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Which Music Events Are The Best SXSW Alternatives?


There’s no question that SXSW is the biggest and most well-known music conference, but it is by no means the only event for musicians to attend panels, perform at showcases and network with the music industry’s finest.

Each year there are dozens of music conference events, both big and small, industry-wide and genre or location specific, that are perfectly suitable opportunities for those who aren’t able to make it down to Austin’s annual mega-event.

So for this week’s Open Mic discussion, we want to hear from you about which music conferences you have attended, and which you feel are the best for musicians of all kinds to make sure to add to their calendar.

Below we’ve listed 4 of the major, annual music conference events that are fantastic alternatives (or additions) to SXSW. Take a look and then leave a comment with your own suggestions and/ or experiences:

1. CMJ

Based out of New York University in Greenwich Village, CMJ is an annual event very similar to SXSW. There are dozens of panels on all aspects of the music industry, a convention hall for tech companies (and more) to set up booths and most importantly, CMJ takes over 80+ bars, nightclubs and theaters to showcase over 1,300 artist performances.

2. ReThink Music

ReThink Music is the newest conference to join the must-see circuit. Started by Berklee College in 2011, this conference has all of the bells and whistles of SXSW and CMJ, with all aspects of the music industry in attendance for panels, lectures and showcases, but the real focus here is about dissecting and examining the current state of the music industry with the hope that, by bringing everyone together, forward progress will be made.

3. Digital Music Forum (East & West)

Created by Digital Music Wire, a long-standing digital news wire for all things music business, The Digital Music Form conference takes place twice a year, once on the east coast and then later in the year again on the west coast. This event features all of the standard panels, lectures and showcases and could provide ample opportunity to network with people that could potentially push your career in the right direction.

4. New Music Seminar

Created by Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records (responsible for Naughty By Nature), this annual event held in NYC focuses in on where education is certainly the main focus. NMS bringing together many of the premier thought leaders in the music industry to discuss where it is headed through the dissection of social media use, marketing tactics, sales trends and more.

Which music conferences have you attended?

These 4 conferences are only the tip of the iceberg. Events both large and small take place every year, all over the world and we want to hear from you about which events you’ve been to or want to attend as an extension of, or alternative for SXSW’s madness.

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13 thoughts on “Which Music Events Are The Best SXSW Alternatives?

  1. I’ve been to NMS when it was in Chicago a couple years ago.  I had a great time & met so many great people. I was a bit disappointed at the turn-out, though. It made me think that NMS won’t be coming back to Chicago any time soon. I would definitely attend again & would probably be at a lot more if it wasn’t for the lousy economy.

    1. Thanks so much for chiming in Erik! NMS was the first conference I had ever been in in NYC a few years back – it’s actually where I ended up meeting Ariel Hyatt and many others… For me it truly was a life changing experience since I am now working for Ariel as well as writing here at Songtrust. 

  2. I’ve attended and enjoyed the Future of Music Policy Summit the past two years.  It’s put on by the Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy organization for musicians.  I wouldn’t consider it an alternative to SXSW — it’s on a completely different scale and the focus is on policy, not performance. 

    But it can be refreshing to choose from a limited number of panels, and have everybody go to the same party afterward. It takes place on the Georgetown University Campus in DC, usually in October. 

    From the FMC site: ” The Future of Music Policy Summit 2011 brought together
    an incredible array of musicians, arts advocates, policymakers,
    technologists, media representatives and industry figures to discuss
    issues at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law.
    Attendees examined current trends while looking ahead to a sustainable,
    21st century music ecosystem that reward creators and fans.”

    1. Thanks so much David! Great to have your input here. FMC’s Policy Summit is a great addition to the list.

  3. Thanks for mentioning Rethink Music, which we co-organise with Berklee College of Music; but unless you’re only talking about US events, I’d have to say midem’s a must-attend conference & tradeshow. Even if I am their community manager! Thanks 🙂

    1. MIDEM, Can you get me the info for the next conference? I will have it posted to Contact us at Thanks!

      1. Thanks Jonathan. The dates are 26-29 January, 2013, in Cannes. More on as and when we have it!

        1. Hey MIDEM – actually I wanted to include MIDEM in my original list above but couldn’t find a way for everyone to register on the website so I left it off… not sure if that’s because it’s just not available yet (sorry if so). But then again, the point of this list was to just show a few and then have others add more to the list… so THANK YOU! 🙂

  4. I went to Rethink Music last year, and it’s definitely a “don’t miss”.  They did a great job and it was only their first year!   Definitely heading back again……

    1. Glad to hear that Bob! I wasn’t able to attend but everyone I’ve spoken to said it was fantastic. Hoping to get there soon!

  5. Here are a few coming up this year:
    ASCAP’s “I Make Music” Expo
    Worldwide Radio Summit
    International Songwriting Summit
    New Music Seminar in NYC
    Women’s Music Summit

    You can get more info about each of them here:

    Choose the Filter “Conferences” to see only these events.

    1. Thanks so much for this Jonathan! Actually ASCAP’s ‘I Make Music’ Expo is a GREAT addition to the list! 

  6. This is great, thanks. I’ve been looking for a few new conferences to attend. Are you familiar with the Indie Entertainment Summit? This August will be the first event in North Hollywood with over 80 seminars and workshops from some top industry execs.

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