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Networking that works
By Tim Ogle - 07/08/2007 - 05:21 PM EDT

Okay, so I've been on a sabbatical or something, AWOL, MIA for way too long. The good news? I lived through it, now I'm back.

Let's jump right in and talk about something that seems to be really popular here in Nashville: Networking.

To some, networking is gathering phone numbers and names on napkins and filing them on your bedroom nightstand until you get around to using them. Needless to say this is less than helpful because there's always beer stains or, God forbid, snot on one or more of them.

Let's step away from the organization of all of this and hit something more important: How to be genuine.

I've spent the last two years floating around bars and writer's nights here in Nashville. I've had conversation after conversation with other songwriter's. I'd like to present a "Ten Commandments" list of things NOT to do while trying to network.

1. Thou shalt not name drop.
Name dropping is a number one pet peeve with me. Why? Because it's usually an exaggeration of the truth. If I shake hands with you, do I KNOW you? Absolutely not. If shaking hands with people is the definition of knowing someone then I KNOW several name stopping songwriters in Nashville.  Problem is, I just can't seem to get them to return my phone calls. So a more positive way to put commandment number one is:
Be yourself

2. Thou shalt be honest
When you are at songwriter nights and other similar events, be honest. When someone asks you what you think, tell them. This doesn't mean you have to be a jerk.  It does mean that you must mean what you say. You don't have to like everything you hear in order to be encouraging to someone.  I have heard songs I like, done by writers I don't think can sing. I've also heard songs I didn't like, by people that could sing. How do you look at someone that can't sing and compliment them on their singing. The answer: YOU DON'T. If they ask you, it's okay to say "You seemed a little flat" etc. You don't have to slam someone to be honest with them. You don't have to lie to someone to encourage them. So, DON'T. Be honest not brutal.

3. Thou shalt not dish out what thine heart can't take.
This leads us to the next part: Be honest but don't be condescending because you may want to hear feedback too. I have news for you - you aren't the only songwriter in the room. And there are people with opinions of the "great song" you just did, that aren't so favorable. If you can't take feedback, don't give any - because there is no room for a pissing contest when it comes to improving our songwriting. Be honest, not brutal.

4. Thou shall listen.
When you go to a writer's night, listen to what the other people are doing. There is nothing wrong with small talk but give respect to the person/people on the stage. They have put time and effort into what they are performing. You may hear a phrase that you like, or they may have a little morsel in their song that will add another color to the palette for the song you're currently working on. One more thing I'll add is true respect isn't expecting something back.

5. Thou shalt not steal
There is a difference between borrowing, stealing and being influenced. If you steal a line and add a twist to it, did you really steal it? If you are in awe of a particular style, if you try to replicate the feeling that awed you, did you really steal? If you show up somewhere thinking no one will know you heard the song you're getting ready to do done by the guy with greasy hair playing the Electa acoustic guitar at the last writer's night you went to, YOU STOLE. If you get someone to return a call and you meet up with them to do some writing, don't steal the stuff they work on. Most of the time you can ask someone if you can use a line or part of a line and they really just don't mind.

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