That being said, you don't get something unless you ask for it, but there's a definite right way way to do it, and there are some reasonable expectations that you should have when doing so. Music Think Tank had a great article about this recently that you can read, but here's my version.
When you reach out to someone in the industry, remember that:
- They're busy people first and foremost. Most people in the industry are doing too many jobs at the same time. They're overworked and most likely underpaid and already have a lot on their plate. They're not sitting around waiting to hear from you because there's probably 10 things on their to-do list that they won't even be able to get to today. Consider yourself lucky if you happen to get a sliver of their time, but don't take it personally if you're rejected or ignored. Unless you have something to offer that fills one of their needs at that specific moment, they probably just won't be able to fit you into their already crowded mind.
- They don't like people who aren't straight forward. Back when I was writing for magazines, I had a friend call me up and waste my time by beating around the bush hoping I'd suggest that he was awesome enough to write an article about him. I would have much preferred he just got right to the point and said, "I'm trying to get some press? What do I have to do to get you to write about me?" That why I could've either told him how or told him I couldn't, but he would've known a lot sooner and saved us both a lot of time. To this day I still don't want to talk to him because he turned me off that badly. People that are working in the industry are busy. Get to the point.
- It can never be about the money. If you're calling someone up and looking for help, a job, or even a record deal, the last thing you need to discuss is money. It's an instant turn-off and will immediately get you dismissed as someone who doesn't care enough about the right thing. This is an industry that requires you give a lot more than you take, and do so gladly. Do that, and the rewards will come by themselves. The only time you're in a position to talk money is if someone calls you!
- They may not be able to give you what you're looking for. You may be looking for a critique or advice, but they just may not be able to supply it. Why? Everything and everybody in the business is somewhat unique, and the knowledge or experience that was required at one time in the past may no longer apply (especially in this Music 3.0 world). It could be that person doesn't have any better idea that you have, or that what they know is outdated (hopefully they're aware that that's the case).
- You need to have your elevator pitch ready. Know what an elevator pitch is? It's a very focused and to-the-point presentation that should last the length of an elevator ride. Entrepreneurs looking for money develop their elevator pitches early in the process in the event they find themselves on an elevator with someone who might have the ability to fund their company. The fact is, everyone should have an elevator pitch that describes who they are, what they do, and what they're looking for in 2 minutes or less. This takes some time to get right, but pays dividends even if you find yourself pitching outside of an elevator. If you've enticed the person you're pitching to enough, they'll ask for more details.