March has been a busy one for us at The New Rockstar Philosophy. Not only have we been running our crowdfunding campaign, but we’ve been down in Austin for SXSW and in Toronto for CMW. You can read some CMW highlights in Hypebot in the near future but I thought I’d share some of my personal realizations from SXSW this year.
South by Southwest is so much more than a music conference. It’s an all encompassing music mecca that brings together a rabid international group of music, film, and tech lovers. But having been here multiple years in a row, I can tell you that there are some classic mistakes that fresh bands make. Below is a list of them and some solutions if you’re planning on making the trip.
1. Don’t hand out CDs
There is so much swag coming at a SXSW attendee that your carefully printed cd is probably not only going to miss the mark but most likely it will be discarded within 12hrs.
Solution: Hand out cool download cards. Cheaper for you, easier for fans and a better idea for the earth.
2. Don’t stay at a hotel
Hotels around Austin are understandably quite expensive during SXSW. For many indie musicians this is out of their budget. Especially if you’re anything over a 3 piece.
Solution: Use a service like Air bnb. There are plenty of good Air bnb deals around Austin. It may take some planning and an early booking but it’s worth it. Also it’s very easy to make friends in Austin. Make a real connection and you could have a couch to stay on next year.
3. Don’t forget to document your trip
Take photos and videos of your trip and make sure your fans are updated on the festivities. It’s a no-brainer but in the hunt for free beer you can easily forget to document the whole thing.
Solution: Keep your iPhone close and keep your charger even closer.
4. Don’t forget to connect with your targets
There are plenty of label, management, blog, etc, showcases in Austin. Although it’s fun just to go where the free beer is it’s not necessarily the best career move.
Solution: Pick who you want to connect with and get out to those events and connect with real humans. The attendees of these showcases are naturally talkative, don’t be afraid to ask some question and spread your music.
5. Don’t stress if your showcase isn’t packed
Sometimes, even with a million people on the streets there can still be pockets of empty clubs during certain times. Don’t stress. There’s an ebb and flow to all showcases. Sometimes that one person who stuck around, who you went to introduce yourself to, can be the key to your future.
Solution: Talk to the people that are there.
6. Don’t stress about the sound of your showcase
It’s inevitable that with so many bands, changing over at showcases so quickly, there will be some sound issues. It looks weak if the band gets rattled because of poor sound.
Solution: Keep calm and carry on. You’ll win over more fans if you can roll with it than you will by throwing a temper tantrum.
7. Don’t forget to budget cash
Although there is a glut of free food and beer, you will be spending money on that sort of stuff, plus transportation and other obvious expenses.
Solution: Having a budget and sticking to it will help you immensely as the days and nights go on.
8. Don’t forget to put some sort of visual sign on stage
So many people swing by showcases randomly because they like what they hear. Who the band is, is often not obvious. Big hype bands can get away with having no signage but you’re at SXSW to gain fans.
Solution: Your band’s name on a drum skin, a tasteful banner, or any other cool simple way of having your band’s name on stage while your playing is a must. Make it easy for them. Have your band’s name displayed somewhere.
9. Don’t forget to come early and connect with Tech folks
Tech is where the money is. Coming earlier in the week is a good idea. Playing earlier in the week for the tech folks is even a better one. This trend of blending Tech and Music is becoming more apparent every year because it’s a good idea.
Solution: Come for the last few days of Tech.
10. Don’t expect to blow up from your SXSW showcase
Finally remember that SXSW doesn’t launch careers like it used to. If you have hype coming into the event, expect it to grow but don’t expect to be on the front page of Pitchfork from one showcase.
Solution: Keep your goals in check and keep a positive attitude and you’ll go far.