A Good Reputation is just one Handshake Away
By Quinton Sheer
There is much debate on the effectiveness of participating in music festivals like South by South West (SXSW) or the Florida Music Festival (FMF). There is an even more varied response on what to do when your band or group is not selected to perform. Rejection and repeated rejection is a part of the business. It is not a reason to bitch and grumble and make excuses. Sometimes it really is who you know and like it or not, politics can factor in decisions just as much as talent.
Not selected? Your band can still play! Many nearby non participating venues hope to capitalize on festival crowds by booking live music. So if your band wants to play there are opportunities available. And don’t rule out walking around with a guitar or playing on the street. (please check local laws and customs for the legalities of this)
Music festivals provide more opportunities for musicians than just a chance to perform. Even if you don’t get in to the festival there is still an opportunity to promote. A musician or band that is visibly out there, watching their fellow musicians perform, on a consistent basis is a great way to develop and maintain a positive reputation. It shows the band is serious about getting their name out there. It demonstrates professionalism and will put that band in the minds of others, if not for consideration for next year’s festival, then for gig and tour opportunities from those they meet.
The real benefit of music festivals is not exposure to new fans, it is networking. I know it’s a ‘buzz word’ but simply stated, networking is going out and having a beer with others in your field. Ever gone out to see another band and talked to someone you never met before? That’s networking! Meeting a fancy A&R rep might be your dream but befriending other musicians can benefit a band even more. The independent music business can be tough to succeed in when it’s done without any help. Networking at festivals can lead to gig opportunities, tour slots, or just a chance to swap stories and learn what others have done that works. Many musicians are easy to spot in crowds. Just go up and introduce yourself. Yes, it’s that easy. Aside from fellow musicians, festivals are a good way to meet up and coming producers and other professionals who might do work for cheaper just to make a name for themselves. Don’t discount meeting the non musician concert goers either. These are people who love going to see live music. They are not just potential fans but could be a dedicated street team.
Go to the conference and panel discussions regardless of whether you’re playing a festival stage. The music business can be hard to learn any other way than trial and error. Few seek out formal education. Festival conferences are an opportunity to get advice from others who have been there and meet others who have similar interests and concerns.
There is no right time to start building a good reputation. Waiting until everything is polished and perfect may be too late. A new Orlando based Public relations and Marketing service, Kandavision Media used the FMF as a pre-launch. Although not officially involved with the festival they used good ‘ol fashioned pavement pounding to get their word out. The goal wasn’t to sell anyone on their services, it was about getting to know their audience and getting their name out.
Kandavision CEO, Kat Kelly said, “This gave us the huge opportunity to network with a variety of key industry professionals, by promoting our company and hopefully making our mark. What a great way to get our company off the ground.” Cindy Donlin, the company’s Senior Client Services Director added, “This has been a long time coming.” But the company launch was moved up in order to take advantage of the opportunities the FMF provided. Contacts made at past festivals and existing industry contacts made it possible for Kandavision to attend industry parties in order to conduct video interviews of artists in attendance. The free exposure of those video interviews is also free exposure for Kandavision.
Networking is not about meeting people who can do for you but making connections where people can do things for each other. “It was a chance to let people know what we’re all about,” said Kelly. Festivals are a great platform to get a message out there and build a reputation. Reputations aren’t built just by slick social networking profiles and blogs. They are built and maintained one hello at a time.