Networking works in the music biz

Shantaia Poulin (left) and Charlie the Kid (right) discussing networking in the music industry at Oshawa Music Week. Photo credit: Melanie Lennon

As daunting as it can be, networking is a big part of succeeding in the music industry, according to the Music 411 panelists from this year’s Oshawa Music Week (OMW). Whether it’s engaging with fans through social media or participating in music competitions, it all involves networking.

The OMW event consisted of young, Canadian artists from various genres including country, pop, indie, folk and rap. They spent the evening discussing their individual experiences in the music business.

Despite their contrasting roles in the industry, all artists were able see eye-to-eye when it came to networking.

Country singer, Shantaia Poulin, was the first to address social media’s key role in the business. She said having the ability to interact with both fans and artists online has altered the entire networking process.

The 20-year-old from Saskatchewan said one of the cons of social media is the pressure it puts on artists to increase their following.

“We get kind of stuck to this game of having to grow our socials [and] grow our networks,” she said. “You know, record labels and people are looking at that. They’re checking your numbers, checking to see what you’ve got for engagement.”

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Shantaia Poulin performing at Oshawa Music Week. Photo credit: Melanie Lennon

She also stressed the importance of interacting with fans online. Once an artist’s following starts to grow, she said record labels expect to see more fans engaging with their content.

“That’s just as huge as how many people are actually following you.”

Ajax rapper, The Manic, 17, said acknowledging fans on social media helps build “brand loyalty.” He said he does everything he can to ensure his supporters’ voices are heard.

“In the long run, that’s what builds that brand loyalty,” he said. “That’s what will have fans, listeners and supporters coming back for more, which will just grow you as an artist and as a business.”

Although social media allows artists to communicate with members of the music business, 24-year-old pop singer from Ajax, Jenna Bennett, said she began networking in-person at shows and competitions. She said this allowed her to meet and talk with photographers, videographers and at times, people from record labels.

The Manic took a similar approach when he began his career. He said he started networking while preforming at cafes and pubs in the Markham region. He eventually began contacting people online, where he later met his manager.

He said he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s received and the people he’s met.

Folk singer, Charlie the Kid from Toronto is equally thankful for what he’s been given. He said he values everyone he meets while networking and never treats them as a “business opportunity.”

He explained that networking is just being authentic, true to yourself and a good person.

The Kents, an indie-rock band from Lindsay, also value authenticity in the music industry.

Lead singer, Warren Frank said they recognize the importance of networking but don’t want to come across as a brand while doing so.

“We want this to be our job. But ultimately, we want you to like the music and we want you to like us,” Frank said. “We’re just trying to find that healthy line and be ourselves and be genuine but we recognize it has to be done.”