Earlier this month, Blank GC hit up the 2016 Australian Music Week in Sydney. In just its second year, we scoured the panels, showcases, beaches and bars, and now that we’ve recovered from the mojitos and margaritas, we offer you our top 6 take aways:
1. Go to Australian Music Week.
If someone told you that for a hundred bucks you could learn from and connect with over 100 of the industry’s movers and shakers, meet your future booking agent, publicist, record label, festival director or headline tour support in Canada, you’d be mad not to go right? Due to its relatively small size, AMW provided a very unique opportunity to garner quality time with key decision makers. Whether it was between sessions or showcase sets at the bar, deals were done, friendships made and a community built. And, it’s right here on your doorstep. Lock it in the calendar for next year.
2. Know where you fit in the bigger picture and be honest about it.
This was a recurring theme across the panels, but particularly the “Meet the Programmers” festival directors, who emphasised their multi-tiered line-ups are designed to create opportunities for artists at a range of career stages.
“We’re sick of the smoke and mirrors,” said Woodford Folk Festival director, Chloe Goodyear. There is no one way to gauge an artist’s profile and the decision makers are savvy to the indicators. The most important thing is to know who and where your audience is and build it there. If you have 300 fans on Facebook but 3,000 on Twitter, that is simply interpreted that your audience is on twitter. It is not just a numbers game though. A key consideration is your genuine engagement levels. How do you communicate with your fans? What do you post, what is the response and interactions. And, how does that match up with the ethos of the festival?
The long-standing festivals like Woodford, Bluesfest, Nannup and Semaphore are so much more than their line-up anyway, they said, and personally, they get a kick out of discovering the next must-see artist. So, save the smoke and bright lights for the stage, ‘cos if your music, attitude and approach to the industry strikes a chord with them, the festival directors assured us you will be considered.
Oh, and it certainly helps to have all of your assets up to scratch, especially live videos.
3. Make the most of your conference opportunity.
If you are rocking up to just watch the shows, swim and hang out in the hotel, you’re kinda missing the point. Yes it’s about the music and performances. But, it is really about so much more. For one, if a musician attends a conference and speaks to no-one, is he going to get signed that week? We say probably not.
To make the most of your conference opportunity:
- Research and reach out to the industry delegates (before AND after the conference)
- Go to the panel sessions – learn some stuff and give yourself some great conversation starters for later
- Attend as many showcases as possible – it shows you want to be part of a community, and it gives you a great opportunity to socialise and build relationships with other conference goers
connect with as many other musicians – you could very well end up touring together.
This is, after all, how many decide who they’re going to hang out with, have lunch with and do business with. I can certainly tell you that our pre-event plans went out the Uber window on day one, as we became influenced by the people we met, the showcasing artists who personally invited us to come see them and one night, being dragged back to the bar on the way to bed only to discover a number of our new favourite bands.
And, if you are fortunate enough to snag a showcase opportunity, Sam Morris has told you EVERYTHING you need to know to make the most of your conference, according to the people who run them, right here.
4. Get business savvy sooner rather than later.
Keen to work with the big guns? Want to have a kick arse team around you? The sooner you consider your music career as a business, the sooner you will attract critical partnerships like management, booking agents and showcasing opportunities. Many a panelist made reference to the inherent benefit of working with an artist who shows they are serious and committed to making their music work. The artist managers panel agreed that self-managed artists are often the best to work with, as they understand what it takes behind the scenes to achieve success.
And, a heads up, that there are certain ‘tests’ undertaken to find out just what kind of operator you are. With the ‘real’ tests kept close to his chest, Canadian artist manager, Sean Russell was happy to divulge a mandatory, and less serious one is to take potential clients and partners out for a heavy drinking sesh to see how they engage and interact with people when intoxicated!
5. It’s best to think of the music business as a long game.
Longevity in the music scene is based on solid foundations, hard work and not being a dick. I know, I’ve said that before when it comes to the media and, according to AMW, it certainly applies to the rest of the industry too.
It was reassuring to hear over and over again from the people who are ‘making it’ to not give up. Don’t be discouraged by the naysayers. Persist. There rarely is such a thing as an overnight success and despite what it may seem, it is never just the artist and it never only just ‘happened’. Behind every rising star is a team of professionals who truly believe in them and have been creatively and strategically chipping away for a long time.
6. To be successful in the music scene, you need to be part of the community.
A community is a group of people who share certain attitudes and have interests in common. And that extends beyond the obvious commonality of loving music. Rather than it being about who you know, think of it as how you are known. Are you a dick? Are you aloof? Or are you a really decent human being that actually cares not primarily about what someone can do for you but what can you do for them? Are you a collaborator? Supporter? Friend? Are you generous with your time and spirit in helping those treading the path you’ve been on?
Being part of a community means giving time to that community. We’re not talking about playing gigs for free, but we’re talking about supporting the efforts of the community to grow. That means going to other bands’ gigs, showing up to networking events, sharing ideas for new projects and concepts, giving your time where it’s needed (for mutual benefit of course) and putting your hand up to mentor and support those who are still emerging and finding their feet. It also means fronting up to events like Australian Music Week (it only cost $100 to register), attending sessions, sharing your expertise, making connections, flying the flag for your scene / genre / town and then going home and sharing everything you’ve learnt.
Pic (L-R): Brad Hinds – Oztix, Jon Howell – Australian Music Week Director, Kylie Cobb – Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Peter Noble – Bluesfest Director, Amy Gates – Rolling Stone, Geoff Trio – Australian Music Week Director