before long, if you built a rapport, you’ll start getting asked, anyway!
Consistent branding helps with networking
Maintaining consistency is always important when you’re building your brand as an independent artist.
When networking, you want to have active and busy social media channels on all the big hitters. Not got the time or talent to build these? Then hit up sites such as eLance and Fiverr.
You could easily hire a social media guru to come in and build awesome profiles, then working with them to keep the place populated with content that is actually worth reading for people.
The more that you put your image out there, the more powerful that you can become. Start off by getting your image out there simply by updating your image. Update your website at least once per year, too, either adding a new feature or cleaning up the design.
Doing it all incrementally means that you can rather easily afford the irritating and expensive need to go for a large, long-term re-build that takes more time.
Incremental wins the race, so never underestimate the importance of modernizing and improving how your business looks and comes across.
Following up makes the difference
When you meet someone cool who could be an asset to you, or you met another artist, make sure you follow up with them.
Don’t mention the topic at hand – i.e. business – but instead mention that you had a great time and it was a lot of fun to meet the person. Just make it like you wanted to compliment them on their company and their event.
It’s important to never come across as if you are going “Hey, remember me…you said you would help me? Well?” and instead make them feel like they have made a new friend who just so happens to be in the music industry.
Always follow up, but never make it clear that you are following up about business. Make it social, and the business chat will come naturally. Make it about business, and the rest of the conversation feels forced – ruining that networking opportunity.
Always give back
Lastly, make sure you aren’t someone who just receives. Give back. A good networking opportunity is to send out free copies of your content, especially to blogs and reviewers, and even offer local band help and assistance free of charge.
Work as a guest for local gigs, and see how you can help them.
People are happy to help them but are wary of those who just want to always ask for help for themselves. Give people no reason to doubt your authenticity, and you remove any reason for them to refuse your help when you do eventually need it.
Give to them, though, and you usually remove the need to ask. If you are helpful enough, people who you helped before will be happy to get involved!
Keep this in mind, and you can find it much easier to start working with independent artists in the local area. They can be a source of introduction to everything from useful marketing and promotional tools to getting gigs at major local venues that can take you to the next level.
Just remember – treat these people as if you are meeting a new friend, not a source of income or ego.