Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FAQ: How do I meet musicians?

It's funny that people are even asking this question to me, someone who had pretty severe social anxiety for most of her childhood.  I would have never seen this coming.  Spoiler alert: Meeting and befriending a musician is not that much different than befriending anyone else.  But anyway, I am here to tell you that if I can do it, so can anyone!  How is that for inspiration?  So as requested, here are some helpful tips for meeting musicians.

The first and most important thing is to remember that...

Musicians are people too.
This is really easy to forget because anyone with some level of fame becomes more of a name rather than a human being due to lack of personal interaction with them.  Remember that they aren't some kind of commodity to collect.  If your goal is to fill your musician version of a Pokedex, you should consider changing your attitude or this isn't going to go well for you.  The fact that musicians are people is definitely the most important thing that you should never ever forget.  Everything else falls into place after this.

Treat them like a person.
I personally try to avoid acting like too much of a fan.  There is a way to let the know how much you appreciate their work without taking it too far.  The same social courtesies that apply to interacting with a classmate or coworker still apply.  Consider how you would feel if you were in their position and treat them with the same respect you expect from others.

Okay now that you have mastered the basics, it's time for the tips on actual interaction.

Where do I find a musician?
Well, luckily we have technology, which allows us two options: internet and concerts.
I am going to come out and tell you now that the more famous the musician is, the more difficult it will be to develop a personal connection with them so be realistic and start out small.

I also met several artists because I booked most of the shows at my college but this is kind of a special case as a lot of people don't have this opportunity.  But if you are interested in more personal interaction with musicians, I would definitely recommend getting involved in on-campus programming because it allowed me to work very personally with a lot of artists I really love.  I still talk to some of them too!

As for at concerts, it really depends on the venue.  I have met many a kind musician at Baltimore's Ottobar, a small venue I frequented the most while in college.  The venue was tricky before I was 21 because it didn't allow re-entry if you were a minor.  There were occasions where I would go see a show and leave the venue thinking the musician was outside but they stayed inside longer than I could wait around for because I had to catch a bus and I couldn't go back inside.  But other times if they didn't kick me out of the non- bar portion of the venue, I stuck around waiting for them to come out afterward and they often did.  I have a history for having more interactions with musicians I have seen or met at Ottobar months after seeing them there but that's just weird luck.

It's pretty difficult to meet artists at larger venues.  I once saw a show at a large venue in New York and wanted to go back inside to speak to the artist (the one I spoke to on Flickr as mentioned in the next section) and ran back in to see him in the lobby talking to other people, ran outside to get my friend, and then the venue employee didn't allow me to re-enter.  That was the only time I came close really.  Two other instances I waited outside near a tour bus and musicians just walked onto the bus and didn't come off making it a complete lost cause and general disappointment.  Disappointments happen but that doesn't mean you won't have another opportunity.

Okay I found one but how do we talk?
Musicians who have personal social media accounts are usually the most willing to interact with others. Ask them questions on Twitter or Tumblr, reblog/reply to their posts... if they are interested in what you have to say, you have a chance of furthering conversation. This really applies to anyone you are interested in talking to, whether they are a performer or not. I know it's hard but just be yourself!  I have interacted with musicians through Twitter and Tumblr.  Additionally, Instagram surprisingly has yielded the best results.  I honestly don't know how that happened but it has worked wonders for networking with a variety of artists.  There was even a case where I had several paragraph long conversations with a musician through his Flickr account!

In the case of concerts, I am usually less anxious about talking to people I have spent less time thinking about.  I always find the first words exchanged are always the hardest because this person doesn't know you despite that you may have spent hours and hours listening to their music and reading their interviews.  A brief comment on the quality of their performance after a show is always a good way to open a conversation.  If you can figure out something constructive to say, then say it.  But if the conversation kind of dies or another fan starts a conversation with them, you will just have to let it be [via The Beatles].  You can continue the conversation a few minutes later if it seems appropriate.

But I am just a nobody and they won't talk to me again.
If they feel like there is some kind of connection, you will talk again.  This is the same as when you meet anyone else.  It is always nice to tweet at them saying how nice their set was and how lovely it was to meet them or something of that nature.  Keep in mind that musicians do a lot of touring and meet a lot of people.  Being a musician isn't just a hobby; it's also a job.  If you have some kind of marketable skill, use it to your advantage.  For example, if you're an amazing illustrator who made amazing fan art that you have given or shown them, you will stand out more.  Reintroduce yourself if you meet them again and don't put them on the spot about remembering who you are.  I try to remind them that we had met once before just to stir their memory without expecting them to recognize me or anything. 

When is it okay to take photos and ask for autographs?
It depends on the artist and situation.  I once sent a Tumblr ask to Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls asking if she likes taking photos with fans and she said she loves it when people ask for photos.  If you happen to run into someone at a music festival or a bar or something, only ask if you feel it's appropriate.  If you are genuinely spending time with the person outside of a concert setting, I would advise against it unless they are the one who suggests taking photos.  I think they usually expect both photos and autographs at their shows.  I personally feel like asking for an autograph when you just randomly run into them is less appropriate than asking for a photo but that is just my feeling about it.  I'm sure some of them would be really flattered that you even recognized them in the first place.

If you have any questions, feel free to direct them here and I will answer them to the best of my abilities.

And here are some photos of me with musicians, proving that my method yields the occasional positive result.  ~after the jump~

Purity Ring
Dee Dee, Dum Dum Girls
Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls
Cassie Ramone, Vivian Girls/The Babies
Malia James, Dum Dum Girls

Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast

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