Networking Advice and Tips on Making Opportunities Happen from RRFC Mentors

Andy Shoemaker
Andy Shoemaker

Recording Connection mentor Andy Shoemaker at Rax Trax (Chicago, IL) stresses the importance of having people skills, not just technical skills:
[break side=”left”] “Before I start saying, ‘Hey man, can you do this session?,’ I need to see, technically, they know enough of what they’re doing to trust them enough not to screw up and also that I don’t fear that they’ll conduct themselves in a negative way with a client. There are people that I think of very highly, like, ‘Man, this guy is great. He knows what he’s talking about,’ but I just don’t know that I can hand him a session because his people skills are a bit lacking. If someone can’t read the artist and interact with them based on what the artist needs, then it isn’t a good fit between engineer and artist.”
[break side=”left”] Recording Connection mentor Matt Young, owner of The Press Recording Studio (Stockton, CA) says, “Half the battle is your personality and how you make the customer or client feel… You can have a great ear and cool studio but if you aren’t a pleasure to work with, I guarantee artists would rather record elsewhere. In fact, I’ve heard this multiple times from clients.”
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Scorpion Child and Chris “Frenchie” Smith, center.
Scorpion Child and
Chris “Frenchie” Smith, center.
[break side=”left”] Recording Connection mentor Frenchie Smith at The Bubble Recording Studio (Austin, TX) says how you comport yourself, whether at a networking event, gig, or the grocery store matters. You never know who you’ll meet or where you’ll meet them: “Wherever you are, how you visually look, how you talk to people, the way you carry yourself is your business card…We have to visualize that our demeanor is our business card, and websites fall a little flat when we can’t attract opportunity in real time.”
[break side=”left”] Film Connection mentor Wes Cobb (Charlotte, NC) is a big believer in the art form of promoting oneself by talking about what you’re working towards in a natural, conversational manner: “Always let people know what you are doing, because that’s where opportunities come from. It’s all about the connections you make, that’s where your opportunities come along.”
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[break side=”left”] Despite having multiple award-winning films under her belt, Film Connection mentor Christine Chen of Moth to Flame Films (Austin, TX), chooses to volunteer at SXSW every year, seeing it as a great way to expand her connections and meet aspiring filmmakers. “Volunteering, honestly, is a great way to go. I can afford a ticket, but I always try to volunteer because that’s a great way to force myself and meet people. If you’re doing stuff on a volunteer gig for eight plus hours, you’re going to talk to somebody.”
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[break side=”left”] Film Connection mentor Jason Winn (Atlanta, GA) says communicating skills and talents you possess that can help further a project makes for great win-win situations. “Apprentices Tal and Dennis recognized that they had a talent that, if they didn’t tell me about it, I wouldn’t know. So they did a really good job of marketing themselves like, ‘Here’s what I can bring to the table. Here’s what I can do.’ You can’t be afraid to speak up.” Thanks to them speaking up, Jason was able to get them more involved on a film project!
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[break side=”left”] Film Connection mentor Christine Chen has more great advice, especially for those of us who are naturally a little more introverted: “Ask someone what they do. People love to talk about themselves. So if you’re not comfortable talking about yourself first, be curious about what other people are doing.”
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FC mentor Sean McCarthy
[break side=”left”] Award-winning filmmaker and Film Connection mentor Sean McCarthy of Guerilla Wanderers (Bay Area, CA), loves it when students adopt a collaborative mindset and get in deep on a project: “I love teaching but as a working professional, I don’t have the time to go to schools and teach. I’ve gone and guest lectured for a day…But when I get to pair that with students where I’m working on a real-time project, then they become a collaborator, they become a teammate that I don’t just mentor but can be hand-in-hand with. Those opportunities only happen when you’re in the middle of it.”
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Michael Vail Blum

Recording Connection mentor and Ableton specialist Brian Jackson of Form Labs (Brooklyn, NY) says having an entrepreneurial mindset is crucial in today’s climate: “A lot of the bigger DJs that are also producers are basically little industries. So over time they realize they that they don’t want just want to be a DJ, they don’t want to just produce tracks and remixes, they also have their own labels, their own booking agencies, their own clothing lines…So yeah, you have to figure out what you want to do and do it. You have to be flexible, but you have to be focused…You have to think like an artist that’s also an entrepreneur.”
[break side=”left”] Platinum-selling producer/engineer and Recording Connection mentor Michael Vail Blum (Los Angeles, CA) believes in staying proactive and being entrepreneurial as a rule: “I think that it’s really important to go out and build your own career. And that’s what finding talent is to me, is being able to have the opportunity to find something I think is good and valuable and bring it to market. In the process, incidentally, I have my own label.”
[break side=”left”] Doing so, often means letting go of outdated understandings and misconceptions people have about how the industry works. Speaking to this point, Recording Connection mentor Jeramy Roberts (Austin, TX) says, “All artists have misconceptions. Then you start breaking down the process…and they very quickly find out that it’s nothing like they thought it was going to be… So once they start to get all this information, then their minds start to pick it apart and go their own way… I don’t want them to just go out and get a job: I want them to create their own job. And [once they know how] they’re ready to start doing that.”
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[break] Angel Rivera and RC mentor Doug BoulwareRecording Connection mentor and producer/engineer Doug Boulware at The Abstract Recording Studios (Glendale, CA) shares how he was able to get his foot in the door and grow his knowledge and connections back when he was just starting out without a studio of his own: “I went to bigger studios…and I said, ‘Okay, I get that you don’t have a job, but if I bring you a client, can I hang out in the session and just kind of soak everything up?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, of course.’”
[break side=”left”] And when he wasn’t in the studio, Doug was working at getting working with as many artists as possible.
[break side=”left”] “It was never like, ‘Oh, I’m just kind of trying to get a job at a studio.’ I would go out to shows and I would hand out business cards that I made on my computer…I started doing stuff for free for people and hip-hop guys around my neighborhood and people I went to high school with… Once they saw how excited I was about their music and how energetic I was about doing it, they wanted to work.”
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Scott Johnson, mentored by Steve Catizone

Recording Connection mentor Steve Catizone considers dependability a huge factor when it comes to getting hired. His former student, now employee Scott Johnson, is the exemplar of dependability and thanks to that, his career is taking off fast! “Luck is preparedness meets opportunity, and anytime I’d ask [Scott] to come in to shadow or assist, he was there…[Now]he’s my go-to guy. When I have sessions, I’ll call him first.”
[break side=”left”] Even when the artist coming in is Charli XCX, Scott is the guy Steve calls! Learn more.
[break side=”left”] Recording Connection mentor David Hughes of Shine On Studio (Oakland, CA) says putting in the time and showing his level of dedication was a key ingredient in his success: “You’ve got to be the guy they can count on when they need you to get things done…Putting in long, long hours, especially hours that I didn’t want to put in, when I wanted to make plans with my girlfriend, friends, or family was the most difficult self-discipline that I’ve had to endure. You really have to sacrifice some of your free time to be respected in the industry.”
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[break side=”left”] Recording Connection mentor Victor Abreu of Clear Track Studios (Tampa Bay, FL) says there’s no getting away from spending the time it takes to master the craft: “The whole 10,000 hours thing is the time you put in to become great. Create opportunities for yourself in the different places that you want to go. Continue that same attitude when you reach that point, and when you reach the next point. Just trust the process. Continue to do what you know how to do best, and everything else pretty much falls into place.”
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[break side=”left”] Recording Connection mentor Luis Pacheco of The Hideout (Las Vegas, NV) shares a few final words of advice that everyone should heed: “Keep your head up. Opportunities are everywhere. It’s just about opening the door and running with it.”
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