Networking has a negative connotation to some, but it’s just reality that the impression we make on others often influences future job opportunities. When I moved to New York City in the 1980s, most of us worked to break into the profitable studio scene, along with trying to get numerous other gig possibilities that existed at the time. This was accomplished mostly by meeting as many musicians and music-related professionals as possible. Word about a good player would always travel fast.
We wondered how important networking is to getting gigs these days. A survey of younger musicians provided us with the following insights.
Some musicians don’t even like the term “networking.” French horn player Adam Krauthamer told us that in Broadway pits, “the traditional definition of ‘networking’ doesn’t really apply. You don’t ‘network’ yourself into a job through a connection you meet at a work event. You have to execute on your instrument at a high level and take advantage of whatever opportunities you are lucky enough to get.” Only then, he said, is when the networking begins. “You are given an opportunity to show that you are not just a great player but can also be a great colleague and person on a day in and day out basis.”
Alex Bender, a trumpeter, agreed that relationships are important. “My short answer is, I hate the word ‘networking,’” he said. “It’s building friendships with people you want to be around, work for, or work with. I guess you can say I’ve ‘networked’ with people I admire.”
Many musicians start their careers through school connections. Woodwind doubler Giuseppe Fusco said, “I was fortunate to have certain teachers point me in the right direction and recommend me to other players who then asked me to sub for them.”
Fusco added, “In general I think good networking is done on the gig with common-sense professionalism. Things like punctuality, proper dress, courtesy towards colleagues, and good section playing will all make positive impressions on other players and conductors, who will be more likely to recommend you for other gigs.”
Trumpeter Matt Gasiorowski told us that availability for any opportunity is important. “When I got recommended for my first gig, I was ecstatic,” he said. “From this first job I met people and made relationships with other musicians. I would always make myself available for anything, and would never turn down any work. I basically never said no.”
French horn player Jenny Ney had the same advice: “I said yes to every gig I could,” she said
In the end, everyone we spoke to agreed that musicianship is obviously the priority for getting gigs, but that social skills are the second most important trait for the successful musician.
Cellist Alisa Horn said, “Going to hear other people’s gigs is a great way to network and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing to someone and putting yourself out there, but never being overbearing or too aggressive. Being a nice, friendly person is definitely the way to go!”
Woodwind doubler Dave Noland summed it up: “There are two aspects to networking that you always carry around with you: yourself as an individual and yourself as a musician. Continue to work on these two aspects and the career you are aiming for will follow. Study with a seasoned musician in your chosen field to identify and refine the deficiencies you have.”