I moved to Nashville, TN to pursue my musical dreams 14 years ago. I started out collaborating with lots of people – cowriting, seeking advice, soliciting critiques of my songs, forming relationships, etc. and I started progressing… I could look back and see how Guy A had introduced me to Guy B and Guy B had invited me to write with Guy C and pretty soon I was getting closer to the people that make things happen in music city (and yeah, unfortunately, it was pretty much 90% guys – that’s the industry for ya).
Then I made a fatal mistake.
I let some crappy situations get the best of me and I embraced the fear and ambiguity that sometimes encroaches when success is on the horizon.
I started to forego the momentum of collaboration and began turning down opportunities to work with some amazing people – writing songs alone, touring alone… It was lonely. But most of all, it was dumb. Really really dumb.
And, as I moved farther and farther away from people and more and more into my own little creative vacuum, the less ground I started covering, the less fun I was having and the harder things became. Pretty soon, my dream was sucking me dry. I had no people to fuel my creativity. I had no collaborators to encourage me. And most of all, I had no one to help me get to the next step of my career. Because, if there is stepping stone path to success, then people are the stones.
If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that you can’t succeed in isolation.
How do the “lucky ones” do it?
When I look at the people I know that have succeeded, it is so clear to me, now. Unequivocally, every single one of them got to where they landed by knowing and working with the right people. That’s not to say they didn’t have talent and didn’t work hard. Of course they did, but all of that is a moot point if you’ve got no one to help you. And every single one of them did that by moving up a ladder of one person to the next to the next until they were exactly where they needed to be. There was no luck involved.
How do you network?
They befriended other people who were moving up the ladder – every step of the way. They found other successful people and worked their way into those people’s lives. They found collaborators who had relationships with bigger and better collaborators that would eventually become their collaborators. That’s how it works. It’s basically networking 101. What’s true for any business is true for music, too. That’s why they call it the music business.
How do you do that without using people?
That is certainly a thing. There are people that will use someone to their own ends and promptly ditch them when their needs have been met. There are lots of people who do that. Lots. Not just in music or business, but in life, unfortunately.
It can be a very fine line, but there is a way to be earnest. In Nashville, it’s a given that you are seeking to go places and so are the people around you. Always be aware that everyone is seeking *mutually beneficial relationships. Know that, if you receive from someone, you’re obligated to give to them in return.
“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”- Zig Ziglar
This is a quote I’ve heard frequently in Nashville because it really is true. However, many people forget to read between the lines of these wise words. “Opportunity” comes from outside yourself – in other words, other people. Other people ARE the opportunities. So continually find your people and always seek out the people who personify the kind of success that you are after. In the meantime, make sure that when you have those important relationships in tact, that you are ready with music that will blow them away.