7 tips on how to make the most out of a music industry conference
If you’re going to do some business in this industry we call music, then chances are you’ll be attending various music conferences at some point in the future. Love them or hate them, they’re pretty much essential for most of us (be you industry or artist) so you might as well ‘do them right’.
I’ve been frequenting various ones for the past eight years or so now and I remember my first In The City experience back in my tender youth; wide eyed and scared shitless at the idea of approaching Tony Wilson to ask him some meaningless question about “the true DIY approach”. In all fairness, it wasn’t until probably my third music conference where I actually had the proverbial testicles to approach who I previously saw as ‘the unapproachables’ to start a conversation about getting some business done.
It probably took me so long as I distinctly remember one incident during my inaugural conference where I was chatting to an Australian gentleman about a comment he made during one of the talks that I agreed with. It was late, we’d had a couple of shandys, I was listening to his gripes and general angst towards the music industry, all the while thinking to myself; LOOK AT ME! I’M NETWORKING IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY! I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL MY DAD! Finally, after venting for around an hour he caught himself chatting away and said; “Sorry, I’ve been chewing your ear off; so what do you do? Could you help me out?” To which I replied that I was a student at the time and before he let me go any further he simply said “Oh for f**ks sake” and walked off. My confidence was a tad knocked.
They can be costly affairs when you take into consideration travel, accommodation, ticket, booze, booze, food, booze etc, so if you’re new to the world of music conferences have a gander at these tip top tips as they may provide a bit of food for thought.
- Pick the right one
There are bloody loads of them so make sure you pick the one most relevant for your needs. Got a huge club banger you want to show off? The Amsterdam Dance Event is the one for you. Want to find the next buzz band? The Great Escape & Liverpool Sound City should be your ports of call. Want to do deals and expand your business whilst paying €15 for a glass of beer? Then Midem is your friend.
- Avoid paying full price
We all like saving money, maybe me more so being a northern man and all, so only daft people ever pay the price on the door for all these events. Most conferences do an earlybird ticket usually before they’ve announced the full line up so there is an element of risk involved, but research their history to get an idea of who they’ve had there before. Most also do deals for members of organisations; PRS, PPL, MMF, AIM, MPA, MU etc so if you’re associated with one of those guys you can usually get a discount (don’t know what those acronyms mean? then check out the BLOMIA – The Big List Of Music Industry Acronyms). The bigger the discount the more beer you can buy me to put your music on TV. FAIR DEAL.
- Figure out what you want to achieve from attending
What’s the point in going if you don’t actually get something out of it? There’s an obvious and simple statement which is worth reiterating as I myself in the past have gone to conferences pretty much just for the sake of going. With hindsight that time might (read: would) have been better spent in the office actually doing work and whatnot. Imagine that.
Before each conference I attend I set out some simple targets; make three new TV contacts, organize a meeting with that company to discuss sub-publishing, get four new bands on board at Sentric etc – that way at the end of the event I know that it cost me XXX to attend, but the new relationships I’ve made should make the business XXX.
- Research who is going and approach them before the event
The vast majority of conferences these days require you to register online for the event and then you can usually see everyone else who is attending. Scrutinize this list, shortlist the people you want to meet and drop them an email a couple of weeks before the event so you can organize a time to rendezvous and also give them opportunity to suss you out online. Be sure to read this 10 tips on proper email etiquette; if you follow the tips in that post it will greatly increase your chances of a response.
- Make plans, but prepared to ditch them
Fill your time from dusk till dawn with gigs, meetings, panels etc., but be prepared to drop nearly everything if something important comes up I.E. you land a meeting with someone who you didn’t expect would give you the time of day.
- Have some business cards
You’d expect I wouldn’t have to put this in here would you? Every single conference I go to I come across people who haven’t got a business card on them. Push the boat out and get some nice ones done as well, you only live once eh? Saying that, don’t go mental; someone gave me a tiny metal one shaped like a razorblade once – at the time I thought it was awesome until I got it confiscated off me at airport security. I’m probably now a suspected terrorist on some government database somewhere. Marvellous.
- Follow up after the event
As well as all the people you want to meet, no doubt you’re going to end up networking with a whole host of people you meet in a hotel bar at 4am (might be a cliché, but it’s true; a lot of contacts are made at this time during various degrees of inebriation) so when you return to daily office life be sure to email every single one of them with a simple ‘lovely to meet you’ email. You might have absolutely no need for them and their service/business/music at the moment, but you may very well do in the future (that tip comes via the lovely Marsha Shandur).
There you go, do the above and you’ll hopefully get something out of your music industry conference shenanigans. If you ever see me at any of these do come and say hello; I won’t tell you to f**k off like the Australian did to me.
What I’m reading this week: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky