By Kenny Kerner
Don't be afraid of the word. It doesn't bite. In the music business, "Networking" is just a fancy term for "hanging out." It's "schmoozing." There, I can see you're smiling already. That's better.

Networking is NOT ass-kissing. It has nothing to do with cuddling up to one particular executive or top-level industry guy and yessing him to death. It's more akin to infiltration; To putting yourself into that "inner circle" of party-goers, movers and shakers, and seminar speakers. It's getting to meet as many important people as you can—and leaving them with a positive impression. These are two completely different things.

Here are some tips on great networking opportunities:
  1. Many local and national magazines and newspapers list upcoming events in their calendar sections. This will give you advance notice about seminars, conventions, meetings, classes, and mentoring sessions scheduled in the near future. Check out the topics, the list of guest speakers, and the cost of attending.

  2. On a smaller scale, many music education schools and colleges host weekend seminars that are attended by some pretty important guest speakers—people you want to meet; People that can help you. Since attendance is usually limited, you should have no trouble approaching your target. Keep in mind that many people in the audience might be industry employees, as well.

  3. If you stop to think for a moment, you'll realize that there are probably two or three people that you deal with on a regular basis who have some industry ties—a local club booker, a journalist or writer, a local recording artist, a promoter. This is the best and most direct way to begin the networking process. Start hanging out.

  4. The best of all possible ways to both network and learn about the Biz is to try and get an internship. This not only gives you hands-on experience on a day-to-day basis, but it allows you to meet and mingle as an "insider." Failing that, getting a day job at a giant record store or industry restaurant/club will do wonders for increasing the size of your Rolodex. Many aspiring stars got their first big break by talking it up with customers at the check-out counters and handing them a CD with their receipts.

Many local and national magazines and newspapers list upcoming events in their calendar sections. This will give you advance notice about seminars, conventions, meetings, classes, and mentoring sessions scheduled in the near future.

And let's not forget networking via e-mail. Today, everyone at the major record companies has an e-mail address. Take a shot. While you're sitting home in your underwear playing computer games, send a short message to a manager or label exec. It couldn't hurt.

The great thing about networking is that there is no prescribed way of doing it. You need to get out and schmooze with people to make connections. How you do it is totally up to you. And that brings us to Part Two of this scenario—leaving them with a positive impression.

Always remember that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Boy, I wish I had said that. Nevertheless, it's quite true. Meeting someone is only half the battle—leaving them with the impression that you're intelligent, hungry, and talented, is another, entirely. Since I'm big on lists, here's one that'll help you make a lasting impression:
  1. Take a lesson from the pages of the Boy Scouts—Be prepared! If you're going out for the night, always carry a CD on your person at all times. Nobody is going to wait for you to drive back home to get one. Strike while the iron is hot. [Have you noticed that I'm trying to use every cliché possible to make my points?]

  2. Knowing what to say once you meet your connection is perhaps the most important part of the networking process. Be clear, concise and gracious. Try this on for size: "Hi, my name is Bobby. I'm in a band called Cracked. I'd appreciate it if you could take my CD and listen to it when you get a chance. Cool. Thanks a lot." Congratulations, you've reached first base.

  3. Never try to force someone to make a commitment to listen to your CD or to come down and see your band. It's your job to make the connection and then do the follow-up work.

  4. Never go out networking with your friends. This is something you need to do alone. You don't want an A&R Rep showing more interest in your guitar-playing buddy than in you. Your friend is your competition. Where's that killer instinct? And besides, networking is not a game, it's a career move.

The great thing about networking is that there is no prescribed way of doing it. You need to get out and schmooze with people to make connections. How you do it is totally up to you.

Dan Kimpel, author of the best-selling book, Networking Strategies for the New Music Business, adds this sage advice: "Don't look up—look around. It's too easy to imagine that networking with some powerful entity will instantly elevate you to his level. This is simply not the case. The truth is that Clive Davis (president of RCA/J Records) probably doesn't need you; Babyface probably doesn't want to write songs with you and Kelly Clarkson doesn't need your material. You need to network for the future."

Networking is not easy—especially if you're shy and don't like hanging out. But it is an essential part of making connections in this fast-paced, it's- who- you- know- industry. In addition to the possibilities of making new business acquaintances, networking will also do wonders for strengthening your self-motivational skills, not to mention your overall confidence.

After 38 years in this business I still book myself as a guest lecturer at several industry functions every year. Not for the enormous amounts of money they throw at my feet (yeah, right), but to keep my name prominent in the "circle" of happening people and to check out all the new guys in the industry that might be able to help me one day. That's right—in the music business, networking is a career-long process. So you might as well begin now.



Kenny Kerner is the author of the best-selling book "Going Pro: Developing A Successful Career in the Music Industry" published by Hal Leonard and available at Amazon.com and at bookstores everywhere. So buy a few!

About Kenny Kerner:

Discovered and produced KISS. Also produced albums for Gladys Knight, Jose Feliciano and Badfinger. As a publicist, he represented Michael J. Fox and Jay Leno. Was the former Senior Editor at Music Connection Magazine and wrote a best-selling music education book called "Going Pro" Kerner is currently the Director of the Music Business Program at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Specialties include Personal Management, Artist Development and Music Business.

Kenny Kerner
Musicians Institute
Director / Music Business Program
(323) 860-1122
Fax: (323) 462-6508
kennyk@mi.edu


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