In the music business, your actual abilities can often take a back seat to your network and who you know. Whether you're an artist, a label or even a mixing engineer, making industry connections and expanding your network are essential. Here we look at how record labels can better connect with independent artists.
What’s more important: who you know or what you know? In the music business, the first one takes the win, as it’s very important to build contacts and connections. As someone who runs a record label, your artists are your family, the most valuable thing you have that keeps the business going. Besides them, there are a bunch of other people you need to know, such as A&R reps, mixing engineers, managers, festival organizers, promoters, and many others.
However, when it comes to meeting independent artists, it may or may not be a daunting task (depends how you look at it). It’s just meeting other music-lovers and talking to them about how you can work together to get the music they create out in the world. Here’s something to get you going, and help you build meaningful connections with indie artists that you’d like to sign to your label.
Show up at networking events
First and foremost, you should always be in networking mode, prepared to meet new artists who might fit great into your record label. Always show up at music industry networking events, go to showcases, jam sessions, and songwriter nights. You never know when you’ll have the chance to meet an artist you’ll want to sign.
Every conversation is an opportunity
Always be prepared, with a business card in your pocket, and don’t dismiss any conversation. Your biggest opportunity doesn’t have to come dressed in fancy clothes, with a flashy approach, but as an artist or band that wants to team up. Not every indie artist connection will lead to opportunities, and many of them will fall through. However, you won’t get any opportunities if you don’t make the initial connection.
If every conversation is an opportunity, then you shouldn’t wait for anyone to approach you. Take the initiative and begin a conversation. With a warm greeting, you can put the other person at ease in an instant, and get the reputation as a person of action. Make a particular comment or give a subtle compliment that will serve as an icebreaker. At networking events, approach artists who are standing alone, sitting, or are shy, because it just means that they’re a bit uncomfortable at these events. You need to make them comfortable, and once you do that, they’ll open up and engage in a conversation (hopefully a fruitful one).
Social media networking
Social media is the most accessible way to network in the music industry, as well as find and approach quality independent artists. First, you need to identify the people you’d like to connect with. Sign up to platforms such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Topspin, as that’s where indie musicians upload, share, and promote their music by themselves. You can also hear great music on YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes. Of course, you shouldn’t just pick anyone, but if you run a hip-hop or jazz record label, you’ll want to connect with artists that create within those music genres. Next, reach out to them on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. Have a conversation in an interactive and valuable way, show that you’re genuinely interested in their music craft, give them your sincere opinion, and engage consistently so they remember your name.
Give and receive
Every relationship is as much about giving as it’s about receiving. If you want to sign an indie artist and form a mutually beneficial relationship with him or her, think about what you can do for them before jumping in and asking for what you want. For example, if you’re talking to a jazz bass player, you could offer them a chance to record a bass line for another band you have signed, give them some free tickets for shows, or take them to the studio where your label’s artists record, and play them some unreleased, raw material. Your current artists are your spokesmen as well, and if they’re satisfied with your collaboration, they can influence and attract other indie musicians. Nurture these relationships, by giving them tokens of appreciation for successfully finishing an album recording, such as customized Christmas gift cards for the holiday or some promo merchandise at your expense.
Even if the results are not immediate, every artist connection you make is valuable. You can never know when that little rapper, pianist, or multi-instrumentalist will blow up to be the next big name in music. Stay open-minded, and don’t try to manipulate or fake it. Don’t pretend to know things you don’t, because you’ll never learn anything that way, and once people recognize you as a pretentious fraud, your reputation will go down. And in the music industry, reputation is everything. Sincere connections, built on mutual benefits, tend to last longer and be more fruitful when it comes to creativity.