When I first moved to Nashville a little over a year ago, I spent large amounts of time each day reaching out to established musicians for advice. I learned a lot about how to connect with very successful musicians, and how to piss them off, too. Here’s my advice for reaching out to musicians that are ahead of you career-wise:
1. Be clear about your purpose.
When I would contact successful musicians, I’d explain that I was new to town, looking for advice, and wondering if I could buy them lunch to pick their brain. Being upfront about what I was looking for helped them feel safe coming to a meeting.
2. Stick to your word.
If you say you’d love to just meet for 30 minutes, stick to 30 minutes unless they specifically say they’d like to talk longer. Show up on time.
3. Don’t contact too frequently.
A few years ago I had a singer contact me about career advice, and when I didn’t respond within a couple of days (I was on tour) she wrote me an emotional email about how I must be a jerk and unprofessional for not responding. Musicians are busy. If they don’t respond, it’s probably not because they hate you. Be patient, and resist the urge to follow up constantly.
This person is giving you his time, and he/she is probably not getting back much in return for it. Make sure you buy his meal, coffee, whatever.
5. Don’t expect anything from them.
Ask only for advice, and nothing else. There’s nothing worse than someone that corners you over lunch and pressures you the whole time to do something for them. If you do great work and could be useful to the musician you’re talking with, let them reach out to you.
6. Follow up.
Always write a thank you text/email/facebook message to the musician that met with you. Set a reminder for 2-3 months later to contact them to see how they’re doing. This will usually keep the dialogue going.
7. Be confidential.
Don’t flaunt that you’re hanging out with so-and-so on social media. Most successful musicians hate name dropping, and this will make you look amateurish.