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Why Musicians Should Stop Networking!

This month’s post is originally written by bassist Brandon Shaw. I have seen it floating around on social media a few times and he took the words right out of my mouth. When someone brings up the topic of “networking” I shudder. When someone asks me interrogative questions with the sole purpose of furthering their career, or how I can help them get “connected with so and so” I feel slightly sleezy and like I should go take a shower. I will let Brandon elaborate on what I’m talking about. This information isn’t just limited to the music industry, and I think people of every profession can learn something from this. Without further ado, here is Brandon’s original post in its entirety…

I hate that word. I hate it. It conjures up images of douchebags and stacks of business cards from people you barely know. Instagram feeds of self-gloating “Today’s Office” selfies. Half-assed declarations of “we should play together” when you really just want them to call you for gigs.

I’m speaking, of course, about my least favorite word: Networking.

WHAT DOES NETWORKING EVEN MEAN?

Is it like when you comment on someone’s Facebook post and say, “Killin’ bro!”

Is it when you approach another musician specifically to force your phone number on them, veiled in 2 minutes of complimentary banter?

Is it when you “connect” on LinkedIn?” (whatever that means)

Networking is this big vague thing that we all know we should really get better at, but we’re not sure how to do that. Let’s take a quick look at the 3 types of networkers.

NO. 1: THE TEVIN

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’re familiar with this guy. Tevin is a textbook douche. He has his own self interests at heart and loves networking. Tevin is the guy that comes up to you after a gig, starts to compliment you, and then quickly turns the conversation toward himself and what he’s been doing lately.

“Yeah man, ever since the Kimmel Show the gigs have been pouring in. Do I have your number? I’m always looking for subs!”

 

He may have even “tried to get you on this gig,” only for it to fall through. This shady networking technique happens too frequently, leaving you questioning Tevin’s honesty. Was there really a gig? Or was he just trying to look like he’s throwing me a bone?

Every move Tevin makes, everyone he talks to, every instagram he posts, all of it is for one main goal: “get them gigs bruh” (his words, not mine).

Sure, Tevin can play, and sure he gigs alot, but have you ever had to hang out with him? He’s the worst! Alas, this is Tevin’s Achilles’ heel: his personality.

NO. 2: THE FRIEND

You know this guy. Everyone knows this guy. It might be different for everyone, but this type is universal. The musician that you love to be around. He’s a great player too, but man is he fun to hang out with! When you find out that you’ll be playing together soon you look forward to it all month. Not just for the music, but for the hang.

Maybe The Friend gets you gigs, maybe he doesn’t. You don’t even care about that. Just hanging out with The Friend is it’s own reward. You two don’t brag to each other, don’t falsely compliment each other, and don’t try to network the other person. You’re friends first and foremost, musicians second.

The Friend is a great musician, gigs frequently, and is a blast to hang out with. He may not be attacking the networking scene like Tevin, but in 10 years he’ll still have a career.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEVIN AND THE FRIEND?

Tevin wants you to call him for gigs. The Friend wants you to call him to hang out.

Tevin wants ALL OF THE GIGS, RIGHT NOW. The Friend wants to play great music with great people who love music.

Tevin is focused on “networking,” while The Friend is focused on cultivating relationships.

Now to be fair, Tevin’s strategy technically works. He does play a lot of gigs (did you hear he played on Kimmel?), however his aggressive networking techniques and tendency to use people to climb to the top will eventually catch up to him. In 10 years he’ll be the jaded musician who talks to you after your gig, complaining about how he used to tour the world, but the music industry has changed and he got screwed.

The Friend, on the other hand, may not have as many gigs right now, but he has plenty of people who genuinely care about him and his success. The friendships that he is building will help him not only through the next 10 years, but for the rest of his life. Rather than using other people to climb to the top, he’s slowly climbing the ladder of his career with other people.

STOP NETWORKING

“Networking” is a selfish pursuit. Getting to know other people specifically so that you can advance your own career as a musician is foolish, and other people see right through it.

If you want to build a successful career as a professional musician, stop networking. Instead, focus on building friendships. Not fake friendships with secret selfish motives. Not friendships so you check a box that says, “we’re friends.” I’m talking about genuine, honest, real friendships that are an end unto themselves.

Musicians want to work with their friends, so the career aspect of it will take care of itself. If you want more work, go make more friends. Before long you’ll have lifelong friends, a solid career foundation, and “get them gigs bruh” in the process.

NO. 3: ME AND YOU

Oh, you thought I forgot about the third type of networker?

The third and final type of networker is me and you. You’re probably not quite The Friend yet, and Isincerely hope you’re not like Tevin. If you’re like me, you’re right in the middle, trying to figure it all out.

Let’s up our networking friendship game. Here’s a homework assignment for you:

Text 2 people that you haven’t seen in a while. Set up some time next week to get together. Lunch, coffee, drinks, or just hanging out. Go into it with no end goal in mind other than hanging out with a friend. Ask the other person good questions about what they’re up to. Don’t talk about yourself unless they ask. Just go be a good friend to someone.

Do it! Go now! Text 2 people! You’ll be surprised at how good it feels to go hang out with someone without “networking” expectations.

Brandon Shaw is a freelance bassist in the LA area, and maintains the site Startup Musician, a website for professional musicians. Check out more articles, interviews, and videos at www.startupmusician.co