OK, so you've decided to take a positive step toward your
goal as a songwriter or artist; you want to check out that
music conference you keep getting brochures or email blasts
It's time to take the plunge, whether you are a seasoned
veteran and have attended them before, or a "newbie" hoping
nobody at the conference notices! Here are some steps to take
to make sure you get the most out of the reinvigorating and
inspirational experience that they always are:
1. Review the promotional materials to determine what the
main focus of the conference is; i.e: songwriting, legal issues,
performance, and make sure that this is an area you are interested
2. Define your goals. Are you going to strengthen some qualities
you already have? Gain more knowledge about something technical
or legal? To network with others at your level and hopefully
move up a notch in your field of expertise? Write them down
and refer to them as you determine your schedule. Often, panels
or workshops are taking place at the same time and you have
to choose between them. If you go with a friend, you can split
up and compare notes and resources later.
3. Figure out the overall cost including travel, accommodations,
conference fees, etc. Start saving up and realize this is
an investment in your profession. You may be able to interest
a friend to go and share the expenses of a room.
4. Reserve your room and travel arrangements. Often the conference
will have blocks of rooms reserved for the conference at a
reduced rate. It is always better to spend a little more and
stay right at the hotel where the conference is taking place.
A great deal of the networking and connections that take place
are during casual times between seminars, and you don't want
to waste time in a taxi getting back and forth. You may need
to run back up to your room to get another package or CD to
give out. They usually have special airfare rates, too. I
use www.expedia.com for the best rates and schedules.
5. Now that you are set to go, you need to prepare the materials
you will need. Make a checklist and give yourself a few weeks
to gather them. Once I left printing out lyric sheets and
bios 'til the last minute, and of course, the cartridge on
my printer started to act up on a Sunday evening when there
were no stores open! I also email things like the bio file
and one-sheets to myself so that in a pinch, I can download
them at Kinko's or forward them to someone I meet. They are
up there in my virtual file cabinet wherever I go.
a. 5-10 full packages including:
3. one-sheet of several of your reviews and critics' quotations
4. photocopies of great press if you had a photo in print
or if it is from a major publication like Billboard. Use
the magazine's actual heading on your press sheet to get
attention and gain credibility.
5. business card and CONTACT INFORMATION (the most important
thing, seemingly obvious, right?)
The packages should be set up so that your name (or band
name) and photo are on the front. If you have a CD, using
the CD cover on the front of your folder looks very professional
too. You want them to quickly identify you when they are
digging through a huge pile of packages. Inside, have something
visually compelling like a color copy or photo on one side
and your bio immediately available on the other. Insert
a CD or demo into one of the pockets. I hate to say this,
but it's time to bite the bullet if you are still using
cassettes and get a CD burner so you can make CD demos tailored
to the audience you are trying to reach.
b. Loose extras of all of the above materials in case you
need to throw together more packages or don't want the expense
of handing out an entire package when selected materials will
c. Flyers of your performance time and venue if you are showcasing
to hand out and leave all over the place.
d. A stack of business cards. It is worth it to spend a little
extra on these, as they are truly your calling card, and will
remind someone of who you are. I always like to have a photo
on it, and color stands out. An unusual layout is important,
and if you are a band, have a graphic designer (not your cousin's
girlfriend) design a logo that will identify you. The most
important thing here is to make it legible! A card that you
need a magnifying glass to read already makes your contact
frustrated. Business card basics 101: NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE
NUMBER, EMAIL, WEBSITE.
e. Plaster your website on all of your materials. Everything
you hand out should have all your contact information. This
seems obvious, but how many CDs have ended up in the trash
can because no one could find the envelope or cover it came
in? A website is the most important business tool you can
have. Busy industry people are inundated with wanna-be and
would-be artists. They love to peruse your site in the privacy
of their own office/home and get the important info at their
own pace. Please do not have frustrating extra plug-ins, etc.
that slow down your site viewing, just to say you have the
latest whiz-bang technology. A slow-loading site is one that
will not be viewed as they go on to the next one.
6. Take advantage of early check-in, arrive the night before
so you are rested and don't have to fight a crowd. I always
plan to stay one more day if possible too so that I can really
enjoy the last day and night, which is when you are really
feeling connected to the other participants and start making
plans to get together for follow ups or collaborations.
7. Get the materials upon registration and go back to your
room and plot out your schedule. Leave time for regrouping;
non-stop seminars can be exhausting.
8. Networking is the name of the game. You will meet so many
people that you won't remember them all when you leave, and
the same of them remembering you. The single most important
thing you can do is exchange and collect business cards. Write
a note to yourself about what you talked about, or if you
told the person you would like to follow up. I refrain sometimes
from giving packages out with the throng that accosts the
panelists after their presentation, and instead collect their
card and ask if I can send it along in a week or two. This
again separates out your stuff from the crowd. But use your
judgement; seize the moment. If you have the opportunity to
hand deliver a package to the producer you never thought you'd
be lucky enough to meet, take it!
9. Practice remembering names; it will go a long way to be
able to address someone you met by their name. Everyone wants
to feel valued.
10. Find out where everyone is hanging out after the sessions.
Definitely go to the "mixers" to talk to people in a more
casual atmosphere. Sometimes there are informal "jams" or
guitar-pulls late into the night where you hear some of the
most compelling music. I ended up booking someone to share
a bill with me after being astonished at her beautiful song
during one of these sessions.
11. In the question-and-answer session that normally follows
a presentation, be conscious of not wasting the time of the
panelists or other attendees with your personal request. (I
heard recently and saw many eyes roll when a participant used
his chance at the microphone to go into microscopic detail
about the steps he had taken to get his demo played on radio,
naming deejays, etc.!). Ask yourself if the question you have
would benefit everyone, such as clarifying a point, or if
it would be better to get to the speaker later privately.
12. Take advantage of signing up for one-on-one critique
sessions. These are invaluable and educational, not to mention
making a personal connection with someone in the industry
that may be able to help you. Here is where you can pick the
brains of the experts. And if you ask for a critique, take
it graciously; don't challenge the reviewer's advice or become
defensive. This is how we learn and progress. You may not
agree entirely with them (it is, after all, one person's opinion),
but there is probably a grain of truth in there.
13. If showcasing, have your cards and demo CDs at the stage
readily available for people to take. You never know when
Miles Copeland will be in the audience!
14. OK, it's over and you are overwhelmed, but in a good
way. When you get home, the real work begins, unless you were
signed to a recording contract right on the spot.
a. Follow up with thank you notes to the organizers and
panelists of the conference.
b. Organize the business cards you collected and assign
action steps to them.
c. Put the packages together and send them to the people
you said that you would (within a week or ten days while
it is still fresh). Tailor them now that you know what they
are looking for.
d. Keep a log of your contacts, what you did to follow
up, and then call in about two weeks to follow up on the
packages you sent out.
e. Schedule those co-writing or demo sessions you connected
f. Order the publications and/or resources that you discovered.
Good luck and enjoy the experience!
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