Referrals might have just revolutionized my income stream and they can do the same for you. In an industry of connections, it’s perhaps the greatest way to make money with little to no effort – and figuring out how to do this at its finest is what is going to help you figure out your income over the long term. Beyond that – having a strong referral network is the sort of thing that makes you look bigger than you are and cultivates a relationship with the bands you work with and your friends that proves that you are ‘the man’. If people can consistently go to you with anything they need and you can turn around and make a little money off of that transaction without upcharging (Although that can work too) then you are going to be able to provide a solid little boost to your income that many of your peers might never even dream of having access to. I mean yes – this comes from having a strong network built up over years – but the opportunities are still there.
So how do referrals work? For the uninitiated – a referral is when you hook someone up with a client and that person pays you a percentage of what the client pays them. This is different from upcharging which is where you essentially subcontract out the service and take the difference. The problem with upcharging a lot of the time is that unless you do it very carefully you can end up making an ass of yourself in front of a friend who thought they could trust you. I didn’t think referrals were worth that much until I realized earlier this month that I’ve been making a few hundred dollars the past few months through hooking people up with the appropriate PR campaigns for them. Then I found myself in the process of setting up a five figure annual contract for a similar type of deal and realized that I should probably go out and write something about it in order to show all of you beautiful people what it could mean for your bands.
You need to be careful in how you go through with this though. You don’t want to be a douchebag and you don’t want to try to hurt people or get them to go through the wrong channels just because you will make more money that way. In the long run this will hurt. As I have written many times before, this is an industry of honor. This is not an industry where you can get away with messing around and screwing people over. If you get a referral, it’s fine to keep that quiet. However you also need to be grateful for these opportunities and turn around and try to use this power for good. You have an obligation to the community as a whole – or just yourself. So many of your peers who find themselves working referral deals are going to come off as dunderheads. For this to work at all you need to have access to people with money and people who get that these sorts of things are necessary. I’ve been involved in referral deals for years now but it’s only recently that my network has become serious enough to understand why dumping several thousand dollars on certain things is a necessity for your band to grow.
A good referral deal is one where you are helping to vend a product that is good and at a reasonable price and which you can circle back to time and time again. That’s why I like hooking up some of my creative friends with cheap advertising options for example, or getting my graphic designer friends paid work. If you want to be really tricky about it you can even craft these deals where you upcharge and then turn around and take a referral off the artist. This sort of thing is only really feasible though if you are getting the person you are taking a referral from a ridiculous amount of work in the first place. I try to be pretty clear with deals like that since pulling off those sorts of deals can be a little complicated. They really require you to be watching out for everybody’s best interests and making sure that you aren’t accidentally hurting someone you should be trying to help out.
Obviously the morals behind this sort of thing can be a little tricky. For a while I just quietly refunded bands my referral fee because I felt weird about taking it. Then I got poor and desperately needed the money. Now I use the money to feed back into the system. My entire life is basically centered around music and my cat. Obviously I’m very lucky to have that sort of position. I don’t take it lightly, so I realize that the money I make off of this sort of thing needs to be directed to helping out bands that need it. This is just a fact of life and represents the inherent struggle of this industry. Then if you can show that your passion is overwhelming and you’re still hooking up bands with some good opportunities then you are in the right. You’re acting as a broker and using this position in order to help people live their dreams. There is no moral ambiguity about that – you’re being a kind and helpful individual. People should appreciate that you are hooking them up with your own personal network.
Referrals are an interesting side of the industry – especially since they are essentially the most direct way in which you can make money off of networking. If you figure out how to use them well simply by taking advantage of the network that being in a band should give you, then you will find yourself in a much more profitable position. You will be able to look at the depraved madness that made you suffer for so long and find a path that protects us all, even if the inherent darkness of the industry is going to tear us down time and time again, at least we can hook up our friends and make a little it of money off of it.