Every week leading up to SXSW, we'll be sharing the exciting journeys of Sonicbids bands from all around the world in our 2016 Road to Austin series. Follow along to get insight on the planning and preparation that goes into it, a firsthand look at life on the road, tips from SXSW veterans, and much more. Join the conversation by using #RoadToAustin on social media – we'd love to hear from you!
How many times is the average independent music publicist approached by bands or artists each year at SXSW? We don't actually know, but it's probably enough to make them wary of unfamiliar faces headed their way with a CD in hand. To be taken seriously, you'll want to be prepared with something more than that. Even better: consider expanding your idea of what networking is to begin with.
Five of the bands and artists in our pool of #RoadToAustin tipsters gave us their personal go-to angles for getting in with the right folks. Nothing's guaranteed, of course, and your own experience may require adjustments – but the methods you'll find below are excellent starting points, if not straight-up, top-notch advice.
1. NakEdtruth, Louisiana MC and vocalist
"SXSW 2015 was an experience I will never forget. I attended the conference partially blind being it was my first time attending, and I hadn't known anyone personally to register. That said, I acquired the badge which gave full access to the conference, festival, and tradeshow events associated with the music portion.
"Equipped with 100-plus hard copies of my mixtape...I soon realized that even that was not enough considering the high volume of music lovers and contributors that were all around. So, instead of quickly distributing my CDs, I kept them on reserve for any influential people I encountered. In short, the CD served as my business card. Using the lessons I learned from last year's conference, I printed actual business cards [for this year].... These cards are also flyers to promote my social media accounts and newly created website.
"Unlike my first rodeo, this time I will reduce cost, distribute more, and travel lighter. A secondary benefit is it will be easier for people to accept and retain my paraphernalia. With so much going on it can be awfully easy to get lost in the shuffle. I have seen this from the perspective of an artist and a fan during this massive event. So, the big question is: how do you get remembered? There is no perfect answer to this, but I plan to try my luck with this new method of mine. SXSW, here I come!"
2. Tangina Stone, Brooklyn singer
"My goal for making contacts at SXSW is to come back to New York with new friends and collaborators. I want to form lasting relationships with the other artists that I meet in Texas. Before the festival, I plan to focus on team building as much as possible. I am reaching out to every single person that I know will be performing there so that we may be able to network and possibly perform on on some of the same bills.
"During the festival, if I am not onstage, I want to be watching another performer onstage. It is tough to play shows at festivals of the same magnitude as SXSW. An attentive and supportive audience are two things that can make a world of difference for a performer. It affects one's confidence and overall performance, which is why I really find it important that artists support one another at shows. My belief in this is so strong that I plan to spend all of my time off of the stage doing exactly this.
"I am grateful for every opportunity that I have ever received in my career. It has been my dream to play at SXSW for as long as I remember. I am sure that I am not the only performer whose had this dream forever. I cannot wait to help support others dreams' as well."
3. Vinnie Longhi, guitarist and vocalist for Pittsburgh band Semi-Supervillains
"Our goals are to meet up with like-minded bands and music industry representatives. Before SXSW, our networking plan begins way in advance listening to other bands attending SXSW and talking to them about when they are performing, how they are getting to Austin, if they need any assistance, etc. During SXSW, we plan to attend as many shows of other bands as we can to create the personal face-to-face interaction with others...learning their story and sharing ours.
"After SXSW (and hopefully after we made a ton of new friends!) we plan to stay in touch, do a show swap, share any touring musician info we have, basically to keep the relationships that help sustain our musical endeavors."
4. Kg Lillian, vocalist for Austin-based band January May
"Our plan for networking at SXSW goes past the stage and into volunteering. Being local allows us to get involved and meet people behind the scenes of the festival as well as some guests that volunteers will work beside to accommodate. Attending day parties and company/brand-specific events will also give you access to rooms full of people that can potentially benefit you and your goals.
"Being present during SXSW is what we hope to achieve – the more you play or attend, the more you will gain. It's great to meet as many people as possible during SXSW. This includes musicians you could share a stage with, press and media representatives (including bloggers), and any other event where hosts and reps are in attendance. Anyone that could potentially be involved in opportunities for your band or provide information on what you're trying to accomplish is someone you should network with. At SXSW, that's a lot of people."
5. Uncle TreY, Bronx rapper
"One of the biggest challenges as an up-and-coming artist is to find your own unique sound, one that separates you from everyone else that is currently out. My goal for this year’s festival is to network with different aspiring producers to help create that sound. The content of my music is already unique, but buying beats from producers online can prove to be frustrating, as everyone is pretty much just trying to remake the sound of producers and artists that are already established. Showing up to beat battle events, or even during my own performance, letting it be known that I’m looking to work with different beat makers, might help.
"I am also interested in meeting people who are in the profession of branding and marketing. Nowadays everyone wants a blog post, and some blogs are charging ridiculous amounts of money to copy and paste a write up that the artist created. That’s a big gamble on whether or not someone will give your music a chance anyway. I don’t feel like it’s always worth it. Bloggers and journalists should be genuinely interested in your music and not be bribed, in a sense, to post and want to support it. I want to work with people who have an interest in getting me the exposure that they feel I deserve at a fair or minimum cost.
"Last but certainly not least, I truly just want to create fans out of people. Last year, I put on a great show and got so much more exposure than I expected. I’m hoping to go above and beyond this year.
"I plan on passing out business cards, communicating a lot more with the audience, and being a lot less introverted as far as meeting people in general goes. They’re more important than the first two types of people that I mentioned because without them, no one else would care to hear you in the first place. I feel like it’s most important to be heard than anything else. Sharing your talent with people who can appreciate it and creating a bond with those who can relate to it matters the most.”
Get more networking tips:
- How to Nail Your Networking and Have Genuine Interactions
- 10 Steps to Master Networking at Music Conferences
- 6 Music Industry Networking Tips Nobody Tells You
- How to Make Meaningful Music Industry Connections (Not Just Contacts)
- 3 Ways an EPK Can Supercharge Your Networking
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.