How to network in the music industry’s ‘new normal’ in 2022
Unless you’re a true social butterfly, networking with promoters, bookers, members of the press and other pros in your scene is probably the most difficult part of being an indie musician. And that was before the pandemic caused worldwide anxiety about interacting with other humans.
The past two years have impacted our industry in ways we’re still comprehending. We’re here to help you emerge from pandemic hibernation and get your networking back on track.
Here are nine tips to connect with your peers in the music biz:
1. Many pros have moved on
Club bookers that you used to have a great relationship with may not be working anymore. This has been a fairly common occurrence during the pandemic. Live music mostly disappeared for two years, so many show bookers found different lines of work in the interim. Some came back after shows returned, but many did not.
When it comes time for you to reconnect with your usual contacts with whom you might have had a strong relationship, you might find you’re speaking with someone completely different.
You can also work with a talent buyer in your area to help you book shows.
2. Other pros will be swamped
Your favorite venue might have been waiting around and working with a skeleton crew during the pandemic. Now that shows are back, there’s likely a sudden influx of work for their limited staff. Expect some growing pains as management figures out who’s going to handle the increased workload.
You also might need to be more aggressive with following up than you used to be. Lots of things can slip through the cracks with such a small amount of employees handling everything.
3. Do the legwork
Spend some time figuring out the situation in your area. Reassess the venues. Take stock of the industry professionals in your scene. It’s not just about booking gigs. If you’re ramping up your music career things might’ve changed from when you were active in the Before Times.
There’s a ton of turnover in the music industry, so do some research and learn who does what now. You might find that you don’t recognize too many faces. Learn the new people and build some new contacts.
4. Keep emails even shorter
Those new and old contacts you’re reaching out to? They don’t enjoy reading your entire life story just to find out at the end that you want to book a gig at their venue. Tell them the essentials: how you can help, what you can offer and what you’re looking for. Then get out.
You can say everything you need to in a couple of sentences. If there’s multiple paragraphs, you’re doing it wrong.
5. Be even MORE persistent
You’re going to need to follow up with most pros. Like we said above, they’re probably swamped. Offer to help if you have some time.
If you have a history of playing successful shows in your area, maybe you can pitch in and help and provide a little assistance that earns you some goodwill. That will go a long way in maybe making it higher up the list when it comes time for the venue to book more dates.
6. Ask other artists for help
This is the best time to team up with people in your scene and start to put together a bills together. If you go to the venue with a package ready to go, they’re more likely to book you over someone still figuring out who’s playing with them.
A great pitch is something like, “We’ve got these three artists together. We estimate we’ll get X amount of tickets sold and our audience loves beer. So you’re going to sell so much alcohol.”
7. Update your contact sheet
We’ve said it a few times already, but it bears repeating: there’s been a ton of turnover in the music industry. Venues have gone out of business. Maybe a venue is still operating and it seems like it’s the same, but it’s under new ownership. Do the research. Find out.
You can ask those other artists you contacted in the previous step to see if they know who’s booking at a venue. Erase the old names and replace them with new ones and build that contact list back to its former glory.
8. Look for alternative venues
When restaurants started reopening during the pandemic, many of them started hosting live music for the first time. Initially they just used it as a draw to get people out, but now those restaurants have turned into legitimate venues putting on great shows.
Bookstores. Coffee shops. Art spaces. Look for places in your area that aren’t just normal spots where everyone plays shows. Their schedules might be more open than the popular venues and it’s also a great way to play to a new crowd.
9. Be ready for last minute offers
Make sure you’re ready to get on stage at any time, because venues might have openings on short notice. Rehearse your setlist. Check all of your gear. Make sure you practice loading and unloading so you’re prepped when you do get a show.