By, Wendy Day (www.IndustryReport.com)
It’s time once again for SXSW and it’s easy to get overwhelmed at such a large conference. If you are traveling to Austin, TX to attend SXSW, you are committing a substantial amount of dollars to do so. It’s a good investment in yourself and your career so it would be smart to make the best of it before, during, and after.
Before You Leave Home
1) Print Business cards. Your card should be clean and easy to read. It should have your name, phone number, email address, website, and all of your social media addresses/links. The goal is that as you meet people, you have something to leave with them to contact you after SXSW is over. And hopefully the folks you meet have one to give you as well (I always jot notes on cards so after I have collected 300 of them, I kinda can recall who’s who). Because I do so many different things in the industry, my card has a paragraph on the back that explains everything I do.
2) Print out the schedule: the list of panels, round table discussions, and events that are ideal to boost your knowledge of the music industry. Be certain to highlight the events and people speaking who will benefit you the most. Make sure you attend the discussions that will strengthen you where your knowledge is weakest and offer direct solutions to build your career. For example, if you haven’t placed music in TV shows or films, but would like to, be sure to attend the panels on those topics. Not only will you boost your knowledge, but you will be in the same room with folks who do this for a living which gives you access to those who may be able to help you place your songs.
3) SXSW is very big and there’s a lot going on at once. Most people are going for the performances and showcases, so if there’s a performance you really want to see, get to that event early or arrange a hook up now to get you in ahead of the crowds. Everything fills up very quickly.
4) Try to get added to one of the showcases if you are an artist. The Summer or Fall is a good time to apply to SXSW for a performance slot since usually by Christmas the schedule is full.
5) Reach out to your network of friends and associates and see who else is going. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn are ideal for asking your circle who is attending. If there’s anyone that you should meet with, setting up appointments for lunch, dinner, or coffee would make sense to schedule ahead of time. Folks may be hesitant to commit because they know once they get to Austin they will be pulled in multiple directions. Breakfast meetings may be best because folks can start the day with your meeting provided they aren’t too hung over, and you won’t get lost in the myriad of things going on at SXSW. Be flexible with folks if they need to cancel or reschedule. It’s a huge event with way too much to accomplish.
1) Check the SXSW smart phone Apps frequently to know what’s going on and to stay abreast of changes. Check Twitter and Facebook often for posts from folks who have discovered great events that you should attend. Stalk the #SXSW hashtag frequently and be sure to check your own phone, texts, and email for updates. These are the places that will list impromptu performances by artists that you might care about. Bear in mind that moving around the city of Austin during SXSW can be very slow and cumbersome if you need to get from one club to another quickly during the day or at night. Traffic is a nightmare.
2) At the showcases and events, meet as many fans and industry people as you can. Gather their email addresses, names, and twitter @’s of potential fans; and gather names, email addresses and phone numbers of industry folks and other artists. Keep your lists separate. You don’t ever want to treat an industry person like a fan.
3) At the educational events, be sure to network with other attendees as well as the panelists. Get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and social media addresses whenever possible. Google company names and people so you know who they are and what they do. Divide the people you meet into multiple lists: the ones who could help your career, the ones who are like-minded and who you may want to collaborate with, the ones you aren’t sure what they do yet, potential fans, etc.
4) Try to relax as much as possible and be sure to eat small meals often. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially if you are drinking. Sleeping will probably be challenging, but get as much rest as you can.
5) I can’t stress enough the importance of meeting people. This is a “who you know” business. Try to speak to everyone if you can. Find out what they do and exchange information. Make it a personal challenge for you to talk to everyone in each room or club that you enter. I realize that’s not possible, but try. Even speak to folks you meet in your hotel. This is the one time of year where everyone in Austin is attached somehow to the music industry. Be polite and outgoing. If you realize someone has no value for your career, don’t just drop the conversation coldly and walk away, be polite and kind and then move on. Don’t ever be an asshole.
After You Get Home
1) Sleep. You missed a whole lot of sleep, get caught up.
2) Reach out to the folks you met that can help your career within the first 2 weeks of being home. Thank them for their time and tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. If you shared a special moment, mention it so they may recall who you are.
3) Don’t ever assume people will remember you. In the weeks after a major event, I always change my avatar on my social media to my face, hoping people might remember me when they see my face. I also make sure the signature on my email explains succinctly who I am and what I do in a few sentences, along with my social media links. If folks can just press a link to arrive at my Facebook page or twitter, they might just click it.
4) Reach out to the folks that you met but have no idea what they do. Of course you’ve already googled them at this point, but if you still don’t know, politely ask them. I find it better to ask intelligently–meaning it’s better to ask “I see you work in publishing, what exactly is it that you do?” than to ask a general “what do you do?” It shows that you made some effort on your own to figure out what they do.
5) Lastly, put all of your new potential fans into your fan database. You should be sending out an e-newsletter soon anyway to inform your fans of your trip to SXSW and to discuss the highlights. If your email list has a feature where folks need to opt-in, add them to your list within the first 2 weeks after SXSW so you stand a chance of them remembering you and opting in. Don’t ask them to join your list more than 2 or 3 times, a week or two apart.
6) Networking is the art of give and take. Don’t just figure out a way for the people you met to help you, figure out a way to help them as well. People will be more open to developing a relationship with you if they see a benefit to themselves as well. You being a talented artist is not enough of a benefit, by the way.
7) Make sure you keep in touch with the people you’ve met and if you’ve promised any specific follow up, be certain to do so. Most people do not keep in touch, so the few who do follow up really stand out. When interacting with folks who have established careers in the industry, don’t be surprised if you have to do the bulk of reaching out at first. You need them far more than they need you. Until you have something solid or financial to offer, you are just one of many anxious and hungry folks trying to build a career in music. Be respectful of that. Don’t take anything personal.
Attending an event like SXSW can be very informative and a great networking opportunity for your career. Make sure you spend your time wisely, prepare for it thoroughly, and follow up professionally afterwards. It might just be the best money you spent this year.
Wendy Day is a 21-year veteran of the music industry who has managed to do the impossible: stay relevant. She runs the not-for-profit artist advocacy organization, Rap Coalition, and has helped discover, build the leverage of, and shop and negotiate deals for Master P’s No Limit, Twista, Cash Money Records (BG, Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Turk, Hot Boyz, Big Tymers, and Mannie Fresh), Eminem, David Banner, and many others. She has worked with Do Or Die, Lil Boosie, Webbie, Ras Kass, Slick Rick, BloodRaw, Young Buck, C-Murder, Young Jeezy, MGK, and others. She helps build independent record labels for properly financed labels showing them hands-on how to sell music and make money in today’s music industry. She wrote her first book, The Knowledge To Succeed: How To Get A Record Deal in September of 2011, and runs a social media marketing company called A Scratchy Throat to boost artists’ Internet presence and to increase their one-on-one interaction with fans.