musicians walking briskly on busy street“It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.”

When it comes to networking, I can’t imagine a more useful truism than the one above.

In essence, networking is an ongoing process of community-building in which we keep people informed about our activities and interests as we reciprocally learn about and support theirs.

Musicians who construct powerful networks can win copious bookings because presenters and colleagues know their work and their reputations for excellence and reliability.

Lively networks also spawn artistic benefits by connecting us to other creative people with whom we can collaborate.

But effective networking takes planning, skill, and persistence.

It’s often a subtle undertaking in which, ninja-like, we steadily become valued members of artistic and professional communities.

In this post, I itemize strategies that help musicians grow their networks via in-person networking. Part II, which I’ll publish in the future, will look at online tactics.

“Effective networking takes planning, skill, and persistence.”

Five In-Person Networking Strategies for Musicians

1. Meet and Greet

A vital component of in-person networking is the so-called “elevator speech” – a compelling nugget that communicates our artistic identity and is short enough to be conveyed during an elevator ride.

Veteran artist manager Edna Landau offers a couple of examples in a blog in which she advises that, as opposed to an elevator speech sounding boastful, “The key element is your naturalness and ability to genuinely convey enthusiasm for something that is very important to you.”

Once you have an introductory snippet prepared, along with some business cards, you’re ready to meet and greet. One tried-and-true way to engage experts in your discipline is to join professional organizations and attend the likes of conferences, festivals, master classes, and workshops.

Approach people you don’t know, introduce yourself, deliver your elevator speech, exchange cards and conversation (e.g., ask about their career paths; inquire about things they know now that they wish they’d known earler), and then follow up with a concise thank-you email; invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn.

A complementary strategy is to attend professional performances in your genre and then mingle afterward. In addition to congratulating the performers backstage, greet other audience members – they’re all people who share your interests.

2. Ask the Pros

If you’re a budding professional, it’s usually worthwhile to sign up for lessons or coaching sessions with local pros: soloists, conductors, ensemble players, freelancers, or contractors.

Ask not only for feedback on your musicianship and repertoire but also for leads to being part of the music culture in your region and beyond.

Then, periodically stay in touch with the contacts you make. Let them know when you release a recording or otherwise break new artistic ground, but don’t over-communicate.

A parallel tactic is to set up informational interviews with professionals who’ve achieved goals comparable to yours.

3. Volunteer

In tandem, you might volunteer in your community, maybe using your music to take part in social action.

For instance, you might perform for people who wouldn’t hear music otherwise, teach after-school lessons to disadvantaged children, and join local organizations that share your values.

Then, the people involved in those organizations connect you to countless others in your community, many of whom will want to support your music career by hearing your performances, contributing to your crowdfunding drives, and even hiring you to perform.

4. Showcase

Various organizations offer performers chances to connect with prospective presenters, often through showcases at conferences. Here are links to a number of them:

5. Exemplify Professionalism

The Musician's Way book coverThe reputation you build in the music and arts communities will be your most valuable networking asset.

Whether you’re in school or working professionally, always arrive early for your appointments and be thoroughly prepared for rehearsals and performances. See: “The 4 Pillars of Professionalism.”

Also be supportive of conductors, colleagues, and band or section leaders – help them look good and feel successful. Project a pleasant demeanor, even under difficult circumstances, and strive to be a resource that others can rely on.

If you’re currently in school, keep in mind that your teachers all have sizable networks that you can plug in to. So maintain positive relationships with all faculty, and seek out their mentorship in regard to networking.

Remember, too, that your fellow students will be your future professional colleagues, and many will work internationally. Keep in contact as you go your separate ways, whether through social media, messaging apps, or your alumni office.

The network you all share can be a lasting source of employment, camaraderie, and inspiration.

Related posts
The Art-Career Tango
Artistic Vision
Music: The Practical Career?
What Makes an Entrepreneurial Musician?

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © SVLuma, licensed from