10 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Showcasing at SXSWWednesday, January 7th, 2015
I’ve been to South by Southwest (SXSW) for the past few years and every time I go, there’s a common thread to bands that stand out from the crowd. They’re full of energy, ready to network, and of course, have killer songs.
But most of all, they’re prepared for the special kind of beast that is SXSW. And we all know – this is a weird one. South By is a big deal and a big opportunity if you play your cards right. In 2014, some of my favourite Canadian acts took the plunge to Austin – Arkells, Grand Analog, and Slow Down Molasses, among many others – and with my artist development hat on, I got to see who stood out from the pack.
While many acts are impressive (and many more are not), there’s always a few that miss their chance to make a strategic impact. I’ve come up with a few tips below garnered from my time watching and learning at SXSW 2014.
1. Don’t overdo it with the libations.
Translation: Don’t get wasted! SXSW is a lot of fun – a LOT of fun. But remember what you’re there for. It’s a great opportunity to meet important people, network, and get your name out there. You want them to remember you as that tenacious and cool up-and-comer, not as the guy that threw up on their shoes after murmuring something about being the next big thing.
2. Don’t come without a PR strategy.
SXSW is one of the biggest events in the music community where tons of media gather. Don’t show up expecting opportunities will just fall into your lap. Plan in advance and have a great PR team back you up. What do you want to accomplish? What parties do you need to be at? Who do you want to connect with? The goal is that by the time you get to SXSW, you have already piqued interest from key tastemakers. Then you’ve just gotta kill it.
3. Don’t come if you don’t have a GREAT record.
Let’s not put the cart before the horse. If you don’t have something for people to listen to or consider, you probably won’t be taken seriously no matter how talented you are. It’s expensive to get to Austin, and your money will be wasted if you’re not ready.
4. Don’t go over you set time.
This one is really important. SXSW is a tightly run ship. With thousands of artists playing at hundreds of showcases, your ‘one last song’ actually affects a lot of people. Be gracious and keep within the parameters laid out for you.
5. Don’t be shy.
This is your time to shine! Talk to as many people as you can. Take those cards, baby! And follow up with them! SXSW is all about making connections with other artists and industry professionals. Don’t miss your chance!
6. Don’t get discouraged.
It’s an overwhelming conference. Lots of people, lots of artists, lots of demand, lots of rushing around without real time to connect. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get offered a record deal on the spot. Make sure to network and stay positive. Being selected to play at SXSW is a huge accomplishment in itself. Pat yourself on the back!
7. Don’t wait ‘til you arrive to start networking.
Is there someone you want to connect with while you’re in Austin? Reach out to them in advance! Set time to meet up. Even if they don’t reply, they’ll be familiar with you when you track them down at the bar.
8. Don’t Get Sick from Overplaying.
Sure you can play 17 times, but will have you have a voice after the 4th set? Maybe not. Don’t push yourself so hard that the main goal gets forgotten. Slow and steady wins the race sometimes. Well chosen and placed showcases will go a longer way than 18 empty rooms. Also get your rest and sleep well so you can be sure you’re performing at your best. Not the coolest thing to do, I know, but this is business. Your health is your wealth, as they say
9. Don’t leave home without:
– Business cards/promo materials with your contact info
– Merch – T-shirts, CDs, download cards, buttons, stickers etc.
– Clean underwear (listen to your mom!)
– Multiple charging options for your phone and devices
10. Don’t forget to have fun!
Yes it’s important to network and make the most of SXSW from a business perspective – but don’t let the magic of it all pass you by. Be sure to stop and take it all in. Eat some BBQ! Dance in the front row! Enjoy Austin!