All industries, whether it’s for marketing, business, or music, have meetups and conferences for those in the industry to meet, learn, exchange ideas and network amongst themselves. 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 and their work.
Veteran conference goers look forward to music festivals as a place to learn more about the business from well-vetted industry insiders chosen to speak or lead workshops. It’s a place to pick up a lot of good ideas about promoting, distributing and getting paid for your music. Showcases and music conferences can also be fun and informative for even the most marketing-adverse musician. It’s also an opportunity for you to keep current about what the industry and how to get more involved. Conferences can be a great move for your career so we’ve collected some tips to help make your first or your 100th conference a success.
Introduce Yourself and Your Music
It’s tempting to think that just showing up at an international conference or music festival with a song and a smile will be enough to land you a lucrative label deal. Of course, it could happen, but you do need to help it along a little. You’ll want to leave them with something to remind them of you and be able to contact you later. Use one of the many online services that print creative but inexpensive business cards and keep some 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 that is designed to be delivered as briefly and succinctly as possible. While at a conference, if you run into someone you’ve been hoping to meet chances are you’ll get no more than a minute or two to make your case. Pull out your business cards or your fun promo items (see below for tips about that) and use your carefully crafted, fun, yet accurate 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 definitely 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 with stacks of CDs are too polite to refuse and have no plans to ever listen to. It’s not quantity but quality when it comes to giving away music, and you don’t want to lose out on money by giving away freebies to every person.
Don’t Forget Your Swag
Half the fun of going to a conference is picking up all kinds of fun promo materials from other artists, companies and labels. This is absolutely the time to introduce your creative marketing side and come up with some fun swag to give away to help get your name out there. You could print up flyers and posters or hand out postcards, but make it fun and memorable. If you’ve got friends who work in graphic arts this is the time to enlist their help or brainstorm with them for 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 conference schedule and 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 and companies in the industry 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 these events have great potential for you to further your career and meet like-minded musicians like yourself.