In many industries, you’ll often hear the saying “it’s all about who you know.” This rings especially true in the world of music, where collaboration is at the core of most (if not all) projects.

Building working relationships with people from a variety of knowledge backgrounds and skill sets is one of the most valuable things you can do for your career. And we’re not simply referring to the idea of finding connections who will “open doors for you,” as they say. We’re talking about surrounding yourself with a network of people who are great at what they do, who can contribute to your creations and make them better, who can teach you new things, and who complement you in the areas where you may be lacking.

From musicians and producers, to managers and agents, the list of potential collaborators is a long one. Whether you’re at the start of your career or well on your way, your reach can never be too wide; your circle never too big.  

So, where do you find these people? And how do you not only connect with them, but establish a meaningful relationship? Allow us to share some ideas on how to build a network in your city and beyond. 

Photo from a Growve event

First and foremost, get out into your local scene. Find venues in your city that host weekly open mics, jams, and concerts, and show up. Get to know the house band, the local acts, the sound person, the MC, the promoter, the regulars! It’s not too hard to connect with people who share the same passion as you. Even if you’re not a particularly outgoing person, just being there will allow you to become familiar with a bunch of people who live, breathe, and work in music.

Compliment the performers after the show. Ask the sound tech how they got started. Ask people what kind of projects they’re working on. It won’t be long before opportunities to collaborate or work arise, simply because people in the community know who you are and what you’re up to. 

Photo from a Honey Jam event

Some popular jam sessions and events you can check out in Montreal include: 

Some hot music spots in Toronto: 

For an extensive list of events in MTL and TO, check out our list below

If you’re looking for something a little more structured, you’ll find that many music festivals include panels and networking events as part of their program, such as POP Montreal, NXNE in Toronto, and many others.

This can be a great place to meet people who are specifically looking to learn from and connect with others in the industry, especially if the festival is based in a particular musical genre or sector of work.  

Photo from a Women in Music event

If you love a sense of community, look into local collectives and organizations. Some – such as Lotus Collective, shesaid.so, and MTL Women in Music – are geared explicitly towards women and gender minorities in music. Others are more mentorship-based, such as Honey Jam Canada, or provide educational resources and host career workshops, like YES Montreal.

If you’re looking to connect and collaborate with creatives outside of music, you should check out the Black Montreal Creatives directory or Workroom 5584. There is also a wide range of online communities to be discovered, such as the ‘Toronto’s Musician Network’ or ‘Audio Engineering Society – Toronto Section’ Facebook pages. 

Photo from an Urban Science #LeCypher event

If you are looking to meet people in specialized roles (i.e. a manager, a session musician, a filmmaker), we highly recommend using social media. It’s amazing what opportunities you can create from a little online digging, if done well. Instagram is great because you can discover people by looking at tags.

For example, let’s say you’re an artist looking for a producer to work on your new music (or vice versa!). You can check out the posts of an artist whose music you really like and see who has been tagged/credited as producer. You can then check out their profile, which may lead you to their website where you can learn more about their background, explore their catalogue of past work, find out where they’re based and how to reach them. If you feel like it’s a good fit, send them a friendly but concise email mentioning a bit about yourself, what you like about their work, and an offer to chat on the phone or meet for coffee.

If you’re unsure of how to craft a compelling email, we’ve got plenty of tips for you in our “Tips for Writing Professional Cold Emails” article.

Photo from a shesaid.so event

Of course, you may not always hear back from a cold email prospect (which FYI, most likely means that they’re pretty busy, and not that they ghosted you because they think you suck).

It never hurts to politely follow up a week or so later, and if you still don’t hear back, then move on for now. You can definitely revisit that option a few months down the road because, as we said, it more often has to do with timing and organization rather than anything personal against you. You might be surprised at how open people can be to a quick meetup with a stranger in their field. 

Sometimes, how you meet someone comes down to pure luck or good timing. You may need a guitar player for a very last minute gig, so you search Instagram for people tagged in your area and reach out to them. Maybe it’s a one-time thing, or maybe you click instantly and begin playing together full-time.

You may forget your key card to the rehearsal space you rent and then strike up a conversation with the friendly stranger who unlocked the door for you (and who happens to be the exact kind of person you’re looking to work with on your next project). Maybe you reach out to them on social media and they don’t respond right away, but then you follow up two months later and they’re very much interested. 

Photo from a Honey Jam event

All that to say, you can meet people in all sorts of ways. Don’t be afraid to take chances and reach out, follow up, or have a quick conversation in an elevator. You never know what will come of it. And this applies to people in all different kinds of roles: photographers, studio owners, booking agents, radio promoters.

Look up Facebook groups that are based in your city, read the credits in the description on YouTube videos, even use LinkedIn! It’s not just for the corporate world. You can connect with old classmates or colleagues, find interesting job postings, or get recruited yourself. The more space you create for potential connection, the more opportunities you’ll have to expand your network.  

Photo from a POP Montréal event

That being said, it can take a bit of time at first to find the right fit for what you’re looking for. That’s why we’ve put together an extensive resource list covering a wide variety of events, venues, and networking hubs for your reference. Check it out!

*There will be ongoing updates in the future to keep it current, so be sure to bookmark this page!*

Text written by Andria Piperni

lllustration by Yihong Guo