Episode 15 – Conferences

Posted: 27th January 2013 by admin in Conferences
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January is probably the month of music conferences, and I should probably have posted this a little before these important conferences, specially MIDEM & NAMM (both going on as I write)… oh well! You have time to get ready for the next one, right?

Lots of people say an image is worth a thousand words and in the music industry, I agree with this statement. With the internet world we’ve lost the face to face and we keep in contact with people that we don’t even know how they look (emails, phones, Facebook, etc.)

Music conferences are a great chance to break this wall and start talking face to face to some music industry royalty: radio, publishing companies, A&Rs, etc. At the same time, there is nothing better for them to see you asking questions, listen to your music and… why not? Maybe give you great advice (for good or for bad) about your music.

And, although I have to admit I’m pretty antisocial (I hate phones & I tend to loose my focus talking face to face), I do have to say I am a conference freak, you will see me there at the first panel when there is nobody else around (yep, around 9am…). I love to see music business people sharing their visions on the industry and even show their “asses” when I don’t agree with what they’re saying (believe me, after that, they ALWAYS remember who you are, lol!)

The first conference I attended to was about 4 years ago, at the Billboard Latin Music Conference, in Miami (USA) -if you’re a Spanish speaking artist I do recommend this one, since it’s 90% in Spanish. Since then, I’ve gone to several and I have even taken part in panels and I can say it is a great opportunity, both as an attendee and a panelist.

Where do I start?

Well, now you’ve decided you want to attend a music conference, now what?

– Choose the right conference:
I recommend for you to start by finding out if there is any music conference around your area, because this will always make your first experience a little better, having to spend less money, because indeed, you do need money to attend to conferences. I decided to attend to the Miami one because it was close to Orlando where I was residing and I had a friend who let me stay at her house (please, a big round of applause for the good friends that let us occupy their homes!). All of this made my trip worth.

– Budget:
Keep in mind anything you will need for your conference and make a budget for it, remember to include the conference registration, since depending on which one you’re trying to attend it can be up to $1,000!). Also have in consideration travelling expenses (gas, flights, cabs, etc.), lodging, food, promotion materials, etc.

– Get your promo merchandising ready:
Are you gonna have CDs? Business cards? Press kits? Make sure you have everything ready before you leave. Depending on what’s your goal I would recommend you to do one thing of the other. In my opinion, CDs are a little old style, because normally people attending the conference don’t want to be carrying your stuff around, it’s better for you to give them your business card and do a follow up later with your links so they can listen. Or, if you want something “physical”, spend some money on palm cards with your links on them.

– Learn who and what’s on schedule for the conference
In these events there are a lot of people, and most of them are there to talk to the same people once they’re already there. Take advantage of the fact that most conferences publish their panelists & schedules with months in advance on their website, how? Just check the schedule out and try to find the panelists on places like LinkedIn or Facebook and introduce yourself before the event. Don’t be annoying though, just tell them you’re gonna be there and you would like to meet them, that way once you go to them and shake their hand “live” they will probably recognize you and separate you from the rest of people that approaches them at conference.

– When you’re there, don’t be shy!
Even though I am pretty introverted, I had to get used to not be shy in these occassions. Introduce yourself to whoever you want to talk to, ask questions, at the end of the day… they’re there because of that!

– Practice your elevator pitch (read about it)

A music conference is a pretty chaotic place to meet music proffessionals, but sometimes it will be the only chance to be in front of people that count on your career. With this said, it is very important for you to have a practiced introduction for yourself and your project, since you might only have a few second to make it count! You can do it in front of the mirror or ask a friend to act as whoever you want to talk to. Try to introduce yourself in a way that will captivate them, but remember, you’re only going to have about a minute and a half to do it! Things to remember:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Ask them how they’re doing, what they think about the congerence, if they’re coming from far, etc. (show interest for their work, don’t show that you’re eager to talk about yourself).
  3. Tell them how interesting their intervention on the panel was.
  4. And then, ONLY THEN, talk briefly about yourself and your project. Don’t show that you NEED them, try to show them the benefits of them working WITH YOU, not the other way around.
  5. If you talk about your music, DO NOT compare yourself to any other artist, they are not interested on that nor is that help for yourself, try to catch their interest talking about something unique about your project (don’t overwhelm them with awards you’ve won, people you’ve performed in front of, etc. Be brief and humble).
  6. Tell them something like “listen, I know you must be busy, I just wanted to introduce myself and hand you my material to see if you could check it out when you get a moment”. Then give them whatever you’re there to give them (your card, press kit, CD…) and enforce the fact that there’s no rush for them to check it out, that you can talk about it on the phone, via email or maybe in another time over coffee or lunch.
  7. GET THEIR BUSINESS CARD, this is the most important part, since if you don’t get it… chences they contact YOU are very few… in most cases the follow up depends on YOU, not them.
  8. After you said goodbye, write something in the back of the business card that will remind you WHO THEY ARE in case you are not good with names. In these kind of events you might end up with over 50 business cards by the end of the night and it’s possible you cannot remember everybody once the night is over. And… You don’t want to contact the wrong person after all day working on them to remember you, right?

– After the conference, DO A FOLLOW UP

Don’t loose contact with the people you meet at the conference. Even though you might not need them at this very moment, you never know what the future holds… 2 or 3 days after the conference send everybody an email, call them, etc. Do something so they remember you and the brief conversation you guys had. I recommend you to send emails without being very aggressive and without pushing any issue very hard on the next 2 or 3 weeks after the conference, since it is the time they will probably be bombarded by everybody else that was in that conference. If you want to talk serious businness, wait to do it 2 or 3 weeks after the conference. Then, once you guys have had a light conversation during those weeks, you can start talking more clear and get to the point more smoothly. If they’re local, suggest having a meeting to talk about how you can possibly help each other.

Once you’ve read all this (if you did, congratulations, you made it!) there is nothing that can stop you! You can write me an email and let me know how it all went! I’d be more than happy to hear how your experience was! Did you get to talk to anybody important? Or better yet… did you get to make business with them?

Interesting conferences to attend:

MIDEM (Cannes, France, del 26 al 29 de enero del 2013)
NAMM (Anaheim, CA, January 24-27th 2013)
Florida Music Festival (April 17th-20th 2013)
SXSW (Austin, TX March 2013)
Future Music Forum (Barcelona, September 2013)

Other interesting resources:
Attending Music Conferences 101 (Dave Cool)