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Networking In The Music Business

Debbie Poyser checks out Dan Kimpel's self-motivaing guide to promoting yourself. By Debbie Poyser
Published January 1995

"Networking is the way to get songs listened to, not blindly calling up and bothering record companies." So proclaims Dan Kimpel's Networking in the Music Business, a book which fits almost perfectly into the classic self‑help mould — except that it's geared to the needs of musicians and songwriters. As advertising director for the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase, Kimpel has observed thousands of people trying to break into the music business, and with 20 years in the industry, has seen what makes the difference between a breakthrough songwriter or performer and just another also‑ran. Central to the book is Kimpel's very American concept of Networking — not the computer sort, the people sort. He maintains that it is the people you know and the people you get to know who can help make you the breakthrough artist, and his book brings together a multitude of strategies to help you make valuable and lasting contacts.

Kimpel begins by explaining what networking is, tells you where the power really is in the music industry, and outlines the type of places you should go to make contact with the decision makers. He then explores how you can make the best impression on the people you meet, and how you can assess and maximise your own talents, using anecdotal material from successful industry professionals, including songwriters, lawyers, managers and producers.

Many people will find this book of most value for its wealth of advice on self‑motivation; Kimpel helps you to chart your own goals and set the agenda for where you would like to go in the music business; he gives you questions to ask yourself, which help you assess whether you have evolved a potentially successful musical style and whether your own commitment is really up to it. A point made by one of Kimpel's interviewees is that really successful artists have one thing in common — absolute drive and commitment and, above all, persistence. These are things we all really know if we think about it, but it's surprisingly valuable to have them pointed out on paper and in such a motivating way.

Practical help offered by the book includes action plans that you can use to give yourself a sense of purpose, and suggestions of weekly, monthly, and yearly 'attainment' schedules. Kimpel also presents strategies to help you overcome the insecurity and fear of rejection which holds so many musicians back. He prompts you to examine your self‑image and public persona, and to approach people with honesty and positivity: as he puts it, "you will receive reflected positive responses from people you approach in an upbeat, positive manner."

The chapter on selling yourself and your music gives useful ideas on starting your own organisation, to help yourself and your contacts to create more publicity, and creating your own 'scene' with like‑minded others; examples here come from people involved in the creation of the London punk scene, and the New York group centred around CBGB's bar, where Television, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones created a 'scene' — with very successful results.

There are some uncomfortable home truths in this book — on the subject of taking a 'straight' job to pay your way until you can make it in music: "We all have limited energies and creativity; if we expend them on behalf of someone else's business, we're short‑changing ourselves. Sure it's possible to work at any number of things and make enough money to have a comfortable lifestyle, but if you want success in the music business (which ultimately will pay off in emotional satisfaction as well as monetary gain), you can't give up your vision and creativity. Guard them jealously and use them to fuel your ambition." Highly recommended. Debbie Poyser