The music industry is not so different to real life. Connections, ie. "who you know not what you know", are extremely important components of a successful career in the music industry. It's worthwhile building a database of contacts early on, introducing the necessary steps towards success.
1. Define your target audienceWithout having to put yourself in a box you should try to define a target audience, regardless of your musical style. All types of music evoke different cultural trends and media, which represent the genre appropriately. Different channels of promotion can also emerge from these trends. This means that it is essential to "visualize" your future fan base, and create a corresponding plan of action. Try thinking about the best way to reach your target audience - whether it is through live performances as a band, DJ sets, or even as a bedroom producer. The next step is to build a website as soon as possible, and/or register yourself with the most important social networks. Facebook and Twitter are a must, but services like SoundCloud, LinkedIn, Google+ etc. can also be extremely helpful.
2. Make your presence known and attract attentionDon't be a shrinking violet! The message you want to convey is: „Here I am – take notice of me!“ You have to try and attract attention, with just the right amount of self confidence on board. This does not necessarily mean that you have to make yourself stand out with scandalous performances or other crazy antics from day one - it is enough just to show yourself in public, seek out the right clubs/venues, write to potential fans and connected artists and meet up with them, send demos to record labels, pitch your music to well known blogs, upload your music (for example to relevant "groups" on SoundCloud) and exchange actively with like-minded people. Groups of contacts grow continually, based upon other contacts. So what should you do? Try to meet as many people as possible!
3. Build a team/collaborateMore and more is being demanded of musicians these days. Where you used to be able to concentrate purely on making music and networking, you now have to handle all sorts of administrative chores more often than not, including displaying your omnipresence across the web. To help you out with all this, it can be extremely helpful to build a team. One possible model would involve: Management (with an overview of everything, dealing primarily with Deals, collaboration with brands etc. ), a Record Label and/or a Publisher or Distributor (to publish your music) and a Booker (dealing with performances). It would of course also be ideal to have some sort of Fanclub. If you have discipline and put all your eggs in one basket, it is also possible to achieve recognition without a complicated setup. However, strength of mind and hard work are essential. Of course if you are in a band, you can also easily share the respective tasks between you.
4. Business Contacts and ConnectionsIf you know any key players in business, or at least have some idea of who does what for which organisation, you already have an advantage. This is why it is important not to sit at home waiting for a miracle. Get to know the right people at events, ask your artist contemporaries about them, and get them to make recommendations or introductions in the best way possible. There are also special services designed to help you find contacts, such as A&R Registry, Hitquarters, SongLink, Taxi etc. However, you must remember to be careful with this information. Business portals such as LinkedIn and XING are also highly recommended. Numerous international trade fairs such as MIDEM, ADE, M4Music, Reeperbahn Festival etc offer you the best chance of expanding your personal network. There will be loads of important industry personalities mingling there, relevant to the type/genre of the event you attend. Many of the important contact details can be found online too, whether on official websites or social networking sites. The recommended way of connecting directly with other artists is definitely via Twitter.
5. Dealing with your contactsYou should immediately transfer your collected contacts (links, business cards etc) into a database and a newsletter system with different lists. A neatly managed list will constantly change, and hopefully continue to grow. One word of advice regarding newsletters: the rule is that you make minimal or no contact with anyone, unless you have their specific permission. If you start sending out spam, you've already blown your chances. Personalised emails are definitely opened and read more often than soulless mass emails anyway. Don't forget: It takes time and patience to build up a useful network - once you have one however, it will become one of the most important parts of your career (excepting the music of course!)
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