I got my first Off Broadway subbing gig through Facebook.
O.K., well that isn’t entirely true but I do credit my utilization of the social networking site as a major factor in procuring that gig.
A friend gave me the number of his friend who was the full-time drummer on the show.
We met, I went and watched the show, and that was that.
I sent him a friend request and we stayed in loose touch for a while.
Then, eight months later he sent me a Facebook message: “Let’s talk about you coming and subbing on the show.”
Now that I think about it, Facebook has been instrumental in my acquisition of lots of great playing opportunities in the mere 16 months that I have lived in New York.
Here is an industry secret: all of us trying to freelance as musicians know that we will get the best gigs by sending resumes to high-powered music contractors and then waiting by the phone. Right?
In reality, the only way a contractor will even look at your resume is if you are referred to them by someone they know and trust.
So how do I get referred to someone who will hire me? Through networking.
I recently heard Broadway contractor John Miller say that we are all each other’s contractors.
By establishing a professional and pleasant rapport with other players, you can increase the probability that they will refer you to someone else, who will refer you to someone else, and so on.
This is how freelancing works. But you know this. I don’t have to preach to the choir about how to network.
The traditional methods of networking are all well and good, and have served us well for many years.
However, with the advent of Facebook and other social networks, it is easier than ever to find people, connect with them, and stay in touch.
These three tools are what Facebook is all about. Used properly, the site can turn into a gold mine of resources and, hopefully, paying gigs.
I started using Facebook to find people when I met a music director at a social gathering and then couldn’t find her e-mail address.
I wanted to follow up on being introduced and send her my resume as she had expressed a possible need for a drummer.
The Facebook friend search led me right to her and I sent her a message to follow up our previous conversation. Connection made.
I now make it common practice to seek people out using this method.
Sometimes, however, this can be tricky.
For instance, there is more than one “Carl Allen” in the world and you may not want to send the same message to 26 “Carl Allens” in hopes of getting the right one.
The wrong “Carl Allens” will probably be polite about your mistake, but nonetheless it is a massive waste of your time.
Several months after moving to New York and starting to make connections, I began to notice that upon seeking someone out, we had mutual friends!
This was encouraging on two fronts.
First, it meant that I had common ground with the person that I was attempting to connect with; I was starting to become a member of a specific community.
And second, it cut down on the “point-and-shoot” method of finding the right person when I typed in their name.
Connecting with people
“OMG I’ve hrd so much about you you are amaaaazing will you hire me????????”
Facebook was created primarily as a social networking site and most of us use it as just that.
We casually interact with our friends and family members, writing witty messages in Internet shorthand, posting photos of last night’s bender and videos of your cat standing on two legs, discovering which “Twilight” character you are, etc.
But if you plan to use Facebook as a professional networking tool, you must use the same professional etiquette that you would in any other professional setting.
So here are three etiquette guidelines that may help Facebook work for you:
1. Private message first. When initiating contact with someone who doesn’t know you, avoid sending a friend request until you have properly introduced yourself and established at least a basis for a relationship.
When you are “friends” with people on Facebook, all of their information can be available for you to view (and vice versa).
You can easily come across as a stalker if someone gets the impression that you are just going to snoop around their profile once they accept your request.
My rule of thumb is to let the other person decide when to initiate the friend request at least until you meet or work together in person.
If John sees that I’ve contacted him and we have 45 mutual friends he may decide that I’m worth that level of familiarity right away.
But he might not.
So what might that initial message look like? Here’s a basic format that I often use:
“Hi Sharon, I see that you will be MD’ing the NY production of Tony and Tina’s wedding. Congrats on the gig! I just wanted to introduce myself and find out if you have a drummer in mind. I’ve been subbing Off Broadway recently and working with several cabaret singers in town. Would you mind if I e-mailed you a resume for your files? Thanks. Jeremy Yaddaw, email@example.com.”
It is simple, to the point, friendly but not too familiar, and puts the ball in their court.
From this type of outreach I probably hear back from seven out of 10 that I send out.
The response is usually something like: “Thanks for getting in touch. Send me a resume and I’ll keep you in mind as we go forward.”
Doesn’t seem overly promising.
But that’s O.K., and actually to be expected from someone I’ve never worked with.
(I might actually worry if someone offered to hire me sight unseen or unheard!)
The point of taking this step is not to secure a gig but simply to initiate a connection out of which something may grow in the future.
2. “Tempered aggression.” Someone used this phrase after I had contacted him and I think it is an apt expression for the way we should approach professional Facebook networking.
When I moved to New York I was suddenly much closer (proximally and professionally) to many musicians whom I had respected for years and whose careers I had followed on Broadway.
My dream since 10th grade has been to play in Broadway pits so naturally my instinct was to freak out whenever I had the chance to meet or talk with one of these people.
I think I initially may have come on too strongly and turned a few people off before realizing that I needed to act a bit more reserved.
No one is going to be interested in you if you send them three messages a week to confirm that they got your updated resume, and voicemails asking if maybe they want to get coffee after the show or something, and drive by their apartment three times a day hoping to “chance” upon them coming home.
It doesn’t matter how well you could play for them.
You will never get the chance if you act really creepy.
Once you have made initial contact, always let them make the next move.
You should let someone that you would like to work for know that you are serious without coming on too strongly.
3. Use professional tone and language. This may seem somewhat obvious but is worth reiterating.
You don’t want to seem too casual with someone just because Facebook is a casual place.
Remember, everything you say to someone you could potentially work for gives them insight into how you will conduct yourself as a professional once they do decide to hire you.
Keeping in touch
To me, this is the most important part of using Facebook.
Keeping yourself as an unassuming but noticeable presence (think of a watermark) on someone’s radar is a way to increase the odds that they will think of you when they need to hire someone.
Once you have established “friend” status with someone, there are lots of good ways to keep yourself visible to them.
Wall posts. Casual responses to people’s wall posts can be a good way to show them that you notice what they are doing and get your name in their head (face it, this is all about psychology).
A quick “Congrats on the new gig!” or “How did your NYMF show go?” is appropriate as long as you don’t get too “stalky” with someone you don’t know well.
As the interactions and familiarity increase, then more personal comments may become acceptable.
Event invites. If you use Facebook Events to promote your gigs (and I recommend that you do), these can be a good way to show people that you are working, who you are working with, and how often.
It is an opportunity for you to say to the Facebook community “Look at me! I’m a legitimate musician and you can come check me out!” without saying that directly to anyone.
Make sure that the invite looks professional, contains correct and complete information and then blast it out to everyone who might be interested.
This point is important because you probably don’t want to invite a music director you just met to Aunt Sally’s 90th birthday bash, or to the debut of your death metal/screamo/punk band “Blood Cult” in Brooklyn.
Use discretion when deciding who to alert of specific events.
Most people get lots of these event invites and so are not annoyed by them because they have the option of just ignoring them if they aren’t interested.
But again, even if someone ignores your event, they have still seen it and your name registers in their brain once more.
And if someone invites you to their show, consider attending to show them that you are interested in their work!
Use the “About Me” box to promote yourself. I recently saw that a friend of mine had listed his upcoming gigs in the “Write something about yourself” box.
This is a great idea and I immediately stole his idea and changed mine from “I enjoy red wine and long walks on the beach” to include the dates, times, and locations of my five next performances. Much more useful.
This way, no one has to go to my Web site or MySpace (remember that?) to see when and where I’m playing.
(Extra bonus: This box is the first thing that pops up under my profile’s “info” tab on Facebook mobile).
“But I can’t put up sound clips!”
The two short answers to this are “Who cares?” and “Yes, you can.”
I have had sound clips of my playing on my personal Web site for years and I can count on one finger the number of times I have gotten unsolicited feedback about them.
Sound clips can be useful if you are a band looking for gigs or a composer/producer looking to showcase your work but in general, as a freelance musician, the traditional networking route is much more fruitful.
However, if you so desire, Facebook does have a “Pages” application that allows you to create a MySpace-style page, including an audio player and gig calendar.
At this point, the pages application is a bit more difficult to navigate and customize than MySpace but hopefully this is something that Facebook will improve upon as its use increases.
The bottom line
Using Facebook is a great way to network.
It is not a miracle tool for getting gigs, but if you use it to your advantage it can certainly help you to that end.
Like any networking strategy, you are going to have to be patient.
And even though deep down you are always hustling for a gig, your goal is to come across as though you are not hustling because, like any business, working as a musician is a people-based enterprise and that is what Facebook is all about.
Jeremy Yaddaw is a Local 802 member and a freelance drummer, percussionist and copyist working primarily in theatre. He is a founding member of the Brooklyn-based band Ghosts. Find out more at www.JeremyYaddaw.com and on Facebook, or e-mail him at YaddawJ@gmail.com.
This essay first appeared at MusicianWages.com and is reprinted with permission.
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