Networking in the New Nashville

By: Lauren Tingle

Forgive me, followers, for I have sinned and it’s been four months since my last post. Over the last two weeks I have written 20,317 words (61 pages) of music news, interviewed 20 acts, wrote a bio, applied for a show on Nashville’s new heritage station WXNA and covered two private events.

I saw 14 hours of world-class live music by Aubrie Sellers, Colin Linden, Luther Dickinson, Bobby Rush, Sleepy LaBeef, Ryan Hurd, Easton Corbin, Carrie Underwood, A Thousand Horses, The Cadillac 3, Drake White, Steven Tyler and Dr. John.

Country Radio Seminar wrapped this week and there was a lot of handshaking, hugging and always the same question, “Everything good in your world?”

After nearly a decade of working the room, I have grown concerned about networking in the new Nashville. Lately, I have experienced some awkward chatter that doesn’t matter. Folks exchange business cards which end up getting tucked in a jean pocket and washed in the laundry at the end of the week. People will say, “Let’s get lunch/drinks/coffee,” and never follow up. There’s talk about work, when we’d really rather not. Have we gone Hollywood?

I love living and working in Nashville because of its personal nature. We follow the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Major events like CMA week are big family reunions. We are genuine in our conversations on life, love and family. But with so many new folks moving to our city, I feel like we’re losing some of that Southern hospitality.

Take a deep breath, wash your hands and grab your business cards. Here’s some unsolicited advice on networking in the new Nashville.

Retire the question: “Everything good in your world?”
Usually, whoever asks this question will get lies. Please direct me to the nearest planet where everything was good and beam me up, Scotty. What if we love our job, but aspire for something better? What if someone close just passed away? Or what if we’re going through a breakup? This is why celebrities avoid red carpets when they’re in crisis. It’s time to mix it up. Instead, ask this:

What is the best thing you’ve seen lately?
What’s good in your life?
What are you loving right now?
What is your secret to personal happiness?
Tell me one story you’ll tell your grandkids.

More than likely, the conversation will be a blast and you’ll make fast friends.

Don’t get drunk and make a fool of yourself.
This town is small and people love to talk trash. If you’re attending a conference like CRS, SXSW, NAMM, MIDEM, etc., save the party for the final night of the event. Your body will thank you.

Don’t talk trash.
Save the world from all the drama. It’s dirty enough.

Don’t be scared.
Have confidence in your own skin. You’re in a safe place. It’s just the entertainment business. Nothing can hurt you unless you let it.

Watch who you’re hitting on.
Never be that person who sleeps their way to the top.

Business cards
Stash cards in all your purses, briefcases, money clips and suitcases. That way, you’ll have them ready and available wherever you go.

Calm down with the heels!
This is Nashville. Business casual with some killer boots will get you through any event.

People love to open up and share their lives. Be present and show interest.

The entertainment business can leave us a little breathless. There’s yoga for that. A daily practice can help the mind recall peaceful, easy feelings in times of chaos such as award shows, music festivals and parties.

Remember names.
Ask something like “Who’s your celebrity crush,” to associate a new name with a famous one.

Keep your agreements.
Do what you say. If you book a meeting and something comes up, renegotiate in advance.

No need to yell.
Save your voice when you’re at live events. Your only time to network is before downbeat and between sets. Plan accordingly.

Just have fun!
We’re doing what we love for a living and that’s a huge blessing. Enjoy yourself!