- Music festivals and conferences are a necessary tool for every artists looking to build a fan base and make important friends. But all music conferences are not the same. Before you pack the van (or in this case walk) there are certain things to consider.
This article is geared towards local Florida musicians coming to the Florida Music Festival (FMF) either to play or just to network and learn. The FMF is not South by Southwest (SXSW). Not even close. And it does not rank among top festivals/conferences in the U.S. It’s a fan’s festival – tons of music at a great price. Even the festival website touts itself as the “cheapest rock & roll bar crawl in America.” But that said, a savvy band can make the most out of any gathering of people and here’s how:
Know What You Want
If it’s your first time, there’s a lot to learn from just experiencing the FMF as a fan. Whether you’re looking for gig swaps and new promotion ideas, or a booking agent – write down what you and your band hope to get out of the weekend.
Visit the website. It’s updated more and more as the festival approaches. Find the list of industry speakers and other bands. Make a note of those you want to speak with and where they’ll be. There will be handy pocket schedules but make your own schedule (phones are great for this) with reminders of where to be and when.
Don’t forget that meeting other bands is as important as face time with a guy who signed some big name 20 years ago. Spend time online listening to the other artists that will be there. Go to the shows of the artists you like and meet them. Showing support like that goes a long way to starting a friendship that can lead to gig swaps, tour recommendations, and more.
You won’t be able to meet everyone so focus on making an impression with every single interaction. Don’t look around for someone more important as you’re shaking hands with someone. Be present in every interaction.
Have your 30 second elevator pitch ready and make sure every band member knows it by heart. It should tell them who you are, what you sound like and create a lasting impression. The point is to get folks to your showcase or keep you in their heads long enough to visit your website.
Yes, It Costs Money
Hopefully, your band submitted itself for the FMF and scored some passes. Make sure everyone in the band knows what expenses are paid for by the band (flyers, download cards) and what they pony up for (food, affliction t-shirts). In any case, Keep Receipts. Your accountant will thank you next year.
Most garages will double their prices when big events happen. Save on parking by car pooling or finding a side street with legal parking and walk.
Don’t expect immediate fame and fortune from the FMF. The relationships you begin to build are the return on investment you should be after.
What to Do When You’re Playing a Showcase
Put your showcase time and location everywhere. On every website and calendar your band has. Not only will that make you easy to find, but potential booking agents and managers will see you’re on top of things. The fact that you’re playing a showcase looks good to those industry folks who might skip the FMF but come across your sites on their own.
Based on years of FMF experience I can safely say – many stages will run behind. Without a professional stage manager and sound guy at each venue it’s easy to get behind. Don’t add to that and take forever to load and unload. If you see another band struggling or dragging their feet – help them. It looks good and helps the whole festival stay on track.
Then decide what promo materials the band will use. Flyers? Posters? CDs? EPs? Download cards? Whatever you choose, get some small stickers with your showcase date and details and put them on all promo items. When spreading the good news of your band take care not to be “That Band.” Know the policy on hanging flyers and soliciting in the street. When the posters are up, keep checking them to make sure they have not fallen or been covered up by another band. Central Florida’s music scene should be above putting your poster over someone else’s but it happens. All I can say is that it’s a small world and word gets around.
Former showcase player and professional musician, Bryan Malpass had this advice, “Don’t just pass out flyers. There has to be some interaction every time. Passing out flyers is a great ideal and all but you need to give people a reason to come see you.” That reason won’t some from a piece of paper alone. “One year I swear I must’ve talked to every person I saw. I think that was the reason I had such a great turnout.”
At your showcase, be sure to have some physical item to give people to take home with them. A thank you card signed by the band is a nice touch. A “collectible” showcase only EP perhaps. No matter what the band decides, stand out and be different. I once got a sack lunch with a juice box, candy, and an EP at an FMF showcase. It drew me into conversation with them and instead of passing through; I watched their whole set which led to me featuring them on a syndicated radio show and podcast. In any case, stand out. I’ve seen bands pass out water they’ve relabeled or hand stamps with the band name and website.
Be prepared for the variety of industry folks and their needs. Journalists may want full press kits. Bloggers, an EP and web site. Remember, there will be a whole lot of bands handing stuff out. It becomes a pain to carry around. Show you respect their limited amount of pocket space and give out hole-punched download cards they can hang on their lanyards.
Come early and stay late. Don’t make the venue wonder where you are. Don’t assume people there know who you are or even came to see you. Repeat your name – repeatedly, then say it again. The set list should be made up of your best songs, even if you’re sick of playing them. Save the new material for another time. You want to appear polished and practiced. New material makes it harder for that to happen. Whether there are three people or three hundred – play like you’re playing the main stage. You never know who those people are and even one person who saw a great showcase will surely tell their friends what they’ve missed.
And when the showcase is over, stick around to talk to those who came to see you. Don’t wait till after the van is packed. Have friends help with the unloading so at least some band members can work the room before the crowd moves to another venue and another band.
**Next Month we conclude tips to make the FMF more effective with “Networking is not an N Word,” and what to do if you’re not showcasing, how to use social media to network, and what happens when it’s over.
- The Florida Music Festival will be downtown Orlando April 19th through the 21st.