Why and How to Find the Right Mentor for Your Music Career

Usher-1By Janelle Rogers on Sonicbids Blog

Are you struggling to get your music heard by new fans and those in the music industry who could be influential in your career? If you're like most serious musicians, you probably are, and finding a mentor could be in your greatest benefit. A mentor can save you time by teaching you the lessons it took them years to learn while pointing you in the right direction for your career. A mentor can operate in one of two ways:

  • On a consultation basis where you pay a fee for their time and expertise: If you're paying someone, be prepared in advance with questions and goals you'd like to cover in your meeting. You shouldn't contact them outside of your allotted agreement expecting additional free advice. If money is a concern, make sure you see the value of what they charge before you decide to move forward. If the cost is too high for what you're willing to pay, then you simply aren't ready and should wait until you are.
  • As a friend where you build a mutually beneficial relationship: If cost is a concern, you can also look at those you admire and respect who are friends or you'd like to befriend. If you're going the friend route, create a give-and-take relationship where you're offering insight and feedback to add to their growth and goals as well.

So how do you find the right mentor for you? Here are a few steps to get you started.

1. Determine if the person is the right fit for your music and what you're trying to achieve

First and foremost, you want to make sure a mentor has knowledge of your genre and how to get you where you want to go. I often have rap groups approach me, and the truth is that I simply don't have the knowledge and relationships within that genre to genuinely help them the way I could an indie rock or folk artist.

2. Be considerate of his or her time

If the person you're looking at is mentor-worthy, there's also probably a high demand for his or her time. This doesn't mean he or she doesn't want to help – it just means there are a lot of people asking for the same help you are. If you're turned down, be considerate and ask for a recommendation of someone who could be a better fit.

Digitaldesignbg3. Attend conferences or workshops

If you plan on attending conferences like SXSWCMJ, or Canadian Music Week, do your research in advance and learn about those attending. Research those who could teach you how to advance your career. If they're speaking on a panel, attend the panel and speak to them afterwards to comment on what they said. If it's a party, then learn what they're interested in by researching their backgrounds and see if you can connect on a personal level first.

4. Don't make it about you

As mentioned above, mentors receive a lot of demands for their time, so you need to look at how you can stand out from all the other requests. Think about why you could be of interest to them.Do they have something that's a major passion project you could help with in some way? For instance, my passion project is my music industry and artist community, Green Light Grow, where the focus is giving back and supporting each other on a community level. If I see someone in the group consistently giving back to the community and supporting other artists and industry professionals, I'll go above and beyond to help that person with his or her success.

5. Sign up for the person's newsletter

While you're searching for a mentor, sign up for his or her newsletter to see if what it says clicks with your style and approach. This is also a great way to receive free advice from the mentors you admire.

6. Read industry blogs

Another great way to find a mentor is to read industry blogs like SonicbidsHypebot, and Music Think Tank to give you an idea of the people who could help you with what you're trying to achieve. 

Think you need help from an expert? Look at the areas where you hope to advance your career, and then follow the steps above to find the mentor right for you. 

Janelle Rogers launched Green Light Go Music PR in 2002 as a haven of honesty, integrity, and passion for underrepresented artists and labels. Janelle began her 20-year music industry career working for SXSW and went on to work for BMG Distribution for 10 years in the alternative music department, where she championed bands such as Kings of Leon, Ray LaMontagne, The Strokes, Belle & Sebastian, and The White Stripes. She has since been named Mentor of the Year by the University of Michigan, appeared as a panelist at NXNE, and been an official SXSW mentor.

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