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How To Network for Success



Guitarist and JGT contributor Greg Chako provides some great advice and strategies for relationship building.

Recently, I’ve often thought that we should be as much salesmen as musicians if we wish to have the most success as gigging players. I say that because trained, experienced salesmen know how to network and cold-call (soliciting strangers for business purposes). Networking with other musicians is necessary to develop an adequate list of players from which to call on, for gigs and subs; and networking with non-musicians is necessary to develop optimal exposure for what you do, i.e. develop a pool of people who can either hire you directly or recommend your musical services to their contacts. Professional players looking to perform for a fee are essentially selling their musical services.

As a way to gain more exposure, i.e. meet more professionally-minded people, I recently joined the largest BNI chapter in the Tri-State area. BNI stands for Business Networking International. It is the world’s leading business referral organization with over 314,000 members in 11,092 chapters worldwide. Time will tell how wise a move this was on my part, but in all honesty, I have been aware of the value of networking since the very outset of my professional career. Furthermore, I’m convinced that the main reason I’m not busier than I am is due to a lack of exposure: not enough folks are familiar with enough of my work.

Learning to play one’s instrument is largely a solitary endeavor. If you are fortunate enough to go to a conservatory-like Juilliard or Eastman (as I did), you’re unlikely to find social and business networking courses on the menu. It’s near impossible to develop business or social skills when you’re practicing for hours upon hours to gain mastery of your instrument, yet possessing some business and social “chops” are a necessary prerequisite for success across so many walks of life.

Music Entrepreneurship programs in universities have grown considerably in popularity over the past ten years. Those types of programs are typically a collaboration between the business and music schools of a university that enable music majors to take business courses and vis-a-versa. I believe the growth of these programs are appropriate to address what may be lacking in the curriculum of a program focusing solely on music.

I believe it was Slide Hampton who first told me I should have a mailing list. That was about 40 years ago when I was playing and promoting jazz in Amherst, MA. I had brought Slide up from NYC to headline for the concert launch of the Pioneer Jazz Society, a 501-C that I had founded. I took his advice to heart, collecting names, inputting them in a computer, and printing out mailing labels I could then use to advertise my events by post. Of course, with the advent of email and social media marketing, things have changed quite a bit since the early 1980’s, but what hasn’t changed is that we need to connect or “touch” with as many people as we can, however we can. 

Email campaigns have supplanted direct mail, and generally speaking, internet marketing has supplanted print ads.

I consider myself rather slow to grow into the digital age, but I understand the value of getting more familiar with it and I have made some inroads along that line. Bandzoogle is an online platform which provides tools for musicians to build a professional website, promote their music, and sell direct-to-fan for a flat monthly fee. They host my website and one of the reasons I like using them is that I can manage my own bulk email database from within my website as opposed to using an outside service like MailChimp or Constant Contact

I like the Facebook “Groups” too, because I can target an ad post to a specific locale or group. For instance, if I’m advertising a new album, I’ll post that internationally to all groups interested in jazz and guitar, but if it’s a local Cincinnati-area gig, I’ll just post that locally to the groups that spread area entertainment news specifically. I also like using FaceBooks “Event” feature for key gig dates at the local level, because once you make an “Event” you can send the event notice to all your Facebook friends, and I have close to 5,000. 

Reels, Instagram and Tik-Tok are all useful too, but no mater how savvy one gets at manipulating and combining these internet forums for advertising purposes, nothing will ever replace simply TALKING TO PEOPLE! We can’t sit at home waiting for the phone to ring, and we shouldn’t be too scared to talk to strangers. 

Every relocation I have made in my life, and I have made more than most folks, is preceded and prepared by making “cold”-phone calls and/or sending emails with the purpose of learning who the players are in a particular area and where the jazz-playing venues are. Even if you only come to know one bassist and he’s unavailable for a particular date, he’s the best person to ask to find a sub. Even if you only know one client who has hired you, they could be the best person to recommend you to potentially new clients. Every single person you know knows more people than you don’t know yet. The more people you ask, the more people you’ll come to know about . . . and the more you know, the more likely that you’ll be known . . . and the more that you’re known, the more likely you’ll get hired and get your gigs adequately covered. 

You never know for sure where the next gig will come from, but meeting and talking to as many people as possible is like spreading seeds . . . something will inevitably grow out of the seeds you sow. 

Greg Chako in concert and networking…

All the best business is built on RELATIONSHIPS and all my best gigs were acquired through WORD-of-MOUTH! Relationship-building and word-of-mouth gigs don’t happen unless you get out and circulate.

I wish to add a caveat. Always be as nice and as honest as you can be: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it! And, if you meet some jerks along the way, and you surely will, do your best to stay off their path, and make your own filled with positivity and enthusiasm! 

Guitarist Greg Chako’s 17th CD, Standard Roots, contains over 72 minutes of music, with additional ‘bonus tracks’ on the digital version of the album.

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