Networking is Not an N Word
It’s not a bad thing. Nothing to be afraid of. It sounds stuffy but really means “saying hello with beer.” Understand that you will learn far more at a music conference than you will promote. The information is priceless. Carry a pen and paper. Every festival I’ve ever been to, from CMJ on down, there’s always someone looking for a pen and paper. Use them to take notes after interactions to help when you follow up.
Networking is not about you. It is the art of being interested in the people you talk to. Try to know something about those you plan to meet. Ask them questions about themselves. No matter how much you want to rave about how you melt off faces, make the conversations about them and they will walk away remembering you. Talk about them enough and at a certain point they will ask what you do and then ask for your music. When someone asks for your music they will more likely listen to it as compared to having a CD shoved in their hands.
Since the FMF is more for the fans, there will be way more music lovers than industry folks. Talk to everyone anyways. There isn’t a single person that isn’t worthy of a few minutes of your time. You can never judge a book by its cover so don’t blow off talking to someone because you think they are just an attendee. They could easily be your next booking agent, manager, lawyer, or offer to film your next video.
If talking to strangers “isn’t your thing” then you’re screwed. Or you can nut up and just say hello. Then ask them about themselves. What is their favorite artist? Who did they come to see? Seen any good showcases? What made you get into playing music? How did you start out in the music industry? As long as you get them talking about their experiences and opinions the conversation will get around to you.
The FMF is great because it can be a giant yearly reunion for artists and industry types. But avoid spending too much time with those you already know. Those relationships are there and can be built outside the conference and maintained with a quick conversation. You’re there to meet new people. If this is not your 1st time at the FMF, go back and look at the contacts you’ve made previously. Write them and arrange a time to meet. Catch up, and then ask them who they think you should meet and an introduction if possible.
The FMF Conference
The conference is just one day (6 hours) and consists of a keynote speaker and a few industry panels. It’s worth going to with some caveats.
First, stay sober. While the FMF can be one big party, it should be work for your band. Have a god time but no one wants to work with drunks. Don’t be hung over from the night before. If your band is a party band, designate a few members or just one who will attend the conference and appear alert and attentive. Bryan Malpass said, “Bad Impressions last longer so be professional.”
Next, be sure to get involved. Ask questions but please don’t be that douche who asks a question by first announcing his band, website, showcase time, and then tries to hand his press kit to the panel. Simply state your name, that you’re an artist and ask your question. Then approach the panelists you researched afterwards and continue the conversation. “Everyone is trying to get their music out there. There’s a fine line between hustling and being completely rude.” suggests Malpass. Be genuine rather than aggressive.
There will always be some at the conference who are bitter and complaining. Avoid them at all costs. Your goal is to be positive. You can’t afford to be seen with those who rather bitch than make an effort to learn and improve.
Take notes to share and discuss what you’ve learned with the rest of the band. Everyone might have a different perspective and it’s good to get them all.
No Showcase, No Problem
Even if you’re not playing, there is so much to be gained from going to the FMF. In addition to networking with industry members, take time to watch other bands. Further local camaraderie and see those local acts performing. Meet new bands you’d like to work with. You can improve your promo efforts and stage show just by watching what works as well as the epic fails from other artists.
A band’s brand can be showcased just by walking down the street. The brand is made up of your wardrobe, the entourage that follows you, and your attitude. The music comes second. It’s not fun to say that but the former are what can draw new fans in so they can eventually experience the music.
Social Media Matters
Making the most of social media means more than posting on your timeline and tweeting 10x a day to ‘come check you out.’ There is an ongoing social media conversation happening at every big event. Don’t miss out on the chance to join in. The FMF will have a specific hashtag#. Find it and add it to your tweets. Others search this hashtag# and will then see your tweets. Don’t just use hashtags# to reach beyond your own twitter followers for shameless self promotion (although it’s great for that). Tweet good quotes from the conference. Mention those you’ve met with their @name. The follow up is immediate and public and a great way to build relationships.
Even before the conference, a few well placed comments to posts on the FMF Facebook can’t hurt.
Many will go. Few will follow up. When you wake up and shower the funk off, start sorting the flyers and business cards you’ve collected. Enter the contact information you have and write those you spoke to. Keep it simple. Mention something you specifically discussed, that it was nice to meet them, and maybe ask to have a further conversation by phone in the future. Asking how they want to be contacted can go a long way into getting a favorable response. It shows you respect their time and process.
Take advantage that Orlando has a thriving music scene that puts on this kind of event. Take what you’ll learn and improve. The FMF is a great little conference to practice for the bigger ones.
- The Florida Music Festival will be downtown Orlando April 19th through the 21st.