How To Network As A New Band
Posted on January 30, 2015
January 30, 2015 | by Jonathan Diener
There are so many young, aspiring musicians out there daydreaming of going on the road and making a living playing music. At first they’re focusing on learning an instrument, writing songs and building a chemistry with their bandmates. There is no instruction manual that teaches you how to book shows, talk to other bands and build a network. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many musicians and industry figureheads that I’ve looked up to and I made it a point to make a good, or worst case, simply neutral impression. You should want these people to be your friends, not just use them for contacts. If you go in for the kill and ask for favors or make it seem like you’re conducting an interview, you’ve just lost them. Wouldn’t it be cooler to hang out with Dave Grohl on a regular basis instead of telling him how you kiss a poster of his face every night before you go to bed? This is a quick guideline to naturally networking in the music industry.
GIVING BANDS YOUR DEMO
Sometimes a band will give me their demo and ask me to check it out. Regardless of their intention, I most likely had a pleasurable conversation and it made me want to listen and engage in their music. Maybe it’ll blow me away and I’ll start to keep tabs on them and eventually ask them to play a show with us. It’s a long-term, but worthwhile situation. The nasty side to this is when a kid will hand us a handful of burned CDs (or eight professionally packaged CDs) and tells me to give one to each member of the band. What people don’t realize is whenever a band is on tour, they’re most likely in an overpacked van, sharing the same CD player. If the other people in the band like the music they’ll rip the CD onto their computers or just play it while they drive. It’s like that episode of Arrested Development where Tobias thinks it’s a good idea to put glitter inside of his resume: Overdoing it makes people remember you in a negative way which is worse than not remembering you at all. I stopped bringing demos to shows when I handed it to one of my favorite musicians and after our talk, saw him use it as a coaster. Not kidding. Do the slow build and if you have a mutual friend or contact with the artist, send them a link to download your record. Make it as easy as you can. Don’t hand them a sticker with your Bandcamp link at a show and make them do extra work. You probably don’t fill out the employee surveys at the bottom of your Taco Bell receipt, right?
DESERVE, NEVER DEMAND
Asking a band to take you on tour when they’ve never heard of you or your music will never work. I have friends who still constantly bug me to take them out and it gave them a bad reputation rather than helped their chances. Polite persistence is one thing, but constant annoyance will get you blacklisted. Want to tour with one of your favorite bands? The first step is proving you’re worth it. Do you have a tour history? Have you even left your city before? Bands won’t take out people with no experience because it’s a liability. Prove you can at least bring a few people to each show and get a following online. The band, or maybe just their agent, will be scoping out talent before the next headline tour. What you may not realize is a lot of bands are smaller than you think and are struggling themselves. There’s a good chance they want to open for someone else and are not in the market to take out new talent. Gauge the situation. I’ve had someone tell me, “Man, I wish more people came out to this show!” and follow it up with, “You guys should take us on tour!” That makes no sense.
“THE VAMPIRE RULE”
So your friend Steve brings you to see your favorite band and you’re ready to start networking. Steve gets you all-access passes so you get to go in their dressing room. Before you knock down the door and run in, I hope you use what I call The Vampire Rule. Do not enter their dressing room unless you are invited by the band. Being on tour isn’t a nonstop party. Artists want to relax or eat some food before they put on a big show. Walking in on that invades their privacy and you will automatically be a bummer to them. If you’re friends with someone on their crew or they’re a laid-back band, then it will be different. Don’t start talking about your band unless they ask about it and you won’t seem like you love talking about yourself. There are plenty of ways to play it cool in this situation. Do not go on their bus if you haven’t been invited. Do not grab a water, beer or food from a snack tray unless you are offered. Simple manners go a long way and keep you in their good graces.
RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS
When my brother and I still lived with our parents, we would always invite bands to stay the night simply because there’s nothing better than staying at a family house on tour. My mom would make chili and full meals for everyone, there would be couches and she’d treat everyone like family. The more we would start booking shows in our area, the more people would come to our basement and the more they would tell their friends. As 15 and 16 year olds, we were getting an awesome reputation with a lot of the bands we loved. Regardless if they just wanted a free meal, we established a cool connection. We’d drive hours to see our favorite bands and they would hang out with us, then end up inviting us to play with them next time. Promoters would see us as friends and start getting on more shows, so they began offering us more shows with other touring acts. We didn’t weasel our way into anything, we were just nice. Eventually when we were touring people started doing these things for us and we made sure to return the favor, getting some lifelong friends in the process.
Obviously there aren’t set rules for anything when it comes to being in a band, but keeping these guidelines in mind will most likely help you out immensely. These are simple, common sense steps to moving on up in the music world. As I mentioned earlier, it is more fulfilling to befriend someone you admire instead of tell them you admire them. In the future having these people on your side will pay off in one way or another, regardless of their connection with music. If you need a job, or plan on moving to a new city you have people ready to help you out. Just be nice, helpful and respectful to go a long way in life.