I hate networking. Just want to start with that.
Growing up, I was definitely not the kid that wanted all the attention on them. My first memories of singing for my parents were coupled with my vehement insistence that they not “look at me” or “clap for me”, because while I loved to sing, I hated the exposure and how vulnerable it made me feel.
Obviously, that changed over time, where now I don’t get stage fright and I love interacting with the audience and hearing their feedback. Socially though, for all of the Instagram filters and stage clothes and self-promotion, I’m still the wallflower kid at the party who preferred to hang out by the punch table than go dance in the limelight. I’ll take a few close friends over a posse any day, and it takes a lot for me to fully open up to anyone.
In high school, my best friend was the social butterfly, basking in the sunlight poured upon her by our peers, while I was her cheerleader on the sidelines, content to let her to do all the talking and interacting. It was a personality thing, but also an insecurity thing- music and lyrics have always been where I feel my best voice is expressed. Anywhere else, I feel clumsy and awkward, the words jumbling around in my mouth and never quite saying what I want them to say. I navigate conversations like someone imitating the dance, but fudging most of the steps and hoping no one notices. I can “turn it on” and act like the extroverted artist I’m supposed to be, but I never can really tell if they’re completely buying it.
As I’ve said before, the music industry is all about relationships- the way to garner those relationships is through the dreaded “networking”. There aren’t many things about my career that I don’t love- but this is definitely one of them. I’ve always envied the ease with which others can walk up to someone they’ve never spoken to before and start a conversation, ending the interaction looking like they’ve found a new best friend.
Networking with other artists, writers, and creatives is somewhat easier for me because I already have common ground. We let our art do most of the talking, so it isn’t hard to appreciate what they have to offer and suggest a collaboration. However, networking with people on the business side of the industry always proves more difficult.
The Official Video for Melanie Meriney’s ‘Flame’
One of my mentors here gave me some great advice which is that, as an artist and songwriter, I have something to offer them back. I think a lot of the time, we go in thinking that we need something from someone and are at the disadvantage. There are a lot of artists, but none of them offer what you do. The most important thing is to be as comfortable as you can be in your own skin and know that, regardless of how the interaction goes, you have something unique. As long as you’re at your best as far as your artistry goes, momentum and drive is always going to motivate people to want to be a part of what you’re doing. And that confidence is what makes a thing I hate doing a little less awful!