Can I Holla at Ya?

Can I Holla at Ya? The Secret to Approaching Music Business Professionals


The Global Entertainment and Music Business program here at Berklee Valencia is designed to give its students a comprehensive education so that they can have a well-rounded set of tools when they enter the workforce. However, I believe that more than almost any other field, success in the music industry heavily depends on the level of interpersonal skills someone has.

Many of my colleagues here on campus have varying talents and skills. I am often impressed to hear some of their accomplishments. Still, I am starting to question whether the ability to consistently interact amicably with other people is something that our generation is missing.

I accredit my social skills to being a military brat. Having a father in the Marine Corps meant moving 8 times before starting high school. I was always the new kid and as a result had to get good at making new friends. I am usually able to enjoy the company of many great acquaintances, but only 1 or 2 people close to me that I can trust. This is something that I have come to embrace as I grew older, and I would argue that because I have never completely felt accepted or included most group settings, my ability to listen, observe, and learn about people has been fine tuned.

Relating this to the music business, I hope that this gives me an advantage when networking and meeting industry professionals. More often than not, I have been shocked at how my peers in various stages of my career have approached some of these business people. While admittedly, sometimes it is comical, other times it is just appalling.

I have laughed silently to myself watching a peer blow several hundred dollars on drinks for industry professionals only to get blown off afterwards because he claimed his artist was “the Next Big Thing.” Please.

I have groaned internally as I watched a colleague pull out an iPhone and try to play a demo for an industry A&R at a networking event. Wrong approach. Wrong setting. Wrong time.

I have seen an individual chase down a music executive and slide a business card into his jacket pocket!

I have rallied every ounce of strength in my body to keep from exploding on a classmate that literally shoved me out of the way at a conference to go talk to a music professional I had been working to get in contact with for four months. AAAAHHHH!!!

I understand that we are in a competitive industry, but whatever happened to being nice?

We often forget that music executives in positions of influence are people too!

Ironically enough, the majority of industry professionals in high positions that I have studied or had the opportunity to meet are… SURPRISE! Extremely polite and cordial people. They have their own lives and appreciate those that treat them respect. Being nice can go a long ways, even in the music industry.

Motown/Universal A&R and Manager Ray Daniels articulated best how to approach executives. He compared it to wooing another man or woman! We all know how we wish to be approached by a dating prospect. And someone that approaches us the wrong way always leaves a sour taste in our mouths.

Watch Ray Daniels explain this concept in more detail right here:

Moral of the story? Treat others with respect. No one is perfect. I have made plenty of mistakes myself, but I always want to treat my peers with kindness and maintain good relationships with them. And for those that have made wrong impressions or even burned bridges? It’s never too late to clean up that behavior. You never know when a former classmate or colleague will be in a position to help you in this industry. And when you left a favorable memory of you with them, most likely they will.