Do you feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the public’s eye? If your answer is yes, you might be one of many musicians who, while having a passion for creating and playing music, are introverted to the core.
Of course, there’s not a thing wrong with being an introvert. Preferring to spend time alone than to go out and mingle with the crowd could very well be the best way for you to create the right atmosphere for making your songs, as well as dealing with the everyday struggles of life.
However, there are times when you will need to be more socially-inclined in order to help advance your career. Times when you’ll have to do what is called networking. It’s a social skill that all serious musicians, especially independents, must master as they grow. But musicians who are introverts may find becoming good at this necessary skill terrifying, even when attending low key events, especially if you're also prone to depression and anxiety attacks.
If you fall into this category or know a fellow musician who does, there is still lots of hope. In addition to - if necessary - getting professional help and support (more information on online counseling available here), there are a few things you can do. Here are five tips to consider.
Preparation is one of the keys to accomplishing anything in life. And while it’s often not possible to predict the flow of dialogue, having the right mindset ahead of time can help you to at least not freeze up. Building that mindset means having at least an idea of what to expect at the event and the type of people who will be there. Plus, knowing what to expect can automatically help you to feel more confident in meeting new people.
If you can find out who are the people you’re most likely going to come into contact with, even better. The more you know about the venue, schedule, and those who’ll probably want to hear from you (or talk to you), the more you can practice building a conversation in your head.
You can even practice on a friend how to approach a VIP or a group. Of course, it’s unlikely to play out exactly the way you rehearsed, but having something to hold on to is likely to boost your confidence than to not prepare and end up feeling like a deer caught in headlights, with not a clue about which foot to start out on.
If you know their names, you can check out their social profiles, including LinkedIn, so you will have an idea of their professional backgrounds and even a bit about their personal lives. You may even find out things or people you have in common that you can use to kick-start a convo. Also, check out their best work and make mental notes, people love to receive compliments.
For instance, if you found out a music executive or recording studio professional (who you’d probably be interested in sharing your music with) is going to be in attendance, you could check out his/her work and achievements. So, say they also run a successful blog, when the time comes to introduce yourself, you could start out with something like, “Hey, I read your blog all the time...I find your advice pretty useful and relevant to my music.” Make sure you actually read a few of the blog posts in case you are asked to state your favorite.
If it’s possible for you to bring along a friend to a music and networking event, go for it, even if it’s someone who’s an introvert as well. Having a friend or family member nearby, who you’re already comfortable being around, can help you to be more relaxed and take your mind off feeling out of place or self-conscious.
If it’s not possible to bring someone along, another tactic you can try to help you feel more comfortable is to find someone who seems to be an introvert like you and get acquainted. Studies indicate that around 50% of the world's population is, in fact, introverted so chances are high that you will come across at least one soul who’s going through the same thing you are. Who knows, it could be the only networking you do that actually bears fruit in the long run.
Maybe you would feel more comfortable speaking one-on-one rather than with an entire group of people. Or maybe you prefer to stand and speak instead of sitting at a table. Maybe you even prefer being on a particular side of someone so you can control eye contact. Whatever your preferences, try to plan where you’re sitting, standing, or positioning your body, so that it will be easier for you to feel comfortable while speaking to music industry professionals.
Knowing how and when to ‘break the ice’ can come in handy at events where you might need to get to know others. Icebreakers can include bringing up weird or funny facts (that are also appropriate), putting a funny or interesting spin on what the event is about, joking about what you do, mentioning a current event that is funny or interesting (again, must be appropriate), or giving well-timed, genuine compliments. Even making small talk such as “nice to meet you” or “you seem to be well-known here” can help to break the ice and lighten potentially awkward moments.
Being introverted doesn’t have to be an albatross around your neck that also stifles your music career. There are many past and present musicians who became successful, including Adele, Bob Dylan, and even Elvis, who labeled themselves as introverts.
You too can become a successful singer, song lyricist, or both, despite having an affinity for being alone. Use the above tips to become better at networking and, above all, make sure you’re going out and meeting people.