As a mentor to many young and upcoming producers, I often get asked the same question: “I’ve made a lot beats, but how do I get someone to rap/sing on them?”
It’s not such a simple answer. At least not as simple as opening up your favourite DAW and banging out a beat. Connecting with people to make music can seem like a very daunting task- yet extremely important in order to help get your name out there as an upcoming producer.
I started off in my journey not too far from where you might be now. I had made a lot of music over the years, and was able to connect with many other producers to collaborate with along the way– but finding artists proved to be the most challenging.
I had a hard drive full of beats ready to record on, but I didn’t know how to actually find artists to write and record songs with. I didn’t even care about monetizing my production yet; I just wanted to start making and releasing music in order to get recognized for my work.
I developed a few key strategies that I used to connect with artists, many of which I continue to work with as a full-time music producer and audio engineer today.
In this article, I will shed some light on successful networking strategies I’ve used and how you can implement them yourself.
1. Go To Shows & Performances
Attending local shows was one of the first things I implemented and saw an immediate return on my investment. By local show, I am referring to independent shows put on by local artists or organizations, as opposed to huge headlining shows for major label artists like Drake and Jay Z. These performances are held at venues with smaller capacities, and the artists that perform usually hang out in the crowd after, which makes it easier to connect directly and build a relationship.
The best part about this is you can screen talent before you even approach them. Watch and enjoy the performances, and when a performer you want to meet gets off stage, introduce yourself, compliment their music and performance and, if it feels right, offer to send them instrumentals and/or work together to produce a song for them to release in the future. Focus on offering them something first with the goal of building a relationship – don’t think about what you can get out of it until then.
As you attend more shows, you will most likely run into some of the same people, performers, promoters and fans, which will help lead to recognition within the community, and increase the potential for more introductions through these common connections. This is positive as the more people you meet, the more likely you are to connect with an artist you want to work with.
2. Attend Music Networking Events
This is a blanket description for a number of different events focused on music, including but not limited to:
- Conferences (ie A3C, SXSW, etc)
- Trade shows (ie NAMM, IMSTA Fest)
- Festivals (ie Coachella, VELD)
- Award Ceremonies (ie Junos, Grammys)
- Beat Battles (ie Battle of the Beatmakers, iStandard)
- Competitions (ie Singing and Dance Contests)
- Showcases (ie Pass The Aux, The S1 Assembly)
- Social Mixers
- Industry Nights at Clubs
These events can be locally in your city or internationally in other climates. Similar to going to shows, attending music networking events is a surefire way to cross paths with fellow music creators and music business people. When attending these events, make sure you participate, be confident, introduce yourself, know what you can offer and tell people what you’re looking for to see if you can both help each other out along your journey.
Every year I attend at least one local music conference/festival such as NXNE or Canadian Music Week (as I am based in Toronto) and one international conference/festival such as SXSW and A3C. In the past, attending these events has introduced me to new musical collaborators in my city and other places such as Atlanta.
3. Through Friends & Acquaintances
A few months ago I realized I needed to connect with more keyboard players for writing sessions. My direct circle had given me all it could, but I needed to reach a little further so I tried something different.
I posted on my Facebook page: “can anyone connect me to a dope keyboard player that wants to make hip hop and R&B music?”
The comment section filled up with friends and acquaintances with recommendations to their musician friends. In the process, one of my buddies from college recommended his childhood best friend. The two of us met, made some music, and have been working closely every since.
We would’ve never connected if I didn’t ask my friends to help me. It’s always worth asking. You never really know how far away you are from someone of value. Perhaps your direct circle doesn’t consist of artists- but there is a chance that someone you know is friends with an artist. And what better way to connect with someone than through a mutual friend?
Talk to your friends – put a call out to them in person or on social media and ask them to put you in touch with their recording artist friends so you can make music together and get your name out there.
A few years ago, I went on my first trip to Atlanta with some friends and collaborators to attend A3C. We wanted to connect with some local artists down there, but as it was our first trip, we had no connections.
We decided to try and find some local artists by looking at the venues that were hosting hip hop events. We’d look at their flyers and would Google whoever was on the bill to perform. Most of the time, the artist’s SoundCloud would pop up. We would listen and if we liked what we heard, we would send them a message letting them know we’d be in town and would love to collab at some point during our visit.
It was an interesting play. Our search led us to a bunch of artists that we reached out to, but only one responded in time: Jonah Cruzz. Although he was a complete stranger to me at the time, our mutual passion for music bridged the gap from Toronto to Atlanta, and we ended up crafting his songs “Bill Cosby” and “Sometimes” that appeared on his Just To Get By album in 2017.
While I stress the importance of networking in real life, sometimes it’s not possible due to proximity and/or timing. By leveraging the Internet, you can connect with people that are otherwise out of reach.
What’s more important though is seeking artists out. Make posts, ask to connect with artists, send messages, research, listen to local music, get to know the scene. Do the actual work, and you just might increase your network and your net worth in the process.
Additional Reading For Effective Networking
If you want to read more about personal development and networking more effectively, I recommend you read the following books: