It doesn't take most DJs, musicians, artists, actors, or any other kind of performers very long to realize that networking is basically essential if they ever want to be able to use their talents outside of their own home. People often take this idea to the extreme, and just end up being annoying. If your interaction with other people of interest feels forced, it may be time to reevaluate.
Especially if you're a Small Town DJ, your scene needs your support. You need to be a provider instead of just a consumer. Networking should be viewed as a means to that end. Yes, networking can eventually result in gigs for you, but it's important to remember that it's not just about you. If your scene is only loaded full of leeches, it's not sustainable. You should support the scene because you want it to thrive.
I view networking as a way to meet like-minded friends, to offer my services to other motivated individuals, to fill needs wherever I see them, and to be involved in my local community. Below are some key points that I think are important when it comes to networking “for the right reasons”.
1. Don't Feign Interest
Networking doesn't mean going out and finding everyone remotely involved in your scene, buttering them up, and acting interested in everything they have to say. People will see right through that, and that's a very empty and unfulfilling way to try and advance your “career”.
Instead, start finding like-minded individuals and befriending them because you want to. Unless your city only has a population of 1,000 people within a 50 mile radius, or you have some completely radical or weird opinions, I guarantee you that there are other people out there who feel the same way you do about the scene. You just haven't found them yet. Keep going out to events that you believe in and want to support. If there aren't any, maybe you want to start your own! (I realize that not everyone is interested in running their own nights.)
Also, you don't have to go “straight to the top” and find the most relevant people that you can in order to befriend them. Just be genuine, and build your social circle around people like you. When you're real with people, and genuinely want to help, you will naturally attract other like-minded people.
2. Remember What Mama Taught You
It is better to give than to receive. Don't just do things for people because you want to get something out of it. That is shallow and parasitic. Once you find people that you actually care to spend time with and share ideas with, you will want to do this. That's why it's important to not act like you're interested in ideas or approaches that you really aren't.
Which brings me to…
3. Provide Real Value
What are you doing to support your scene, simply as a product of your passion and interest in it? Are you helping spread the word about events that you're interested in (not just ones that you're playing)? Are you offering to help do grunt work, like setting up sound or handing out flyers? Are you turning down gigs because they aren't your ideal time slot, instead of taking a warm-up gig and owning it?
Some people might make the argument that this is not the place of the DJ, and it's up to the promoter or event planner to make these things happen. I don't necessarily disagree with that argument, but if you're only willing to put in the minimum amount of required effort (like everyone else), don't complain when you only reap the minimum amount of results. If you want your scene (or business market, or one-off events, or whatever it is that you're trying to support) to grow and thrive, you should want to help out.
Don't make empty promises and offer up hollow support. Think about how you can actually support your scene, not just appear to be supporting them. Otherwise, you're simply going to sit alongside the other long list of DJs who weren't willing to step in and offer up a bit of hard work.
4. Support People As Motivated As You
The best people to interact with if you're interested in the success of your like-minded collective are the ones that are driven to get things done. It's amazing what can happen if you get two or three people together who are all motivated. Suddenly, you have a small accountability group, and people to bounce ideas off of. Hold each other up. You should be genuine, but that doesn't mean that you can't scratch someone's back!
That doesn't mean ignore people who are interested in the scene but don't really contribute as far as throwing events and such. It's still helpful to have like-minded individuals to interact with, even if it's just people that frequent a certain venue (or recurring night) as a patron. I've noticed that an unintentional product of befriending some of the dancers and club-goers, that they have started coming out to events that I'm involved with to support me. And these are usually the people that will get out on the empty floor and get things going. Pretty cool feeling. 🙂
5. Be Positive!
Being friendly and positive is a great way for people to remember you for the right reasons, and it will also help you to attract other friendly and positive people. Remember, collaboration is better than competition when it comes to local music scenes! Wouldn't you rather collaborate with people who you're excited to work with, and don't bring you down every time you talk to them?
If you show that you have energy and you're excited to do what it takes to get things done, your connections are going to remember that in the future. Make yourself a resource, and one that people feel comfortable going to.
“Make yourself a resource”
6. Be Patient
Just because you feel like you're doing everything right when it comes to networking, it doesn't mean you're going to have your phone ringing off the hook next week. People aren't going to immediately start beating your door down, screaming “please save us and our scene, Mr. DJ!” If you're looking for the musical equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme, good luck with that.
The best part is that if you're already a helpful, contributing, valuable, motivated person… the patience will simply come as a product of your persona.
Don't simply start calling or e-mailing people every other day, asking if they have a gig for you. That's a sure-fire way to turn someone off. But, when you DO inquire about a gig…
7. Have Samples Ready
In today's day in age, it's easier than ever to have a basic website, blog, Mixcloud account, or somewhere that you can put your work. You don't even have to carry CDs around anymore. The first thing that a new promoter is going to ask you is if you have any recorded sets that they can hear. Some tips for crafting promo sets:
- Maintain flow, but show your versatility. Your set doesn't need to stay completely flat… feel free to start somewhere and end somewhere else. You want to show that you can adapt.
- If you are targeting multiple types of events, try having 3 or 4 sets ready that showcase the way you might play depending on the venue. If someone asks you to play a benefit show at a swanky wine-tasting event, and the only demo you have exhibits you playing in full-on rave mode, that's not going to reflect well on you. Give the appropriate set to the appropriate event planner or promoter.
- Don't make it too long. I always try to keep mine around an hour max. This is plenty sufficient for you to show your mixing skills, musical taste, and versatility. Don't bore them or make them feel like they need to listen to 2-3 hours to get a feel for what you do.
- Rather than carrying CDs around, put your sets online and have cheap business cards made which contain a link to your demos. This way, you can put them in your wallet and always have them with you. A lot of people can't be bothered with CDs anymore, anyway. If someone requests a CD, you can always burn one and get it to them.
How do you like to contribute to your scene outside of just playing tunes? Comment below!