Do you feel musically alone?
Last week I visited college friends in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. The theme of the week was intrapersonal musical influences and connections. I used to feel very alone in my search for a music career as little as five years ago, but how rich, abundant, and connected the landscape seems now!
The funny thing is that these connections were always there to be discovered or recognized. But I didn’t see the connections and support I already had at the time, and I didn’t know where to find new ones.
There’s a whole collage of musical connections and influences surrounding us all… even if sometimes it feels like there’s not.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when you are looking for connections to support your music:
Online vs. Offline Connections
You may find fans, friends, employers, collaborators, and other connections either online or offline. But remember that in most cases, offline relationships – that is, relationships where you have met in person – are much stronger. A friend of mine recently traveled from Germany to San Francisco to attend a conference, with one primary goal being to get five minutes of face time with an important contact. It’s that worthwhile. Everyone has tons of opportunities to create relationships online. But in-person contact carries an undeniable weight. It’s easier to trust and remember someone you’ve met in person at least once.
Types of Connections
Sometimes when we think of “connections” we think of people in power who can do things for us. But that’s only one kind of connection you may need. You need emotional support from at least one person. You need fan support from people who appreciate your music. You need collaborators for exchange of ideas and peer review. Yes, you want “connections” too – people who have power or connections you don’t – but I believe these other types of connections are important to get in place first.
Depths of Connections
A few connections will be strong and deep. Most will be loose and casual. Some will lie in the middle. Know which ones are which, and what you can give and take from each relationship.
A friend of mine made a chance contact yesterday with another musician originally from the same country. All was well, until this new acquaintance asked my friend to share some of his hard-earned contacts in film and TV – contacts my friend had worked hard, and traveled far, to cultivate. He had overstepped his bounds, asking a casual connection to give way too much. Don’t make this kind of mistake.
But when you have a strong and deep connection with a few people, you can share much of their resources and knowledge. These people are the ones who will be willing to spend their precious time to help you and who will share resources, knowledge, and opportunities more freely with you.
Where to Find Connections
They are everywhere! Just start looking. Here are some ideas:
Conferences – Music-related conferences are an incredible way to network, learn, make contacts and friends, and get inspired. Here are some I have attended or hope to attend: Taxi Rally in LA (for Taxi Members), Tom Jackson Performance Bootcamp in Nashville, MIDEM in Cannes, SXSW in Austin, HessFest in Chicago and Europe (various), Durango Songwriters Expo in Colorado (various) and Santa Ynez, CA, New Music Seminar in LA, the ASCAP Expo in LA, the Kauai Music Festival, the Miami Music Festival, SONAR in Barcelona… the list goes on.
Through attending just a few of these conferences, I have met people such as:
– A Nashville musician who will let me crash at her place next time I’m in town;
– A musician for whom I record vocals on his electronic and pop tracks;
– Several musicians from my own local area I hadn’t met before; and
– A musician with whom I am doing a remote original-music project.
Forums – LinkedIn has many musical discussion groups. Harmony-Central.com has active singer and musician forums, and I have gotten session work by being on this forum. IndieMusicWorks.com, GoGirlsMusic.com, RockSource360.com, FemMusic.com, SoundClick, IndabaMusic.com, the Positive Music Association – many of these sites support music collaboration and/or have offline events where members can actually meet in person.
And this is only a tiny slice of all the online music communities that exist. Find one or two that really call to you, and get involved.
Programs – The Berklee College of Music has well-regarded online programs. I know many people who have taken Berkeley classes and they all have said very good things about them. Tom Hess runs an excellent Music Careers Mentoring Program out of Chicago, with students all around the world. Your local university or college has programs you can enroll in. Bob Baker has a great Music Mastermind Program and consultation programs. There are tons of music programs out there – just look for what specifically interests you.
Organizations – Colorado has the Colorado Music Business Organization (COMBO), the Colorado Music Buzz, the Denver Musicians Association, and more. Search for <your location> plus “music organizations” to find organizations local to you. Attend a few of their meetings or open mic nights.
Friends – Think about it and I’m sure you know at least a few people who play music. Then think about who they know. Just ask around and start jamming or collaborating with some people! You never know what will lead to what.
Music Scene – Get out to the venues, attend live shows, meet the bartenders, meet the local bands, buy their merch, get involved in music festivals, book shows for your band, join an a cappella group, join a band, go to open mic nights. Just meet people. Remember, in-person connections are much more powerful than online-only friends. And the circle expands very quickly once you start!
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn