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How to Make The Most at a Music Conference

Picture of Frances Katz
3 minute read

All industries — whether it’s marketing, business matters, or music — host conferences for its members to exchange ideas and network. For many songwriters, writing, recording, and playing music can sometimes be an isolating experience. Attending festivals and conferences can give you an opportunity to meet other musicians and music industry professionals to talk about your work.

Veteran conference-goers look forward to music festivals as a place to learn more about the business from well-vetted insiders chosen to speak or lead workshops. It’s a place to pick up a lot of proven ideas about promoting, distributing, and getting paid for your music. 

Showcases and music conferences can be enjoyable and informative for even the most marketing-adverse musician — an opportunity to keep current about the industry and learn how to get more involved. Since conferences can be a great boost for your bottom line, we’ve collected some tips to help make your first or your 100th a success.

Introduce Yourself and Your Music

It’s tempting to think that showing up with a song and a smile will be enough to land you a lucrative label deal. It could happen, of course, but you need to help the process along a little. 

For one thing, you’ll want to leave them with something memorable, so they’ll be able to contact you later. Use one of the many online services that print creative but inexpensive business cards and keep them with you at all times. If you meet someone you’d like to stay in touch with, handing out a colorful card with a link to your YouTube channel or Facebook page along with contact information is the professional way to let labels, publishers, and other industry pros know you’re serious.

Polish Your Elevator Pitch

Think of your one-minute “elevator pitch” as a short description of you and your music, designed to be delivered as briefly and succinctly as possible. If you run into someone you’ve been hoping to meet at a conference, chances are you’ll get no more than a minute or two to make your case. Pull out your business cards or unique promo items (see below for tips about that) and use your carefully crafted elevator pitch to get their attention and win them over.

Bring Your Music

If you have CDs or thumb drives with your demo or album, you should bring some with you, but only give them out if someone asks or it feels like the right thing to do. Many conference and festival speakers are too polite to refuse and have stacks of CDs they never plan on listening to. It comes down to quantity not quality when giving away music, and you don’t want to lose money by giving freebies to every person.

Don’t Forget Your Swag

Half the fun of going to a conference is picking up fun promo materials from other artists, companies, and labels. This is the time to show your marketing side and come up with some creative swag to give away to help get your name out there. You could print up flyers and posters or hand out postcards but make them memorable. If you’ve got friends who work in graphic design, this is the time to enlist their help or brainstorm ideas. Some of the more memorable giveaways at the Toronto Folk Alliance included branded guitar picks, bottles of hand sanitizer, percussive rhythm shakers, and even cookies.

Go to the Conference

This may sound obvious, but many people attending conferences skip the panels, which is a huge mistake. Typically, the conference component features panels and workshops with industry experts speaking on a variety of topics of interest from tour management to publicity and rights administration. Look over the schedule, find one or two panels that interest you, and attend them. Speakers at conferences usually make themselves available to attendees after each session and you’ll get a chance to introduce yourself and ask questions. Make sure you’ve got your business cards or a thumb drive with your music with you just in case.

Ultimately, these conferences and festivals are put on by people with the same mission as you — to network, learn, and collaborate. It’s up to you to decide which event is worth attending and how much you’ll get out of it, but keep in mind that conferences have great potential for you to further your career and meet like-minded musicians.

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