How to Network Like a Music Industry Pro

2 Sep

It’s no secret that often in the world music, it’s more about “who you know” than what you know. The industry generally favors pre-existing relationships, whether you are looking for a venue, a sponsor, a review on your new album, or a slot at SXSW. Like it or not, networking can make or break an act.

Today, focus on taking a few steps closer to your goal by working on your contacts. Here are some of my favorite tips on networking:


  • Start With a Goal in Mind: Before you haphazardly contact just anyone in the music industry, think about what you want to achieve and who some of the people are that might be able to help you. You might also think about how you can help them in return. Most of the time, you’ll make new contacts in social situations but you can also be strategic about who you want to meet and why.
  • Use “Pull” Marketing Strategies: “Push” marketing is exactly what it sounds like: taking a proactive approach to reach out. However, “pull” marketing is far more effective. That’s when you draw people in.
  • Make Networking a Lifestyle, Not an Activity: While some people will be more inclined to be the social butterfly, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make networking a normal part of your career. Don’t be the one who is shoving their business cards in everybody’s face. Instead, be the one that listens to others’ needs and the one who takes the initiative in helping meet those needs.
  • It’s Not Who You Know, it’s Who You Know: Your name is a brand and the more excitement and buzz about you, the more likely you’ll attract others. Learn how to market yourself (social media, especially Linkedin, is a great place to start).
  • Give Them a Reason to Call You: With each exchange (whether online or in person), show the person that you respect their time by giving them something of value. This can be a tip, an interesting story, an incentive, or answer to a lingering question.

You can find more tips with a quick Google search or at the library. I highly recommend books on sales, especially by Jeffrey Gitomer, Jeffrey Fox, and Dale Carnegie. Below are two specific activities that you can apply right now to grow your skills in this area:

Activity 1: Create Your Strategy

Create a networking strategy. You can use a spreadsheet, a notebook, email/contact management system, or whatever system you are most comfortable with. Start with:

  1. Your Goals: Who are the people you want to get in touch with and why. What industries are they in? What do you hope to gain out of a relationship with them? Organize these contacts in categories (Managers, record labels, promoters, media, sponsors, etc.).
  2. Degrees of Separation: Who do you know who might have get you one degree closer to the contact? This is where sites like Linkedin are exceptionally useful. Don’t worry if you don’t have a line of contact for each person, just start with who you know.
  3. Add Contact Information: Include their basic contact information as well as any public social media accounts that they might use, such as Twitter.
  4. Value Proposition: List what they are interested in, what you can do to bring value to them. Can you help market their product/service? Create a partnership? Expand their roster?
  5. Contact Plan: Keep a track record of when/how you contact them. Treat this like a sales call sheet. There are many templates available online for this.
  6. Timeline: Group together contacts and create a regular schedule on when you’ll reach out to new contacts and build up existing relationships. It doesn’t take much, consistency goes a long way!

Activity 2: Generate Some Buzz

Build “pull” marketing strategies. Sometimes the best way to make new contacts is to give them a reason to contact you. In other words, find ways to make them take the initiative. There are a couple of ways to do this online:

  • Become a Resource for Them: Create some “online capital” by writing a regular blog or contributing to content on sites like Quara, HARO, or Linkedin. If you create meaningful content for things that your target contacts are interested in, they’ll be more inclined to contact you.
  • Generate Some Buzz: Hire a publicist, find ways to create some momentum through social media, create some industry buzz. Remember, focus on their industry. It doesn’t help you to reach #1 on ReverbNation for bands in your area if they have never heard of the website before. The best publicity gained is in areas where they will “stumble” across you and your work.
  • Draw Them In: Think of other ways that your target contacts will discover you. What interests them? What kind of websites or trade journals do they visit and read? Who do they know that could make that introduction? Some research can save you a lot of time and make your efforts much more effective.

What more tips? Learn more about how you can take control of your own music career, get a label or booking agent, and how to improve your musicianship. Check out Music Business Hacks (100% of sales this month go to ALS)

Ice Bucket Challenge and Fundraiser

23 Aug

Unless you yourself have been living under a bucket, you have noticed the Ice Bucket Challenge fervor spreading around the world. This is my take on it – not only to help support efforts in finding a cure for ALS, but to raise money/awareness for issues related to clean water, which is currently affecting almost 1 billion people.

I want to help step it up even more.

So the until September 30, 100% of the money from my book sales will go towards ALS and Charity Water. 

Feel free to check out my books on being successful in the music business and finding a sponsor Simon Tam’s Amazon Author Page. And please, continue to support these great organizations!

Musicians: Learn How to Soundcheck

12 Aug zenkaikon

One of my biggest pet peeves as a performer is a band who doesn’t know how to soundcheck properly. It shouldn’t be – it usually reflects inexperience and ignorance rather than disrespect and apathy. The truth is that most bands are taught how to soundcheck, it’s just a skill that gets picked up along the way. Despite this, the soundcheck is often an indicator of the professionalism of the band.

Here’s a lesson on how to soundcheck the right way:

Before the show

Once you have a show confirmed, you should send a stage plot, technical rider, and input list to the sound and lighting engineers. Having detailed needs spelled out in advance can help overcome any issues early on, including deficiencies in equipment, limited inputs or monitor mixes, etc. For larger shows, you could send audio tracks or performance footage showing the kind of mix and light design that you’d like for the show (assuming you don’t have your own sound/lighting crew).

You should be prepared to bring everything needed for your instrument: the instrument, cables, adaptors, amp, stands, microphones, batteries etc. Unless you have a detailed list of what is being provided by the venue, assume that you are responsible for your own gear. I also recommend keeping a backup set of power strips, extension cables, strings, drum sticks, gaffer tape, setlists, sharpies, DI boxes, power cables, and vocal microphones. Things should be clearly labeled so that they can be quickly identified – something that is often useful on dark stages.

The biggest issues with soundchecking that are under your control include:

  • Weak or dead batteries, especially in wireless systems or electronic pickups
  • Loose or damaged cables
  • Poor mic technique (standing too far back, holding mic improperly, etc.)
  • Noisy channels caused by effects, grounding, or wireless systems
  • Over-aggressive padding or attenuation of devices (mixers on stage, DI boxes, etc.)

The more that you can take care of these common problems ahead of time, the more time that can be spent making you sound good.

When you arrive

Show up at the designated time (or earlier if you need more loading time) and ask the sound engineer where they would like you to place your gear. When loading onto the stage, begin with larger pieces of equipment – the drum set, amp rigs, etc. but watch out for the mixer snake, power outlets, or areas where XLR cables will be run. Find a place for “dead” or empty cases to be stored off stage.

Whether you will be getting a full soundcheck or only a line check, prepare your gear in advance so that you can be ready at a moment’s notice. This means setting up the drums, positioning stands, tuning, etc.

The soundcheck

Most shows will soundcheck in reverse order of the show. In other words, the headliner will soundcheck first and the opening act will soundcheck last. Sometimes, the acts in the middle will only get a quick line check right before their set. Whether you you get a full soundcheck or not, the process is generally the same.

The sound engineer should guide you through the process, asking for one instrument at a time. No one else should be playing or testing their gear at this time, only the person being addressed by the engineer.

Most of the time, engineers will check in this order: drums, bass, guitar, keyboards or electronic samples, horns, lead vocals, backup vocals.

When your instrument is being checked, play a quick sample at the intended volume and test any gear that might increase that volume (pedals or effects). Usually, as each instrument is being checked, the engineer will ask which band members require it in their monitor – simply gesture whether you want it up, down, or not at all in your monitor. This is also the time to address any mixing requests for the house as well (e.g, we’d like stage right guitar louder in the mix).

After all of the individual channels are dialed in, you’ll be asked to play a song. Play one that incorporates all of your instruments and vocalists if possible, so that the engineer can get a good mix for the house. In fact, try to play the same song every time you soundcheck so that you can listen for consistency.

Band members can also walk through the front of the house (one at a time) or have a member of the road crew listen for any abnormalities or changes.

After the soundcheck, if you’re requested to move your gear (such as sliding it back to make room for the next band), try and mark the positions of amps and stands with brightly colored tape so that you can quickly re-set the stage.

After the soundcheck/show

If you have another act coming on after you, clear off your equipment as quickly as possible. Try and get the larger things out of the way, such as drums or amp stacks, so that the next band and can load their gear on stage. Tasks, such as breaking down drums, wrapping cables, putting things in cases, etc. should be done offstage. A quick tear down is a courtesy both to the act following you, the sound crew who needs to set up for the next band, and the promoter who is trying to run a show on time. Before the acts begins playing, do another quick walkthrough to make sure that you got everything.

If you don’t have another act following you, there isn’t as much of a rush to clear the stage but you should still ask the venue when they’d like you to tear down. The last thing that you want to do is to keep up any staff waiting to close and go home for the night.

Finally, be sure to thank the sound engineer. You might even consider tipping them or buying them a drink so that you can develop a good rapport.

If you want to be a professional musician, you have to learn how to deliver a professional experience. Everything from how you load in, how you soundcheck, to how you perform on stage is a part of the process. Not only will this help set you apart, but the venue staff and other artists will appreciate your efficiency as well!

To find get specific tips on how to improve your soundcheck as well as make your touring/live shows more effective, check out Music Business Hacks.

How Often Bands Should Post on Social Media

7 Aug

How often should I post on Facebook? How often should I tweet? How many videos should I upload to YouTube a month?

It’s interesting that more people ask about the quantity of their social media posts rather than the quality of that content. In the world of social media, the quality of the idea (not necessarily the quality of the video or image itself) always reigns. If it is something worth sharing and the right people catch on, it will spread. However, the right quantity is also important because it helps people stay engaged, develop a relationship with your brand, and also keeps your content current. Yet, posting too often on some sites (such as Facebook) will dilute your message or create too much noise and make some people want to tune you out – even if everything you have to say is interesting, timely, and relevant to your audience.

Here are some tips to help you achieve the most appropriate quantity of posts:

  • Facebook’s Edgerank System: While no one knows the exact algorithm in Facebook’s posting system, it’s generally recommended space out the number of posts by at least two hours. Otherwise, certain updates can be obscured. Besides, it’s annoying to have one page constantly taking up space in a user’s news feed. Remember, images and videos (hosted by Facebook, not by YouTube or Video) get priority over anything else. They’re also much more visual and engaging, especially for mobile users.
  • Don’t Sync: Don’t allow your Twitter account to feed your Facebook page unless you do not use Twitter at all. It’s a different system, different audience. In fact, it’s generally not recommended to sync multiple social media accounts together because of the different formats and audiences. Imagine if you could connect your phone line to your email system. Does that make any sense? If you want to link the two, use Facebook to help drive posts on Twitter but not the other way around. But that’s only because it’s generally accepted to have a Twitter account as active as you’d like it to be.
  • Are They Online? Thanks to social media metric service websites such as Tweriod, you can see when your followers are online. That’s the best time to post because that is when your posts are most likely to be seen. If it’s beyond your social media posting hours, then you can pre-schedule updates using services like TweetDeck or Hootsuite.
  • Are They Tweeting Back? The outdated misconception that Twitter is a self-absorbed activity still persists but remember: social media is all about engagement. Conversations on Twitter are just as important as responding to comments on Facebook, so if your audience is talking back, don’t be afraid to jump into conversations. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: treat social media like a telephone, not a megaphone.
  • Post Around the Clock: If possible, try spreading posts out throughout the day to create a well-rounded account. Don’t just limit yourself to certain hours.
  • Create Different Channels for Different Audiences: Not all of your fans will be using the same social media channels. Some might prefer Vine to Instagram, some might use Tumblr or WordPress. Whatever they are, find the ones most used by your fans and consider focusing on those. When you do, you’ll learn that it will be acceptable/expected to post on some channels more than others. Find the sweet spot by following your fans and learning from them.

There aren’t really hard and fast numbers about how often you should post, but you should use analytics to guide you. How often are people responding, sharing, tweeting back, or liking your posts? Is it hard to find important updates because they’re being obscured by other general announcements? How often does your audience want to hear from you? Just because they “like” you doesn’t mean they’re in love with you. And just because you have some followers, it doesn’t mean that you’re the only one leading the conversation.

Social media is very much like a science as well as an art. Learn the tools and then trust your gut.

To find get specific tips on how to learn the science of social media, check out Music Business Hacks.

Tour Bus for Sale

19 Jul

tour bus

Looking for a new ride? This is a sweet deal. Read about it here:

CreativeLive music industry class w/ Steve Rennie

23 Jun

Steve Rennie

Music industry veteran and Renman Music & Business founder, Steve Rennie (aka “Renman“), will return to the CreativeLive stage for the course, “Dream It, Do It: Breaking Into The Music Industry,” on Wednesday, July 2 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. PDT (12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. EDT). During “Dream It, Do It: Breaking Into The Music Industry,” Rennie will draw on his 30-plus years in the music business, teaching the CreativeLive audience what it takes to get your foot in the door and where to go from there. For more information, and to enroll for free today, head over to the CreativeLive ‘Music & Audio’ channel at: A “Dream It, Do It: Breaking Into The Music Industry” teaser video can be seen on YouTube at:

3 Ways Musicians Can Learn from Other Industries

16 Jun

When I was in my MBA program, I often learned more about business from business owners (and running one myself) than the instructor. Usually, the people out in the field have a different perspective than those who are teaching. With the music industry, you have experts who come at it from many different angles: managers, lawyers, record labels, promoters, booking agents, publicists, journalists, solo artists, bands, studio musicians/session players, academics, consultants, and more. One of my favorite ways of learning is to study how other people are approaching their music career. Another is to look completely outside of the music industry itself.

When I want to improve on something specific, I often see what other successful artists are doing. This can be anything from a website layout, social media posts, biographies, and press kits to music videos, color palettes, song formats, and live performances. I often keep a portfolio of these artists’ work to monitor trends, key words, and imagery. It’s like having a list of reference songs in the studio when recording and mixing: the collection becomes a good point of reference to compare against.

When I want a different perspective on the music industry, I’ll look for articles written by people who are involved from completely different jobs. Then, I’ll meet up with someone in the industry, take them out to lunch, and bounce ideas off of them. It’s a great way to help keep each other informed and to build those relationships.

When I want to get more creative, I look outside of the music industry itself to either get ideas or find new ways of approaching problems. For example, when I begin designing merchandise for an upcoming tour, I’ll often look at Pantone ( and see what the hot new colors are for the upcoming season. Then I’ll incorporate those colors in if possible. Or, when I want to get creative about promoting, I’ll look and see what other independent creators are doing: authors, chefs, designers, and so on. In many ways, the book publishing industry has followed the same path of the music industry, so authors and musicians can definitely learn from each other.

Here are three areas where you can begin learning ideas for your music carer:

1. Nerdfighters, Assemble!

Brothers John and Hank Green have come up with some of the most brilliant ways to connect with their audience that I’ve ever seen. Between the two of them, they’ve built up a loyal army of fans called Nerdfighters. They have helped launch an independent record label with several Billboard charting songs, promoted multiple New York Times bestselling books, supported several extremely successful webseries on YouTube, established a massive annual convention called Vidcon, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities. If you want to learn how they did this, take some time out and learn everything that you can about the “vlogbrothers.” Or take a crash course here:

The vlogbrothers are a great example of how developing a very fine niche and appealing to a core community of followers can explode into a worldwide phenomenon. Every independent artist who is serious about their career should be studying the careers of these two brothers.

2. Comparison Charts

Create a list of ten artists (any genre, but preferably successful ones in your own genre) that you can follow in almost every way: look at their biographies, their social media feeds, their “brand” or image that they project to the world and look for common language, imagery, or behaviors. See what kinds of posts they make that get the most feedback (likes, comments, shares, retweets, and so on). Keep a list or chart and find ways to gain some ideas so that you can create your own set of best practices.

3. Follow the Leader

Check out articles and posts from business leaders who are outside of the business industry. Need some ideas of who you should be paying attention to? Try these lists:

Entrepreneurs, digital and social media marketers, business owners, etc. can all help you refine the business side of your music career by helping you make better managerial decisions, create better goals, learn how to use social media, and offer other tips that you might not get from following the usual suspects in the music industry world (ASCAP Daily, Music Think Tank, and so on). Many of these individuals who tweet will post useful links and articles throughout the day that you should be reading.

So begin following/subscribing to several business leaders. If you tweet, follow their accounts. If you use blogs, use RSS. Many also have YouTube accounts, Linkedin Influence accounts, etc. It’s an endless source of ideas that can help you develop your own artistry and business finesse. In fact, might also find content that is relevant to your audience that you could repurpose or retweet yourself.

To learn more ideas about “hacking” your music career, check out my newest book, Music Business Hacks!


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