Shy Self-Promoters

Written by Peter Spellman, Berklee College of Music

“Self promotion” isn’t something we were encouraged to pursue. Even today we tell children, “Don’t talk about yourself; people won’t like you.” Or maybe you’ve heard: “Don’t put yourself out front; you’ll show up your little brother;” and, “People don’t like show-offs.”

Subtle but powerful messages.

And then there’s “networking”.  Do you get that hollow feeling in your gut whenever you’re told that networking is the key to building your music career? Does it all sound to you a bit slimy and manipulative?  It probably makes you feel like you’re putting on an act – not really being yourself, right?

Those of a more shy and introverted nature have the most trouble with these career imperatives. In general, introverts are quiet, reflective and reserved. They re-charge alone and prefer one on one conversation to the crowd. Combine this natural disposition with those early messages about not promoting yourself, and a distaste for “working the room,” and you have a guaranteed recipe for failure in a world that rewards big mouths and the hyper-connected.

As a result, introverts feel inadequate, underconnected – even guilty. They end up thinking it’s necessary to choose between remaining obscure or sounding obnoxious, forgetting that maybe, just maybe, there is a creative middle ground.

Here are a few ideas to help with finding that middle ground for yourself:

• First, shed the useless negative self-talk (“You have nothing to offer,” “You’ll make a fool of yourself,” “You can’t, you can’t, you can’t…”). Hey, if you want to really evolve, then accept the fact adulthood is mainly about de-programming/re-programming yourself. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. As Wayne Dyer is wont to say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Truer words have never been spoken. Start saying, “I think I can…”

• Every day remind yourself of four things: your name, your title, your responsibilities, and the positive things you are accomplishing right now for others and, if relevant, for your company. You have a lot to offer and a lot of value to bring. Figure out what that is and remind yourself about it everyday. Affirmations help.

• Create a game plan with snack-sized goals. Approach networking functions somewhat strategically, creating a meaningful connection with 1-2 people, going off to recharge, then jumping in the fray once again.

• The brave new world of social networking affords a fear-free door. Working your blog or even email messages allow a tempo and pace even introverts thrive in. Find ways to connect using your passion and creativity. For example, on LinkedIn within groups you can post a question or start a discussion or identify something you feel is newsworthy.

• Try partnering with someone (an extrovert) that complements your strengths and see what kind of project or even business idea may emerge.

• Be inspired by great company: Bach, Debussy, Einstein, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were all shy and introverted, as are Michael Jordan, Bob Dylan and Meryl Streep. It need not hold you back.

Accept your natural disposition and lead with your strengths.


About Peter Spellman
Peter Spellman found his way into music as a guitarist in various New York bands and then switched to drums after seeing the Police perform in the late 1970s. Since then he’s performed and recorded with reggae outfit, The Mighty Charge, world music ensemble Friend Planet, and now with the
Underwater Airport crew. He’s scored films for the National Science Foundation, composed video games for Massachusetts General Hospital, and coaches music entrepreneurs at Berklee College of Music. He is author of “The Self Promoting Musician” and “Indie Business Power: A Step by Step Guide for 21st Century Music Entrepreneurs”. Find him at

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  • Jerry Brower

    guidelines and encouraging words for the introvert.  Being an introvert
    myself, I can see where different methods need to be employed in order
    to achieve the same results as the extrovert.  But, it is possible to
    succeed, in spite of the common stereotype given to the introvert.  We
    definitely have our strong points. We just need to know how to recognize
    them and learn how to use them.  Social skills will become more natural
    if you are persistent at practicing them.  Social media could be used
    as a great outlet to build confidence.  I also found some other helpful
    tips at:                                                       

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