According to a recent article in Inc. on effective networking, “Making connections and maintaining relationships with the people who support you throughout your career can be the key to success for most individuals.”
The article points out that when you build a cohesive network of colleagues, you make yourself and your talents that much more valuable. You also have a safety net that you can call upon to help you and in turn you will help them when they need it.
How does this apply in the world of making musicals?
Well, we all know the old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” I don’t believe there is anyone in musical theater doesn’t know that networking is a big part of this business. But there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. If you are running around amassing “friends,” and “followers,” without any real connections — that is NOT effective networking. That’s making a bunch of acquaintances.
As a writer, you may find it tempting to flock to the producer with the latest success, or as a producer to only work with rising stars of the writing community or as a patron, only attend things that are already a hit. However, it’s worth remembering that everyone has to start somewhere.
Because the big names are being courted by everyone, due to who they are and the kind of credibility knowing them brings with it, they will also be more cautious of new relationships, fearing they’re being used. But if you were with them from the beginning, lending a hand when they needed it, you will be considered a trusted ally. Long-term relationships, cultivated deliberately and carefully overtime can yield unmatchable trust, success and fulfillment.
A well-respected producer friend of mine has his hands in many projects. He’s always willing to lend a hand on this show or that. He’s a trusted resource, knows everyone and is constantly approached with projects. When you look closely at his work however, you see that he truly produces the work of only a very limited few writers.
These writers are not the hot properties of the day or the big names. They are people he believes have true talent and he is in it with them for the long haul. He pushes them to keep working and let’s them focus on the art while he doggedly pounds the pavement looking for places to develop and perform the existing works. And you know what? It’s working.
The writers’ work gets better and better because they’re supported and feel confident that they are in good hands. Theater companies around the country are learning the names of these writers and hearing them in the same consistent way that excites them about being part of the process and making their own investment in the future of the work. And the relationship between the producer and writers has, over time, reached a place of extreme trust that most producers and writers can only dream of.
“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” — Wicked
My friend is not alone in this. Just look at Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim or Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie. Not to mention all the famous writing teams (Rogers & Hammerstein, Ahrens & Flaherty, Kander & Ebb, etc.) None of whom HAD to work together but instead found that they were the most successful when they did.
So, if it’s artistic success and fulfillment that you seek (and who doesn’t?) think about finding a few true partners that you can grow with, learn with and ultimately succeed with. It’s a hard thing to do and takes years but I promise you, there are few things in theater that you’ll find to be more rewarding and fulfilling.
Loyalty breeds Success.