1. Find out how you can help them
When you meet someone new, you should always be trying to find out how you can help them. Human nature inclines us to reciprocate when someone gives us something, and even well-known people are not immune to this. When you're at an event and meeting someone new or even reconnecting with a contact, your conversation should center on them and whatever their problem or needs are. Listen and learn about the projects they are working on and try to find ways that you can help.
Since we're musicians, our favorite way to help people was to offer music. It was free for us because we had our own studio and easy for us to make custom songs. The surprising thing was how often business contacts we met needed music -- sometimes without even realizing that they needed it in the first place. Some of our best contacts started this way.
2. Get an introduction a.k.a. "The Warm Handoff"
The very best way to get to meet a new contact is by going through someone you know. With an introduction, you instantly go from being a stranger to someone that they can trust. If you happen to be at an event with people that you know, have them introduce you to people you haven't yet met.
For instance, our band always wanted to play a certain festival. After years of trying to go through the front door by submitting forms and enrolling online, we discovered a friend knew the event organizer. Asking her to introduce us to him got us a gig within less than 24 hours.
3. Make your goals and problems known so others can help
The people who you already know might have the skills, opportunities, or connections you need -- or know someone who does. But no one will know to help you if you don’t ask.
This technique is not only true for existing contacts, but can even be a good topic of conversation at an event where you are meeting people. We found that when we talked about the projects we were working on and the problems we were facing, people would offer assistance.
For instance, we managed to get someone to make the cover art for our second album by talking about the fact that we didn't have the right software at a party. One of the people we met was a graphic artist and said she’d help us put the artwork together the next day. But that’s just one example. When we wanted to make a music video but lacked the equipment, we asked around. Soon, we not only had the equipment, but we had friends willing to direct and act. Other examples included getting booked at a college outdoor festival through a friend who worked at the college and getting press for our TheSongOfTheDay.com project when a friend mentioned it to his buddies who wrote for a popular Chicago blog called Gaper’s Block.
4. Network in places where you’re the only musician -- so you stand out
Most musicians only think to network at music events, but you should look to meet new people at gatherings where you stand out from the crowd and are the only one with your skills.
For example, if you license music or write commissioned pieces, you'd be surprised at the number of people that need music. Video makers, podcasters, bloggers, artists, and other creatives all can use music in some form or another. Plus, they tend to have a fan base that they want to grow and can share -- just like you. You can find more ways to work together by combining forces, and by doing so, introduce your work to each other's fanbase. Also, businesses need music as well -- especially when marketing in today’s world where video is such a viral and pervasive media.