How to Build Your Network as an Artist


Networking.

Do you cringe when you read that word?

It’s a bit… gross.

You’re an artist because you love art. You love music. Networking, marketing, branding… why?

Why can’t you just make music and hope for the best?

Because that’s the easy approach. And it doesn’t work. It doesn’t get results.

“We got into the creativity business to reach people. Why would we artificially limit that? The only reason to turn up your nose at growing your audience or increasing your reach is fear. It’s easy to act superior. It’s easy to say, “I don’t care about any of that.” It’s easy to not try, because then you have a ready-made excuse.”—Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller

You need to network. Especially if you want to make this your career.

That’s what I’m going to teach you in this post.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why you need to get serious about networking (and what will happen when you do…)
  • How to identify the right people to connect with…
  • Why in-person networking is still king (and how to do it well…)
  • The Value Add: How to make an unforgettable first impression (in-person or online…)
  • Your relationship portfolio: how to invest in relationships that matter
  • 2 key strategies for networking online

I’ve also put together a set of 5 email templates to aid you in your networking efforts. Many of these templates are ones I use personally, and they do work well. I’ve spent hours crafting and refining them so you don’t have to.

Click here to get free access to my 10 email templates

Why you need to get serious about networking

I’ve seen mediocre artists rise to the top while other talented artists remain in their basement.

I’ve seen people who know nothing about the industry get their dream job as an artist manager or something similar.

I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the people in my life. My network. My friends.

You already know that networking is important, but have you considered just how important it is?

Are you taking it seriously?

Are you putting in the effort?

Here’s why you should:

  1. A solid network provides endless opportunities
  2. A solid network forces growth
  3. A solid network gives you support

#1 – Endless opportunities

Imagine having an incoming stream of opportunities?

It’s possible—with the power of networking—to get to a place in your career as an artist where you need to use the word “no” on a weekly (or even daily) basis.

#2 – Growth

These opportunities that come as a result of your network? They force you to grow.

You’re also exposed to other people.

They will influence you.

I still remember following my friend Budi (Heroic Academy) around during ADE week in Amsterdam. Up until that point, I’d never seen someone work as hard as he does. That experience has had a tremendous influence on me and the way I work. It’s forced growth.

#3 – Support

Trying to “make it” as an artist is really, really difficult.

You’re putting it all on the line.

It’s discouraging, stressful, and painful. So why on earth would you try and do it alone?

You need people around you. People who’ve done it before, or are in the process of doing it. You need to be able to ask questions and talk with people about what you’re doing.

Ready to get serious? Here’s how…

How to identify the right people to connect with

Before reading ahead, keep the following in mind: you can’t follow a precise plan or strategy when networking.

In other words, you have to leave room for spontaneity. If your plan is too rigid, you’ll lose out on opportunities. You won’t be open to meeting new people who perhaps weren’t on your radar.

With that said, it helps to have plan. It helps to have a list of people in mind who you want to connect with. People who help you get to where you want to be (and that you can help in return).

In order to find the right people, you need to get clear on three things: your goals, what’s realistic, and who you like.

Your goals

What are you trying to accomplish within the next 6-12 months?

If you’re trying to book a world tour, then connecting with booking agents, industry people and influencers is a good strategy.

But if you’re just starting out, then trying to connect with agents and influencers so you can learn all about what it takes to tour the world? Not the best move. It’s not relevant right now.

Instead, you’d want to connect with more experienced artists who can help guide you down the right path.

Takeaway: when seeking out new connections, you first need to consider your immediate goals.

Be realistic

Artists are busy. Artists get pitched all the time. Artists can’t be friends with everyone.

And industry people? Managers, PR agents, booking agents? They’re just as busy (if not more so).

Be realistic and don’t be afraid to start small.

Takeaway: Connect with people one or two rungs above you. You can still offer them value, they can offer you value, and your efforts will pay off.

The vibe

You need to know who you vibe with.

Not pursuing a friendship with someone in the music industry because their values disgust you is not a shallow thing to do. I don’t care what anyone says. You’re saving yourself a lot of strife.

Takeaway: You want to surround yourself with people who share a similar vision and values.

Meet people in person

If you’re introverted, I know what you’re thinking.

It’s hard.

But here’s the thing…

Meeting someone in person is fundamentally different to meeting them online. The stats don’t lie.

And the benefits are clear. When you connect in person:

  • It’s easier to have a conversation. Talking is more efficient than email or instant messaging, and you can’t fake it as easily in person as you can on the net. It’s more genuine.
  • Your personality comes through more
  • You can read body language better
  • Less misunderstandings
  • It’s more memorable

But how do you meet people in person? Two ideas…

The coffee date

Find someone you want to meet with, then send them an email asking them out for coffee (you can download the template I use here)

Keep it informal. Don’t ask for more than 15 minutes of their time. And make sure you pay for the damn coffee!

Industry conferences

I went to ADE in 2015. I met a ton of people.

Artists, CEOs, managers… you name it. Being in one place at the same time with a ton of other industry people? You can’t not network with others.

Make an effort. Even if it’s expensive. It pays off.

Pro-tip: contact people before the conference actually begins and set up some meetings. Here’s an email pitch you can use.

Industry conferences

Go to club nights and talk to promoters and artists.

Head to workshops and seminars. Any event where other industry people or artists are located.

Clubs and parties work well as people have their guard down (and usually a bit of alcohol in them). It’s a low risk, informal setting.

Add value

Ever heard of the Hare Krishna technique?

You’re in the airport walking to get some food, and you’re stopped by a Krishna disciple who gives you a flower.

“It’s free.” They say. “It’s a gift.”

Immediately after you thank them, they ask for a donation.

At this point, it’s harder for you to refuse the donation request. After all, they’ve just given you a flower.

This is called the rule of reciprocity, and it’s what makes the world go around.

It’s the reason why relationships flourish. It’s the reason behind the formation of many business deals. And it’s something you need to keep in mind when networking.

You need to add value. And you need to add it first.

What does this look like in practice?

Here are three tactics…

Tactic 1: Resource creation

A few months back, someone emailed me saying that they’d made an infographic with information and tips from my interview with Sebastien Lintz. They said they could send it over if they wanted.

I replied saying, “of course.”

They sent it over. Here it is…

Looks nice, right?

I posted it all over social media. It helped promote the podcast.

They offered me value. They didn’t ask how they could offer me value, they just did it.

This is one of the most effective ways to offer value—create something.

If you have a marketing background, you could create a 30-day social media marketing plan for an artist you want to eventually form a relationship with.

If you’re a graphic designer, you might make an infographic that neatly organizes the artist’s stats (songs released, countries played in, etc.) Or you might make a Facebook cover photo. Plenty of possibilities.

To reiterate: think about how you can create something without asking them for anything, so that your initial point of contact goes something along the lines of this…

“Hey,

Huge fan of your music. Really love your latest release. 

I wanted to give back, so I’ve created a 30-day social media marketing plan for you. It’s in PDF format. I’ve attached it to this email.

Not asking for anything in return, but please implement it if you think it will help. Happy to answer any questions about it. 

Thanks!

Want my Value Add email template? Click here.

Side note

The reason why you shouldn’t ask people how you can offer value is because it forces the other person to do work.

If you email me saying that you love what I’m doing with EDMProd and want to help out for free… that you’ll do “anything”—that puts me in a position where I have to think about how you can help.

I also don’t want people to work for free, so now I have to consider you as a potential hire. That’s more work.

You want to provide value straight away without asking for permission. Worst case scenario is what you’ve done doesn’t offer value, but that’s fine.

Tactic 2: Offering a service

Maybe you’re a mastering engineer but you want to grow your career as an artist. Why not offer to do some free mastering for someone? Build a connection that way.

Or maybe you have a background in business consulting. Offer to jump on a call with the person you want to connect with and offer them some guidance.

A service isn’t as ideal or effective as creating and sending a resource upfront, as you really do need to ask for permission, but it can still work well.

Tactic 3: Introduce them to others

I’ve had plenty of people offer me value by introducing me to others.

Emails like this one…

If you’re trying to connect with someone and you know someone else who’d be able to offer them value, then connect them together. This will reflect back on you. If anything comes from the connection you’ve built, both parties will appreciate what you’ve done. You’ll have added value.

Examples of this:

  • Someone posts an update looking for a mastering engineer for their work. You know one personally and manage to get a 20% off deal. So you email the person you want to connect with an intro them to your engineer friend.
  • You have a friend who’s a booking agent. You intro them to the artist/manager you want to connect with (who you’ve heard, through the grapevine, is looking for one).
  • You have a friend who lives in the same city/town as the person you want to connect with. You think they’d have value to offer each other. You connect them together.

Follow up

Picture this…

You go on a first date with someone.

It’s awesome. You have a great conversation. You vibe together. Everything goes well.

You drop him or her home.

Days pass.

You haven’t called them or messaged them. You haven’t asked for another date. You haven’t taken action, and neither has your date.

What happens to this relationship?

It doesn’t go anywhere. You haven’t invested in it. You haven’t made any effort to grow it or sustain it.

Connecting with someone is only the first step. You need to invest in the relationship. You need to nurture it over time to make it fruitful and worthwhile.

Here are three tactics for following up with and nurturing connections…

Tactic 1: The “Great to connect” email

If you meet someone in person, or have a Skype call with them, this is the perfect email to send (ideally within 24 hours of talking to the person).

Simply send them an email or message telling them that it was great talking to them.

Mention specifics—i.e., if they offered you advice, thank them for that advice. If they mentioned a project they’re working on, tell them you’re looking forward to seeing what happens with it.

This tactic helps solidify the initial connection. It helps people remember you, especially at conferences where there’s a lot of networking going on, and where it’s easy to get lost amongst the noise.

Tactic 2: The clipboard strategy

One easy way to add value to those in your network and strengthen relationships is to share interesting/helpful content with them.

Create a note in Google Docs, Evernote, or whatever system you use, and populate it with links as you come across them.

I also like to add names of people who I think would benefit from the content.

 

At the end of each week, I’ll go through these links and email them to people I know who I think would appreciate them. In this email, I might ask a question about how things are going, give them an update on myself, or just spark up conversation again.

Tactic 3: Extended in-person time

This is costly and time-consuming, but I wanted to include it because I think its benefits are unparalleled.

Once you’ve built your network to a point where you have a few close relationships (and some that are mutually shared), it’s worth organizing a getaway, for a weekend or longer.

My friends, Budi, Serik, Wouter, and I, did this last year.

We stayed in Croatia for a week (here’s a photo).

It was epic. Long conversations over dinner. Talking about our projects. Having fun.

All of us came away from that trip motivated and refreshed, with deeper friendships.

Did it cost money? Yes.

Did it take up time? Yes.

But was it worth it? Absolutely.

You don’t have to do it on a large scale. You could go camping. Just find a way to spend time in person—ideally with multiple people.

This is a “big win” that’s going to deepen your relationships in a way that just sending content and links cannot.

2 strategies for networking online

Almost everything we’ve covered in this article in relation to offering value and investing in relationships applies to networking online.

But I want to offer two more strategies.

Because when you’re at real life events, people expect to be approached. They expect you to come up to them and start talking.

But on the internet? It’s different. It’s not a cocktail party, and not everyone likes receiving emails from people they don’t know. Especially not pushy emails that make requests.

Strategy 1: The cold email

Cold emailing is hard, so let me set your expectations before we continue on.

You will be rejected most of the time.

This usually comes in the form of not getting a response, or just a flat out “no.”

Because of this rejection, you may feel scared to even try cold emailing in the first place.

But there’s a reason people still do it.

It works.

But only some of the time. You can have the best pitch in the world and people will still ignore you because they don’t know you or don’t have the time. Don’t put the blame on yourself when this happens.

How to write a great cold email

What makes a great cold email?

  1. It’s short and specific. People don’t read long emails, especially if they’re not from someone they don’t know.
  2. The request/offer is clear. People don’t want to deal with a lot of back and forth. You want to reduce the work for them.
  3. It clearly features the benefits for the other person—what’s in it for them

Beyond this though, you need to be different because people are used to boring cold emails. Don’t be afraid to be humorous or make light of something.

For instance, here’s an example of a great cold pitch that Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo.com received (he wrote a whole article about it which you can read here)

The subject line: How I lost your Sperry’s.. and apt. And why you should meet with me.

Noah Kagan was selling his sperry’s and apartment, this guy who is pitching him (Dave) referenced trying to buy them.

He goes on….

I kept bidding them up.. to $600. Then I stopped with 3 seconds left and the other person won.

I didn’t want the apartment. I was going to use it as an expensive excuse to get an App idea in front of you…and we wear the same size shoes. I have since bought a pair of Sperry’s..er Sperries? Size 11 – they fit!

And then he just writes this:

Why you should meet with me:

1. I’m the founder and CEO of Grav . I’ve been running this business for the past nine years. I started it when I was 24. I have 70 employees in Austin and operations in China. I love my business. It’s profitable and I’m really good at it. However, I want to do more.

2. I’m Jewish – I hate playing that card, but.. what the ****

3. This App idea is disruptive. It’s not in my wheelhouse (glass), but I know a good idea when I see one – I get about 3 presentations a week from stoners about their pipe ideas

4. I have a wireframe ready so you can breeze through it quickly.

5. The factory is really close to downtown – on St. Elmo just south of Ben White. 

6. Even if you hate me and my idea, you’ll love the **** factory – it’s insane. 

This Wednesday 4/17 at 10am (or earlier) would be a great time to come by (I know it’s short notice, but what if this is the best idea you’ve ever heard and I’m the coolest guy you’ve ever met?)

Feel free to bring anyone from Appsumo. I’m a huge fan. 

See how he’s giving reasons as to why it’s beneficial for Noah to accept his request?

Noah then sums up how to effectively cold email by giving a 6-point framework:

1. Flattery
2. Benefit
3. Credibility
4. Call to action
5. Read it out loud
6. Make it easy to say yes

Now, here’s a not-so-good cold email (it’s not terrible, but there are some issues).

  • The subject line means nothing to me. I almost didn’t open it.
  • No personalized introduction. It’s not hard to find my name, especially as they emailed “[email protected]
  • 80% of the email is them talking about their company, not what’s in it for me. There’s no specific offer. No specific benefit.
  • It just feels like a generic email that’s been sent to hundreds of other people. There’s no mention of EDMProd.

It can take hours to write a good cold email pitch, which is why I recommend starting with a template. You can download some here.

Click here to get free access to my 10 email templates

Strategy 2: The Exposure Approach

People are more likely to respond to an email or message if they’re familiar with your name.

The exposure approach increases your chances of getting a response. It increases your chances of building a relationship.

It’s a 3-part process mostly centered around social media engagement with the person you’re trying to connect with:

  1. Passive exposure (likes, comments, support, sharing)
  2. Active engagement (questions, getting the other person to engage)
  3. The pitch

Let’s look at these in detail…

1: Passive exposure

The goal during the first phase of the exposure strategy is simple: you want to expose yourself to the person.

You want them to see your name pop up time and time again.

You want them to become familiar with you.

This DOES NOT mean spamming them, but it does mean actively engaging with them on social media.

Let’s say, for instance, there’s an artist I really like, and I want to build a relationship with him and perhaps even collaborate on a project with him down the line.

If he has no idea who I am, then sending him a message asking to collaborate is unlikely to work.

Instead, I follow him on Twitter and enable notifications for his tweets.

I’ll like every few tweets and respond to them every now and again.

I’ll like some of his Facebook posts.

Repost his music.

After keeping this up for a few weeks, I’ll move on to phase 2.

2: Active engagement

At this point, I want to start a conversation.

Instead of just liking, retweeting, and generally supporting the person I’m trying to connect with, I’ll start to be more inquisitive.

I might respond to their tweet with a question.

I might ask their opinion on something.

They’ll become even more familiar with who I am.

After a week or two of doing this, I’ll move on to the third phase…

3: The pitch

If I’ve just been following them on social media, I’ll either ask for their email (through private message/DM) or just personally message them.

Typically, I’m not pitching anything to them. In the current example, this would not be the point where I ask to collaborate.

I’d use this opportunity to ask them a question that perhaps requires more explanation or thought.

The email might look something like this…

“Hey name,

Hope you’re well.

Really loving the latest release. Great job.

By the way, I have a quick question for you.

[insert question]

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,
name”

Simple.

This is the conversation starter. You can grow the relationship from here.

They’ll be more inclined to answer your question because they’re already familiar with you and your name. They’ll feel like you’ve given them value, through your engagement and support on social media.

Tips:

  • Don’t be all over their social media. It’s weird. One engagement every two days or so is good, but adjust depending on how popular they are (if they get a lot of engagement, you might need to increase your frequency).
  • Don’t try and use every social media platform. You don’t need to. I’ve seen people get results with just one.
  • When you ask the question, just ask ONE question. Don’t make immense demands on their time. And make sure it’s not a yes/no question. You want it to lead to a conversation. Use questions like, “What’s your opinion on X?” And “What advice would you give to me in situation X?”

Do interesting stuff

We’ve looked at how to build your network through actively reaching out, adding specific value, and connecting one-on-one.

But one of the most effective ways to build your network is to focus on doing interesting stuff.

In my life, the biggest networking tool has been the EDM Prodcast. I’ve talked to dozens of artists on the show, and built long-lasting relationships with many of them.

And because of that—because of EDMProd as a whole—I get a lot of people reaching out to me who want to connect.

This is a scalable approach to networking. If you do something awesome—whether that’s making great music, doing a PR stunt, running your own podcast—you can expect people to come to you.

So, what now?

Building relationships in this industry is important.

Remember:

  1. A solid network provides endless opportunities
  2. A solid network forces growth
  3. A solid network gives you support

Before you leave this page, I want you to do three things.

1) Identify 3 key people you want to connect with

Start now.

Not next month. Not next week. Now.

Write down the names of three people you want to connect with. Make sure that connecting with them is realistic, and make sure it’s beneficial for both of you.

2) Figure out how you can add value to each of these three people

Can you offer services outside music production?

Advice?

Figure out how you can add value to these people. Don’t ask them how you can add value, just create or offer something that you think will help.

3) Send them an email or message with your value add

Simple.

Send them an email that offers value.

Not sure what to write? Download my email templates for free.

About the Author

Sam Matla

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I run EDMProd. Drop me a line on Twitter or follow me on Facebook.