File Under: Networking and Building Your Team
This article is part of the Networking series on ideas on how to work with other musicians and businesspeople in the music industry.
Having a team to help book and perform your live shows is critical, but so is fostering the right type of musician network to help one another and create new opportunities. When it comes to live events — which can be one of the biggest ways to make and boost the amount of money you make — there are many ways to network with the other musicians you may already know that you should consider.
Knowing the right people in the right positions can not only get you the gig, it can save you a lot of time and help you generate more revenue opportunities. To help, try some of the five networking ideas below to help you bringing your music to the stage and grow your musician network.
1. Get introductions to talent buyers.
If you're booking your own shows, getting connected to the right talent buyers and venue booking agents is critical. Those relationships take time to build and cultivate. But working with other musicians who have already built these connections can be the best way to start. They are both a reference for you and the type of show you perform as well as a "warm hand-off."
Our own band, Beatnik Turtle, used this technique to finally get a spot in the International Pop Overthrow festival. Each year we’d apply and each year everything we did on our own and through the "front door" fell flat — sending our kit, emailing directly, and following the submission process. We finally got a spot when we ran into a band we had worked with before who had successfully booked that festival. When we asked for a warm hand-off after watching their set, the lead singer introduced us directly to the guy who ran the festival and we made our pitch. A few days later, he called us when a band cancelled on him and we ended up playing not only that night, but for many years thanks to that warm hand-off.
2. Form booking cartels.
Venue talent buyers are looking to pack their space with fans, and booking multiple artists to fill the place is time consuming and challenging. You may be able to solve both their problems if you partner up with other artists who have a draw, letting you pitch an entire night of entertainment for them. By partnering up, you'll be able to book more shows, as well as work out who plays when. Just note that you’ll be playing for the same pooled audiences and therefore won't as easily grow your fanbases during these types of shows.
3. Create an artist exchange program.
Similar to booking cartels, when you meet artists in other cities, you may be able to partner up to create booking opportunities in each other’s area. In a sense, you cross-promote one another to each other’s audience, making it a win-win. Book each other and share the bill by being the opening act for one another in your home cities. This works best if the artist’s fan base, show, and music are compatible fanbases.
4. Build a list of musician substitutions and fill-ins.
We've all had times where we’ve needed to back out of a show due to some unforeseen problem. But cancelling on a venue can have negative repercussions. Once a booker is burned and can’t trust you’ll show up, they’ll avoid you since it’s their reputation at risk, not just yours. One way around this is to build your artist network so you have a substitute to take your place. By being able to find an appropriate replacement, you can keep your relationship with the booker and venue in place. The same is true if you have a show and a key member can’t make a booked show — especially if you plan ahead and make it easy for the fill in musician to step in via tabs, sheet music, or chord sheets. You can also use those relationships to borrow equipment if you can't find another way to get it.
5. Share roles at gigs.
Putting on a killer live show is requires a lot of focus and attention, so who’s minding your merch table and driving sales? Try tapping your trusted network of musicians to help with other key roles at your gig. Our band would regularly trade off playing shopkeeper at shows with the bands and artist we shared the stage with. When they were rocking on stage, some of us would be in the back, running their merch table for them. And, when we took the stage, they would do the same for us.
Don't think small: once you've built a network of live artists, the next thing to build is your music scene itself. If you know enough artists who play similar or complementary music, you can partner in more creative ways. For instance, you can book an entire weekend of shows or even build a festival. You could even build a shared "music scene" newsletter, and use your combined marketing efforts and funding to grow the collective audience base of the entire scene, not just try to get a few more people to show up at each of your shows. Plus, these music scene collaborations can include venues and even other forms of entertainment. It’s all who you know and how you work together.
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Photo credit: Veld Music Festival