February 07, 2011

What Not To Do - Don't Forget How Important Developing Relationships Is

Through every stage of your music business career, relationships are going to be one of the most important driving factors of your success - and I don't mean just knowing all of the CEOs of major labels. Here are just a few things to keep in mind when it comes to building business relationships.
  • You never know what the future holds for anyone; treat everyone fairly - Life is funny. Things can change in an instant. The music business is certainly not exempt from that fact. Execs in this industry play musical chairs. When they do so, they clean house a lot of the time, which shifts people around even more. Complicating things on top of that is the general uncertainty of the fate of companies in this industry - companies are being bought and sold, some going bankrupt, some entrepreneurs making breakthroughs ... it's all constantly changing. That being said, the CEO that you sucked up to may be out of a job next week, but give the other intern down the hall a few years and they found a start-up that revolutionizes the industry. And maybe not. But you really don't know where people will end up. Don't be rude to people's assistants or the person that sorts the mail or the opening act at a concert, and only nice to the top execs and the super stars. That mail clerk may be the person making the hiring decision for your dream job 10 years from now. You never know.

  • It's not the quantity of relationships that's important, but the quality - You could have contact information for 300 people, but if all 300 people have only met you once, they're a lot less likely to answer your email than say if you have 5 contacts, but have built solid relationships with those 5 people. In a lot of ways, it's the same concept that applies to friendships. Would you rather have 20 acquaintances and 0 close friends, or 1 really great friend that you know you can always depend on? Life is, of course, not that black and white, and it's best to have a combination of solid relationships and some acquaintances that can develop into stronger relationships - but only having shallow "relationships" aren't going to help you in the long run.

  • Don't be a fair weather contact - Whatever you do, don't be the person that only contacts their business relationships when they need something. Now that most people are only an email, text, Facebook message, phone call, etc. away, it's pretty easy to keep up with people. If you see that your former co-worker accomplished something great, congratulate them. Wish them Happy Holidays. Visit when you're in town (but ask them if it's ok first - dropping by unannounced isn't polite either). Remember: they're people just like you. Get to know them, get drinks with them when appropriate (or coffee ... especially if you're not 21 yet), and work with them on projects when possible - just keep in touch.

  • Attend industry events - By "events" I mean the spectrum of conferences to networking events to shows. The more chances you have to genuinely interact and spend time with people, the stronger your relationships will become. This goes with the last bullet point.

  • Get to know a wide variety of contacts - Again, you don't know where people are going to be tomorrow. It's great to have focus, but also remember that variety is important. There are so many specific areas of the music business, but in a lot of ways they all have to work together. Say you love marketing and have no interest in Entertainment Law. That's fantastic that you've identified your strengths, and you don't need to be an Entertainment attorney. But don't go to an event and blow off someone who doesn't fit your specific interests just because you want to working in a specific segment of the industry. One day when you want to start a marketing company, for example, you may need an attorney's advice on contracts and trademarks. Then you'll wish your eyes didn't glaze over when someone trying to talk to you told you they were a lawyer and you ran away as fast as possible. Plus, they very likely may have chosen a career in the music business because they have a passion for music, just like you!

Network, have fun, and keep yourself open to getting to know lots of great people that work in this business - but remember to really get to know them. Don't just collect a bunch of business cards, and remember: treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.
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