How To Stop Sucking At Music Conferences

Around this time last year I wrote a really friendly article about how to get the most out of your fall conferences. I’m a year older now. A year wiser, and I know a lot of you go to conferences to party with your friends and nurse hangovers between shows.

For those of you who would like to rise beyond the level of hobbyists or hometown heroes, here are some of the strategies I have found work best for getting business done at music conferences.

Know Your End-Game

You should have an end-game in mind for every conference you attend. This can be meeting new business partners, booking performance opportunities, attending panels, etc.

Make sure that the conference brings in delegates from markets that you are developing, or hope to develop in the future. What good is a Bulgarian booking agent to you if you live in Toronto and haven’t played a show outside of your city yet?

Apply to Showcase

You will get the most value out of a conference as an artist if you showcase — assuming you’re good at what you do. If you’re not good at what you do, stay home and practice until you are. You may never be good enough to perform music professionally. It’s ok. You could still make a great notary public some day.

Showcases are a chance for industry professionals to get a taste of your live show. You’ll get anywhere from 10–40 minutes to sell them on how incredible and life changing seeing you perform live could be for their audiences. It’s tough to be natural in front of what are often lukewarm crowds full of middle-aged conference delegates, but do your best to condense your “thing” into the time-frame you’re allotted and don’t worry too much about the crowd. If they like you, they’ll work with you.

Research

Most conferences will post a list of their confirmed delegates online in advance of the event. Pore over this list like Taylor Swift would the names of her ex lovers and make notes about who is most relevant to your needs and goals for the event. Check out their websites. Follow them on Twitter. Find out what their favourite bed-time stories were as a child so that when you bump into them at the bar (because you’ll be at the bar, I know you will), you can casually bring up that scene from The Very Hungry Caterpillar where the caterpillar eats all the cake.

Reach Out

Hey! You’re going to be going to the same thing as another person. Cool! Why not send them an email in advance and let them know. While you’re at it, why don’t you politely ask them if you can share your band’s EPK and showcase schedule with them? Don’t have an EPK? Then you might be a hobbyist. Or maybe EPKs are dead — I don’t know. Send them your Tumblr, maybe.

Set Up Meetings and Create Allies

Set up as many meetings in advance of the conference as possible, and when you’re on the ground, set up more. Large swaths of the industry attend these events, providing you with an unprecedented opportunity to meet with people and convert them to your cause. Focus on your target delegates, but fill as much of your time as possible with meetings, attending panels, and networking with any and everybody that you can. Create allies.

Follow Up (i.e. Get That Money)

You may be lucky enough to do some business at the conference, but most of it will happen by following up with people in the weeks and months after you’ve met. Be persistent, and patient. You might not get booked for next summer’s festival, but that same festival buyer could book other events in their city, or know the person who runs the club you’re dying to play at.

MOST IMPORTANTLY!

Above all, remember that we’re all just people doing our best to make a living in an industry where money, gratitude, and personal time are in short supply. Be kind.

Want help figuring out your conference strategy for next year? Send me a message:
Twitter – @nigelpjenkins
Instagram – @nigelpjenkins
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/nigelpjenkins/
Email – nigel@laughingheartmusic.com
Phone – 902-266-8048

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