Music Business Conferences

Trade StandSo we’re attending a fair few Music Business Conferences at the moment, it’s great to be back out in the thick of it after a pandemic of dry online efforts… So I thought I’d drop in some advice as a blog post for those attending conferences – as well as another post in the Learning Hub for our agent freelancers…

What are music business conferences?

Well first of all there are a lot of them, far too many to go to all of them every year. Pretty much every country has at least one and most have several. Many of them are part-funded by the host country’s government, with their primary purpose being promoting that country’s music to national and international talent buyers.

Others are genre-specific, folk, electronic, math, rock, you name it…

Many have a public-facing festival to go with them at the same time…

Some have a trade fair where you can set up a stand…

…and for many, they are BIG, BIG business.

For a lot of people in the music industry, they are great fun, a time to meet colleagues, get out of the office, get social, and have a good time.

However, it’s important to remember it’s work – sure it’s fun work, but it’s work nevertheless.

Going to a conference doesn’t come cheap – the hotel, the transport, the delegate pass – and that bar bill – It all adds up to a lot – so you really gotta make the most of your time when you are at a conference.

What do you get from music conferences?

  • Showcase artists from your roster – As agents, you will spend a lot of time during the year pitching your artists to conference programmers. Many musicians, especially emerging talent, see performing at conferences as one of their primary goals. Pressure’s on!
  • Meet talent buyers and pitch your artists to them – For agents, the most useful time at conferences is meeting festival programmers and promoters. Face to face is where we can forge and cement lasting relationships. This won’t make our bands better, but it will help us to get listened to in the future.
  • Learn about the industry – There will always be a schedule of panels, lectures, and keynote speeches to choose from. Or for some delegates; to deliver.
  • Discover new talent – at many conferences, all the showcase acts are already represented, but at some, especially public-funded conferences, there will be some acts you can investigate who are not yet represented.

N.B. Some events will throw in a delegate pass for free if you have a band perform or if you sit on a panel – Though it’s noticeable that many will wait till after they have flogged you a pass before suggesting a panel!

What do artists expect to get from music conferences?

  • Primarily, artists expect to get more shows, more festivals, bigger fees – they will doubtless have invested a significant amount of money and a lot of time, to get to the showcase – in some cases this will have involved flights, van hire, accommodation, etc – They definitely want more shows!
  • Where the event is public-facing, like The Great Escape, then artists expect to get kudos and new fans.
  • For some, they will see it as an opportunity to get a manager or an agent or a label – an opportunity to increase their team.

Of course, there were many, many musicians who applied to be part of the event  – so competition is fierce – inevitably this means, for many, they will see limited tangible success, however for others it can be the gateway to a real boost in their career.

How agents should prepare…

It’s super important to prepare before you attend – you will need to make a schedule to make the best use of your time. The conference will circulate a list of delegates before the event. These are people who are attending because they want to connect with people. GDPR rules mean that if the festival is circulating their emails then they have opted to be contacted – so it would be rude not to! Go through the list and contact the people you would benefit from meeting. Don’t hold back – many won’t answer.

If you have a showcasing act – put together a brief pitch email and invite everyone to the showcase.

Arrange meetings with people you haven’t had f2f before…

Arrange meetings with people you have never met before…

Sign up for panels and parties…

This isn’t time to hang out with your mates, so avoid official meetings with people you know – meet them at the restaurant or bar later on!

Diarise your meetings and confirm them.

What to do when you are there…

Follow your schedule

Be enthusiastic and opportunistic

Take notes in your meetings

Be at your artist’s or agency’s showcase! (You’ll never be forgiven if you fail to show up)

Prioritise network meetings over other artists’ showcases

Don’t party too hard – you need to be up at Reasonable O’clock!

How to follow up…

After the event – go through your diary and your notes – write a list of important things you have found out. Get them into an email and circulate this to your company colleagues.

Straight after the event, do the things you said you were going to carry out in your meetings.

Contact all the folk you had formal meetings with, regardless of whether you need to action tasks for them. It’s good practice to drop them a line just to say it was great to meet up.

Later when you contact the people you met at the conference, you’ll be able to reference the time you met last time and this will help you in striking up a meaningful rapport when you come to pitch to them next time.

And remember!

Don’t be shy – there is no place for timidity at a typical music business conference – Rah Rah Rah!

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