Hard Truth: Social Skills Are Key To Success In Music

Working in the music business is unique in many ways, but like many jobs, people skill are a huge part of what it takes to be successful in a business where networking and your personal brand are paramount

Guest post by Michael Hahn of Landr

Almost every bedroom producer has dreamed of quitting their day job and devoting themselves full-time to their passion.

Those who take on the huge effort and risk to make their dream a reality sometimes have to make surprising adjustments to be successful.

Don’t worry—I’m not about to bore you with cautionary tales of “losing your passion” to professional practice.

But just like any job, there’s a strong social component to success as a producer that can make a bigger difference than your gear—or even your skills.

Here’s my hard truth for today: people skills are an essential part of success as a musician.

It’s not meant to be discouraging.

The upside to this hard truth is that you can improve your prospects of getting hired simply by paying attention to basic social skills.

Here’s how to do it in six steps.

1. Be approachable

Many musicians don’t ever step into the world of mixing and production. That can make the recording process feel incredibly intimidating.

They’ll be much more comfortable if you consciously try to be friendly and approachable—especially when it comes to technical topics.

Nobody likes an engineer that’s unwilling to help them understand what’s going on.

Sessions always go smoother if everyone in the room can grasp the basic reasoning behind your production decisions.

Make an effort to be open to questions, concerns and feedback from your collaborators.

Make an effort to be open to questions, concerns and feedback from your collaborators.

You might have to spend a little extra time explaining a concept or along two the way, but it’s worth it.

Just make sure you do it in a way that’s respectful and helpful for the session!

2. Focus on your collaborators’ experience

Even if you’re not getting paid for your work yet, you should make sure people enjoy working with you.

It’s much more likely that you’ll get called back for more work if everyone had a great time at the session.

It’s not too hard to create an environment where people can enjoy themselves while making music.

Keep your workflow light and fun and try to respond to your collaborators’ enthusiasm with good will.

Technical difficulties can strike at any time, but the more knowledgeable and confident you are with your tools, the less likely your collaborators will be stuck with boring downtime.

Be a problem solver and try to keep all aspects of the session running smoothly.

Be a problem solver and try to keep all aspects of the session running smoothly.

3. Be the voice of reason when necessary

One of the main roles of a producer is to act as a mediator.

The other side of making your sessions fun is to keep everyone on track and focused.

Doing this tactfully with emphasis on helping everyone get their best results is an art, but try your best.

Knowing when to keep pushing, take a break or move on to something else is a great example.

You’d be surprised how much people value a producer’s ability to get results from a disparate group of people without seeming like the dream police.

4. Practice authentic networking

By now everyone is used to hearing how important networking is to success as a musician.

But if you think of networking as a boring chore that involves handing out business cards to strangers, you probably need an attitude adjustment.

The only useful kind of networking is forming actual relationships with people. Trying too hard to “recruit” them is always a bad look.

All you have to do to network effectively is make yourself available and put appropriate effort into creating and maintaining real relationships within the music community.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask!

5. Be easy to reach

Speaking of availability, you’ll never get hired if you’re not easily to get in touch with.

I’m not saying you have to be on your email day and night ready to respond to every single message instantly.

Just be intentional about your communication and do your best to respond in a timely fashion.

Sometimes all it takes to get the gig is being the first person to respond to an email.

And you’re much more likely to build the connections you need to spread to word if you’re diligent in how you communicate with collaborators.

6. Be active in your community

You can do a lot for your chances of getting recognized for your work simply by being present in your local music community.

You can do a lot for your chances of getting recognized for your work simply by being present in your local music community.

I’ve touched on the benefits of taking your music promotion offline before, but you don’t even need to be promoting a particular release to take advantage of this strategy.

Do your best to attend events and shows when you can. It’s easy to underestimate how much a familiar face can make an impact for people you might work with one day.

Plus, many producers fall into the trap of only interacting with music in the studio—don’t let it happen to you!

Social networks

Being a successful producer is about more than just gear, skills or a signature sound.

You have to be the type of person that musicians want to work with. That may sound intimidating, but in reality all it takes is some basic social skills.

After all, it’s easy to have a good time making music—just follow that impulse and you’ll be fine. Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer at Autoland and member of the swirling indie rock trio Slight.

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  1. Since 2004, Hypebot has chronicled the new music industry and the trends and technologies that are changing how music is discovered, consumed, marketed and monetized.

    Edited daily by founder Bruce Houghton with help from Owen Davis, Hypebot and sister blog MusicThinkTank are published by live music discovery and marketing platform Bandsintown.

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