The truth is for every artist out there fighting for a spot to the top, there’s hundreds of thousands more vying for the same thing. And it’s not just talent that makes you stand apart, or even who you know, but rather how you treat those you know. How you foster and grow relationships is everything. We’ve all heard of nepotism in the industry, and while it’s a word that’s quick to boil the blood of hard working musicians everywhere, it can also be your greatest strength. Hear me out.
I’ve been in this industry for nearly seven years. In that time, I can count on one hand the number of times a band has been really creative in their in-person approach with me. And look, I’m not saying I’m some insanely influential person. But once you get to know it, this industry is incredibly small, and everyone knows one another. I may not be the person you want to get to know—but I bet myself, or anyone else you encounter in the industry is only one or two degrees of separation from that person you do want to get some face time with.
So what do I mean by creative approaches? Something that stands out. Something that tells me you value long term results over short term. Something that tells me you have a plan for the future, and you’re laser focused. And the way to do that isn’t by shoving your mixtape at me as I walk down the street, or blasting out emails with no care for the person on the other end. It isn’t any form of going through the motions that doesn’t directly lead to your end goal. It’s getting clever, creative, and confident in everything you have to offer, and making it count.
Something pretty cool happened the other night. I met with a band called Alive and Well out of San Diego, CA. In my travels, they’d followed me on Twitter, and as soon as I knew I’d be in their area, I shot them an email and we made plans to meet up at a quaint coffee stand alongside the water. We had some trouble sorting out a time that worked for everyone, and just when I thought it wasn’t going to happen, they made the effort to meet me at a time that worked best for me, even if it was a little inconvenient for them. To tell you the truth, for someone who is constantly going around everyone else’s schedule, and trying to fit my life into everyone else’s neatly organized puzzle, this was a relief. It was also my first clue that they weren’t just great musicians, but greatpeopleas well.
We had a fantastic chat over sweets, coffee, and beer, and as I got up to leave they asked “Are you a size medium or small?” Instantly my face lit up as they handed me a t-shirt and ziplock filled with business cards, pins, and other assorted goodies. This was a band that was prepared. It was a band that knew opportunity when they saw it, and weren’t afraid to go after it—even if it meant losing a few dollars on a shirt not sold.
When I told them that in the 7 years I’d been in the industry this was only the second time a band had given me their shirt (versus a CD) they were shocked. If more bands had this reaction, I think the industry and individual success stories would be a lot different. By giving someone a complimentary t-shirt, you’re giving yourself free advertising. You’re giving hundreds, maybe even thousands of people the opportunity to see your band’s name, as that person walks down the street, into the grocery store, into the concert, out to the bar. Maybe they’ll wear it to SXSW. Maybe they’ll wear it next time they’re on a panel. Maybe they’ll wear it in a photo and broadcast it to their 1,000 Facebook friends. You have no idea. But I can’t remember ever carrying a CD around with me in public, band name out for everyone to see.
So get humble. Get creative, and get excited. There is so much opportunity for connecting to those around you, and it doesn’t always involve blasting out Facebook invites, or blindly handing someone a CD. It takes work, and it takes concentration, but I can promise you that it will produce far better results than any other method. Don’t be afraid to be brave and step outside your comfort zones. Try every crazy idea you can think of and if it fails, try another. Trial and error is a natural part of the process, but the impression you leave on people when you find your niche will be worth all the effort.
Originally written for Infectious Magazine.