Building Your Network: Developing and Maintaining Relationships

Networking is important in any industry, but in ours it has a crucial function, and can make or break careers/has an unmistakeable role in developing careers. How can I improve my networking skills? is one of the questions we are most often asked by our students and colleagues. Many feel uncomfortable at the prospect of networking, and experience it as a somewhat artificial activity. Yet, the most successful way of networking is completely natural, and should feel wholly comfortable. It’s important to develop your awareness of how to constantly network and build relationships, and what this actually means in practice. It can mean the difference between being noticed or not, the difference between getting a job or not, or the difference between developing a relationship or letting one go.

Our guidelines for successful networking are based on two premises: firstly, the awareness of the fact that, in our small, closely-linked world, everything and everyone is closely connected. Secondly, it is about developing your own personal style of networking, so everything you do feels likes it has integrity and is natural to you.

Knowledge is power: understanding how the business really works

In our business, it’s important to realise that, although it might not seem that way, all group categories are linked: students, freelance musicians, orchestra musicians, ensembles, soloists, conductors, administrators, promoters, and agents. These all occupy the same playing field, and you should work to establish links with all of them, and understand the structures which link them.

Learn who’s who

Successful networking means being able to step out of your own category/bubble, and transcend this boundary regularly and naturally. This takes practice, and requires a broader view of our industry. The categories are by definition quite separate – conductors may not know what goes on in the conservatories, for instance, or where the next generation of great cellists will come from – and achieving information flow and relationship-building across category lines can be a challenge. Yet, information exchange and knowledge of the business are crucial – the more you know about orchestras, agencies, and who’s who, the easier it will be to navigate our industry.

Top tips for successful relationship-building

  • Widen your network, but don’t forget that you must also work to maintain it. Stay in regular contact with those in your network.
  • Be proactive – the more people you have a connection to, the greater potential links you have to different parts of the business. It’s not about taking advantage of people, but being part of something greater, to which you can also make a contribution.
  • Have the courage to ask for advice from those in your network, however remote they may seem. People will be flattered to be asked advice, and the worst that can happen is that they won’t give you any on that occasion.
  • Develop relationships yourself: you don’t always have to wait to be introduced, and this can be done with full integrity if you have an authentic interest in the person.
  • Follow up on suggestions, invitations, advice. Take this seriously – if you are given advice by someone you respect or trust, it’s likely to be in your best interests. It’s often their first step in helping you, and one thing leads to another.
  • Answer emails, texts and phone calls promptly!
  • If you have an agent, don’t wait for him or her to open doors for you. Successful artists know that that they have to do it themselves. A re-invitation to an orchestra or festival depends on your performance success, but also your attitude, behaviour, and the relationships you’ve succeeded in forming while a guest there.
  • Bother your agent and keep asking questions. Don’t take their word for it – find out things for yourself.
  • Become self-sufficient in your communication with others. Avoid only communicating through your agent or representative.
  • Attend events and widen your perspective on the arts world.
  • Surround yourself with those you like and trust, and who support you.

Questions to ask yourself

Who is in my network now?

How can I build on my network?

How should I maintain my network?

Would you like to know more about this topic?

LEAD!, working in close collaboration with Music Mentor, offer workshops on networking and relationship-building, tailored especially to the classical music industry. They are led by industry professionals who have many years of concrete experience in the field, and who have been on every side of the table, as agents and as top administrators of orchestras and other cultural institutions. In the spirit of information-sharing, we are keen to share our knowledge and every aspect of our experience with you. Click here to find out where our next project will be.

Don’t have the time to commit to a whole project?

You can choose to be an individual client, set up a single session with us, or select an advice package especially tailored to your specific needs. We have discounts for students and artists who are just starting out. Click here to see which package is the best one for you.

Have a specific question?

If you have a specific question about negotiating your fee as a freelance musician or conductor, get in touch with us for a free 15-minute session. Click here to see how to contact us.

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