You may think that music industry conferences and conventions are designed for the music business elite; a place for them to gather together and discuss statistics, developments and all manner of topics that are not applicable and perhaps a little on the dull side to the average grassroots band or artist. Whilst this once may have been the case, in recent years music industry conventions have taken a definite shift to become more accessible to the fresh blood feeding this business; musicians like you!
Established conferences such as The Great Escape, SXSW and Liverpool Sound City have certainly cast their nets wider to create events that embrace discussion that is relevant to the fresh talent making music, and not just the industry that surrounds them. In an era where the DIY approach has become the norm for many emerging acts, it stands to reason that the bands and artists working hard to promote what they do are as much a part of the current music business than any record label executive.
With many new events popping up in recent years such as Live at Leeds, Focus Wales, plus numerous masterclasses and monthly discussions across the UK featuring experienced speakers and panellists, there is clearly a demand amongst the emerging bands and musicians to be welcomed into the loop and gain access to what was once considered ‘insider knowledge’. These days music industry conferences have much more of an ‘open door’ ethos and are the ideal place for those hoping to work in the music business, music start-ups with fresh ideas and proactive bands and artists to learn and be inspired.
Kat Morris, Festival Director at The Great Escape, explains how and why the event is keen to cater for emerging musicians: “The Great Escape Convention (and festival) have certainly become more aware of the changing tides of the music industry – so much so that this year's convention will actual host a dedicated DIY strand that will explain how artists can turn what they do into money, while other experts will be on hand to talk about getting gigs, capturing fan base online and doing those all important business partner deals. Our programming process is the same for bands whether they are on their first EP or fifth album – if we feel that they are doing something new, exciting, boundary pushing and are guaranteed to give festival goers an amazing show, then we book them.”
As well as the opportunity to perform at the many gigs and showcases which inevitably make up a key part of music industry conferences, there are also plenty of prospects for bands to network, ask questions, make contacts and in this blog we aim to offer some tips to bands and artists that haven’t attended a convention before, or those who have and are looking to brush up on ways they can make sure they get the most out of the experience. So here goes…
RESEARCH WHO WILL BE THERE
A few weeks prior to the conference a full schedule of panels, discussions, speakers and performances will be revealed. Don’t just roll up on the day and see what’s happening and who you stumble upon! We recommend you take some time before the event to check out what panels would be of particular interest to you, who is speaking as part of them, what their music industry background is and get together a list (mentally or otherwise…) of what you can tap into whilst you’re there.
Once discussions are finished, it’s quite normal for the panellists to hang about afterwards for a while and this is an ideal time to catch them for a quick chat about any topics they raised, or just to politely introduce yourself and what you do. There are often quite a few opportunities to get involved in interactive masterclasses, round table discussions and the like, where you can chat on a more one to one basis with the industry experts so get stuck in!
BUSINESS CARDS AT THE READY!
It may not be a business card, but if you have a promo release or anything else you want to pass onto the people you meet, make sure you have plenty to take with you for the duration of the event. That said handing out CDs en masse to all and sundry is probably not that worthwhile; it’s all about making meaningful contact with the music folks in attendance, striking up good conversation and leaving something with them so you can stay in touch beyond the conference. By all means, if you’ve handed over your contact details, feel free to ask for a business card in return so you can make future contact.
RESPECT THE FINE LINE...
There is a fine line between making new contacts and being a wee bit of a nuisance. It’s easily done once you’ve had a few drinks! During events such as Liverpool Sound City or The Great Escape you will no doubt see music industry folks from panels earlier in the day knocking about at various gigs on an evening. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going over and politely saying hello, but don’t be remembered as the drunken buffoon that wouldn’t leave them alone whilst they were trying to watch a gig. Trying to hold a decent conversation in a darkened, noisy venue is not an easy task anyhow…
There will typically be an opportunity during panel discussions for audience members to pose any questions they may have or raise points they feel have been missed. If you want more information about any particular topics of discussion or further clarification about anything, don’t be shy – just ask! This is quite a unique chance to pose your questions to people in the music industry you may not usually come face to face with, or to get tips and recommendations from them directly so don’t waste it.
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE INDUSTRY!
Of course, any music conference worth its salt will have music industry folk in abundance, but don’t forget about the great opportunity it provides to chat and get together with other bands and artists too. There’s nothing to stop you getting in touch with emerging bands that will be showcasing at the event and arranging a meet up or chat post gig. Many conventions welcome showcases from European and international bands too so tune into them beforehand. You may find a great band doing a similar thing to you from the other side of the world that you can keep in touch with and help each other by tapping into and exchanging contacts and resources. The possibilities are endless!