Happy Hump Day once again! This week, in honor of SXSW kicking, we’re featuring music videos from some TuneCore Artists who also happen to be doing their thing all week down in Austin, TX. If you’re an artist who’s headed down, check us out at the Artist Lounge or give us a shout in the street! So enjoy a nice distracting line up of videos to take your mind off whatever it was you were working on:
SXSW is one of those events that has become synonymous with the music industry. The festival and conference is one of the best known events in the US that centers around technology and music.
But did you catch that? Festival and conference? It’s even in their name.
While SXSW is known internationally- many creatives still approach SXSW as just a festival, and pass up the networking opportunities and more that exist on the conference end.
Here’s a truth – it’s not bashing anyone – but it’s just an observation:
Many artists hand out CDs on the corner, or post on social media – hoping that by chance – the “right people” will just stroll into their showcase. Maybe it’s a writer, a label head, a music supervisor. But this is all by chance.
However… there’s networking events all week, where these “important people” actually go to meet artists like you. So why are you standing on the street corner, or tweeting about your event – when you can be getting actual facetime with these individuals – inviting them in person? Or better yet – you can pitch them a few weeks before SXSW (which we’ll discuss in this article).
I discussed SXSW last year in an article on the lessons I learned taking an indie label to SXSW. I spoke about the music supervisor I met loading in gear who landed us an MTV spot, I spoke about the issues in pay-for-play gigs at SXSW, and more.
The event can be a huge boost for your career – but you need to know where to focus. There’s a lot going on – events, crowds, speakers and showcases – here’s how to drown out the fluff, and properly prepare for SXSW.
TIP 1: BUILD A MEDIA LIST + CONTACT IN ADVANCE.
As I said earlier – why wait for the right person to walk down the street, when you can genuinely target them and reach out to them before hand? If you work for any large company – what do they do before a conference?
They (or their publicists) compile a media list to see what writers and reporters will be attending the conference. Next they email the writers before the event – inviting them to their booth.
Now replace the word “reporters” with music writers/A&Rs/management teams – and the word “booth” with your showcase – and now you’ve cracked the code.
What if you don’t have a showcase? That’s fine – still introduce yourself for maybe coffee or drinks at a mutual show.
Unfortunately, SXSW doesn’t have a publically available media list like some conferences. However with some resources – or some good ole’ fashioned Googling – you can make it work.
First – check out tools like PitchZen – they research media connections on a customized basis, all humans, not robots or directories. They can surely assist you with customized lists for SXSW. They help write the pitches, too.
Secondly – if that’s not a route you wish to take – simply search which writers have covered SXSW in years past, and start compiling a list. The list should have their name, outlet, and a link to the article they wrote. This list is just for your reference.
Go deeper and go to ZoomInfo (for emails) or even Twitter to find info for other industry folks that may have attended in past years. Add those to the list, too.
Lastly – hit ’em up! Send them a short email telling them about yourself, your showcase (or work) and a link to your EPK. Keep it casual and quick – but also give them resources to make them want to come meet you.
TIP 2: YOU HAVE $250 TO SPEND … BUY ONTO A SHOWCASE, OR BUY CONFERENCE PASSES?
Look, I mentioned this in my past article – there’s a difference between playing at SXSW at an official showcase and playing during SXSW at an unofficial one.
An official showcase is one that SXSW approves of, they help market – and they give passes to media, and promotes official shows to media (and other influencers). SXSW official showcases will never ask you for money to perform. SXSW official showcases are not pay-for-play.
An unofficial showcase, is usually a nearby venue, who is renting out their space to a promoter or someone else. Usually they charge you money (to perform your own work.. yep), and are just looking to make a quick buck off of hungry artists.
Side Note: Do good unofficial showcases exist? Yes. Especially ones that don’t charge. Some big brands have unofficial showcases (and they don’t charge artists) – they just likely missed a deadline with SXSW, or some other technicality.
So – let’s say you are going to Austin with $250. You can upgrade your passes for a conference, or pay to have a 15 minute set at an unofficial showcase.
Go to the conference.
These unofficial shows usually have 30+ artists performing in a single hour, you can’t sell merch and they aren’t well put together. They also aren’t marketed by SXSW.
If you’re short for cash, spend that on the conference. There’s networking events, there’s talks from music industry execs and panels from marketing experts. That knowledge is worth much more than performing for 30 people and never seeing that return on investment.
TIP 3: SPEND MONEY ON MARKETING/EDUCATION NOT CDS.
If you go to SXSW – you’ll notice that the streets are littered with tossed aside CDs. Now – as an indie artist – you should know that every CD laying on the ground is money.
Literally dollars upon dollars – wasted. Laying on the streets – for the sanitation department to sweep up the next day.
So – as you prepare for SXSW, think wisely about what will make the best investment. Is it buying onto shows? Pressing 100 CDs? Or something a bit more direct.
For instance – instead of pressing 100 CDs – how about spending that money on Facebook or Twitter ads – targeting people who follow, or have tweeted about SXSW in the past?
Or – instead of pressing CDs – how about investing in a publicist that can link you with reporters directly that week, instead of hoping one falls in your lap?
Or – and to repeat myself now for the third time – instead of pressing CDs, how about attending the conference and meet with decision makers face-to-face?
TIP 4: FIND OTHER ARTISTS WHO ARE PERFORMING + LINK UP!
Hey! Under the veneer of labels and A&Rs and all this smoke and fanciness – the power largely still resides in the artists. That why services like TuneCore, Landr and other tools are so powerful.
You may not be able to track down the super-busy Billboard magazine editor at SXSW, or the management company CEO – who’s running around checking on all her acts.
However, you’ll likely be able to easily connect with other artists. They’re usually pretty open to it, too. In fact, I’ve been part of and seen many financially successful tours or just co-promo situations when artists come together.
Even if it’s grabbing a beer before someone elses show – go and meet other artists. You may find a new touring partner, or even a new manager – or at the very least, swap stories and learn.
Check the SXSW artists page – or even your Twitter feed to see which artists are headed to Austin, and see if you can meet up – or even just go support their show.
TIP 5: OF COURSE – GET YOUR MARKETING RIGHT.
If all goes well – you’re going to be sending people to the Googles or to your social media. So – ensure that all outlets are active. Ensure there’s a good mixture of music/fun/and promo posts on all your pages.
Also make sure your EPK is up to date – upload any and all photos, videos and more. Also – research what makes a “quality” EPK, too. No more PDFs, folks. Web-based, mobile friendly EPKs are the wave.
As I mentioned before – spend money on social media ads, and build up your numbers and presence while in the city. I can guarantee there’s very “big name” artists at SXSW that aren’t geotargeting ads to Austin for their shows.
So, do that.
Ensure your digital presence is right – and that people are aware of your physical presence at SXSW.
– All social channels are current and active.
– An updated EPK.
– Social media ads – geotargeted to Austin during the event.
– Social media posts scheduled when you’re on the road – so you don’t have to manually post them.
– Custom graphics for your performances.
BONUS TIP: ENJOY AUSTIN.
Yep – let’s get a little cheesy.
I had a former client of mine hit me up recently. We designed a merch campaign together – and he’s making some good income on merch. But he also knows I’m very anti pay-for-play.
He let me know that he’ll be in Austin for the first time for SXSW. He bought tickets to attend a few networking events – but he asked about all the pay-for-play offers he was getting.
It was cheap – especially for his budget, and two of his friends were performing at the unofficial event. He also had meetings set up with editors, and a booking agent. All meetings he set up beforehand.
So I told him – I don’t advocate pay-for-play – but if you have meetings with writers, potential booking agents, if you’re spending time with artist friends – if you are going to the conference – spend your change on playing that 30 minute set, and then go enjoy Austin and the SXSW scene.
Artists are lucky to get to see and experience parts of the country that folks in an office can’t. So – get out there. Austin is one of the most unique cities in the country, and the live music capital of the world. So – why not? Pencil in time to go to the SXSW conference events, to meet with fellow artists – but also get out there, , the culture, (the bats) and everything else that makes Austin and SXSW great.
With SXSW 2017 kicking off this week, we thought it would be cool to offer our friend Debbie Stanley’s “Stress-Free SXSW Kit” infographic, covering everything an indie artist or band will need during their time in Austin for health and comfort, communication, and overall preparedness.
“Time Management for Musicians”
Thurs. 3/16, 3-4:30pm – RSVP required
Heading to SXSW 2017 this week? Prepare for sensory overload! So many unique and exciting places to grab a bite/drink, catch a show, or dig in the crates. Regardless of your busy schedule, it’s likely to include at least a little bit of downtime, so we thought it’d be cool to build on our “Local Picks” blog from SXSW 2016. (We’ve peppered in some selections from last year into this one, too!)
Austin local and our own Manager of Entertainment Relations Amy Lombardi linked up with some TuneCore Artists and music industry folks who also call Austin home and asked them about their favorite spots around town. Because trust us, you always get the best digs from folks who know the area inside and out.[Editors Note: if you see it listed more than once, you better check it out!]
Chris Thomas – C3 Management
Favorite Music Venues: Stubb’s
Margaritas: Curra’s and Polvo’s
BBQ: La Barbecue, Micklethwait, Franklin
Queso: Torchy’s and Polvo’s
Record Store: Waterloo
Music Store: Austin Vintage Guitars
Colin Campbell of Strange Fiction
Music Venue: Empire Garage has recently taken the cake for amazing FOH, on-stage sound and great lights.
Tacos: Not super close to downtown, but Tyson’s Tacos on Airport Blvd is always a winner. They make lots of crazy taco combinations, if you’re into that sort of thing (one personal favorite is The Pharr East). On top of that they have free beer on Fridays and give one free taco for every song you sing with the ukulele.
Queso and Margaritas:El Chile on Manor Road. Get the Queso Flameado. It’s different from your typical liquid queso, but after having this style I will never go back to the cheese soup…which I know is blasphemy to say in a town like Austin. While you’re there, you might as well have a few margaritas, too.
BBQ: John Mueller’s truck on East 6th. The lines aren’t usually as bad as other local landmarks, and the brisket is amazing. Also for a bit classier BBQ experience, Lambert’s downtown is solid. They also have a pretty incredible, though pricey, brunch.
Music Store: Austin Vintage is hard to beat with a drool-worthy selection of vintage guitars and amps, and plenty of effects to play around with.
Matt Reilly, KUTX Program Director
Favorite Music Venues: ACL Live, Cactus Café, Paramount (they are all seated venues – a huge bonus for me)
Margaritas: Guero’s (because they’re small and you can drink a lot of them)
BBQ: Ruby’s (NOT Rudy’s)
Queso: Maudies (Diablo Sol Food is amazing)
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Music Store: Strait Music
Alexander Beggins of Wild Child
Music Venues: Cheer Up Charlies is my hometown hangout. Always put on great shows and it has a great atmosphere.
Tacos: Simply cannot beat Tacodeli breakfast tacos in my opinion. Pro tip: Get the green sauce.
Margaritas or Micheladas: Polvos for margs and Hotel San Jose for micheladas. I crave the michelada from Hotel San Jose all the time. It’s a first stop when I get home from the road.
BBQ: Freedman’s BBQ in West Campus. It’s all the rage in my book.
Queso: It’s not queso but it’s an app so I’m going to say it: the spicy chili edamame from Madam Mam’s is mind-blowing.
Record Stores: Waterloo always and forever.
Music Store: Fidler’s Green.
Emily Bolf, Digital Director – ACLTV
Favorite Music Venues: ACL Live, 3Ten, Scoot Inn, Broken Spoke
Tacos: Veracruz All Natural (get migas tacos with a Skinny smoothie)
Margaritas: Maudie’s: Gill’s margarita, also Guero’s house margarita on the rocks with salt
BBQ: Super secret best ribs in town are at Cafe Mueller at 51st St. HEB
Queso: Polvo’s ChoriQueso
Record Store: Waterloo Records
Music Store: South Austin Music; Soundcheck Austin for gear rental and rehearsal space
Lauren Bucherie, Director of Music – Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Favorite Music Venues: As a music fan, having ACL Moody Theater right down the street is a dream come true. There’s no other venue in the world you can see acts like Radiohead, Beck, Coldplay, or Kendrick Lamar with only 2,000 other people. Acts like this sell out arenas, but will stop everything to play Austin City Limits LIVE. It’s so rad. For smaller, local shows – beyond our club (Geraldine’s), I love C Boys Heart and Soul and Antone’s.
Tacos: Depending on my mood and time of day: Torchy’s, Taco Deli, or El Taquito. The last one is a new hidden gem that I’m hesitant to even mention because I want them all to myself.
Margaritas: I have several, very specific, favorites. The coconut frozen marg from Sazon, the mexican martini from Austin Land & Cattle, and the mango habenero margarita from Takoba.
BBQ: The brisket from Franklin’s really is life-changing. It’s worth the hype in the unique way most things aren’t. The crispy wild boar ribs from Lambert’s are also amazing.
Queso: Top three quesos in order: El Taquito, Torchy’s, Magnolia Cafe (mag mud).
Record Store: Waterloo for new releases, Antone’s for rare finds (especially jazz and soul).
Music Store: I shot a music video with Delta Rae once in South Austin Music store and it was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve ever spent. Since I’m not musical in the tactile sense, I don’t usually frequent music stores unless it’s something like that.
Johnny Sarkis – Sound on Sound Fest, Barracuda Club
Favorite Music Venues: Barracuda. I’m one of the owners, so pfffft. Ginny’s Little Longhorn.
Tacos: Tacomore on Riverside next to the new Emo’s. Total Favorite.
Margaritas: El Chile on Manor
BBQ: Mickelthwait Craft Meats
Queso: I’m the wrong guy to ask on this one.
Record Store: End of an Ear
Music Store: Austin Vintage Guitars
V. Marc Fort, Digital Media Specialist – Texas Music Office, Office of the Governor
Favorite Music Venues: Spider House Ballroom – This 300 capacity, red-curtain adorned venue is so perfectly intimate that you feel like every show there is a special secret show. From The Soundtrack of Our Lives, to Ronnie Spector, to The Cynics, to hometown heroes The Black Angels and Roky Erickson, the Spider House Café and Ballroom bookings are some of the best in Austin. And since the club is far from “Dirty Sixth”, you can avoid the punters and the weekend amateurs vomiting on your shoes, etc.
I also love the Continental Club (including their tiny upstairs Continental Club Gallery venue). Garage Rock, R&B, Soul, old-school Country, the through line of their disparate, eclectic bookings is just sincere, authentic music from the heart.
Tacos: The “Taco Tuesday” special tacos at Counter Culture Restaurant. 52 different delicious and creative taco specials a year: Teriyaki Jackfruit BBQ, Jerk Seitan & Greens, Ethiopian Beans & Squash, Asian BBQ…it’s insane how good these tacos are. The fact they’re all vegan is just an added bonus that your arteries and your heart will appreciate.
And any other day of the week, Counter Culture has Butternut Squash Tacos on their regular menu: spiced butternut squash scrambled with dried cranberries and cilantro, topped with walnut chorizo & chili sauce, served on collard greens!
Margaritas: Polvo’s tops my list for their delicious, affordable and strong margaritas. Additionally, their chips & salsa bar is the best in town and is the perfect match for an extended margarita happy hour session. La Condesa wins the day if your in the mood for a little bit fancier margarita, including their signature fresh pineapple juice margaritas with cactus-lemongrass salt on the rim!
BBQ: BBQ Revolution food trailer does vegan BBQ really well. Yes you read that right: Vegan BBQ…deep in the heart of Texas (and it’s delicious too)! Also, it’s worth noting that when Franklin’s BBQ wants some vegan BBQ to accompany various large catering orders they’re fulfilling, they reach out to my friends at Counter Culture for their jackfruit BBQ and/or their BBQ soy curls taco special.
Queso: The vegan queso at Guero’s. They don’t always have their vegan queso in stock at Guero’s. So often I’ll head over to Counter Culture Restaurant (do you see a recurring theme here?) to devour their cashew cheese queso that covers their “East Side Nachos.” Eat ‘em up, yum yum!
Record Store: Tie between Waterloo Records and End of An Ear – Waterloo Records is right up there with Amoeba Records as one of the best record stores in the United States. I’d even say that Waterloo has the added bonus of not having as many dusty, bad records that you have to sort through to get to the good stuff.
And at End of An Ear you encounter vinyl that just doesn’t seem to turn up anywhere else: avant-garde jazz, outsider music classics, underground to the underground Hip Hop. Partially because most people head to Waterloo and don’t realize that the record buyers at End of An Ear are just as good.
Music Store: Tie between Sound Gallery and Switched On. The Sound Gallery is essentially an art museum for the best in mid-century to 1980s hi-fi audio equipment, wherein everything in the museum is for sale. They also have a well-curated selection of vinyl for sale.
Likewise, Switched On has some of the best vintage analog synthesizers and keyboard equipment in the United States (likely in the world based on their international clientele). When Radiohead or Devo are in Austin, they shop at Switched On for hours on end. One of the guys from Depeche Mode is always calling them to see what is new in their inventory. And as you’ve probably heard, the two guys from SURVIVE – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein – that scored the Netflix sleeper hit STRANGER THINGS worked at Switched On for years before their band took off. It’s a great place to hang, as well as make your dream list for future vintage electronics and music equipment purchases.
TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.
Is your hit next?
Follow THE NEW – a Spotify playlist that’s updated every Friday with new releases from TuneCore Artists – stream it below!
Body Can’t Hold
There She Go
Hip Hop/Rap, R&B/Soul
Talk To Me
Stuck Like Glue (Fenix Remix)
Pop, Hip Hop/Rap
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Scooby’s In The Back
Beauty In The Struggle
Hip Hop/Rap, Pop
2017 seems to be a bit of an odd year for SXSW. Between the visa controversy and the fact a good number of traditionally cornerstone participants are either scaling down their involvement or skipping the conference all together, a lot of artists who may have stretched their budget to attend may be starting to worry about whether it was the best use of their time and resources.
Well, fear not! At the end of the day any networking/showcase scenario will be exactly what you as an individual makes of it. Despite the scaled-down scope of this year’s festivities, there will still be more than enough industry professionals in attendance. From press tastemakers and music supervisors to label A&R reps and booking agents, if you play your cards right in Austin there is a very strong chance that you will return home afterwards in a better career situation than you are in today.
Here are five ways to optimize your time in Austin in between all the delicious tacos and BBQ you’ll be getting into:
1. One-On-One Meetings Will Be Your Most Important
A lot of emphasis is placed on getting the ‘right’ showcases and playing in front of the ‘right’ people. Personally, I feel that the real difference in generating lead opportunities comes when you’re not playing. Make sure your schedule is packed with one-on-one meetings when you’re not doing official showcases or attending networking events. Reach out to people you would want to work with in advance of getting to Austin to lock in a time to grab a drink or coffee. If your pre-determined list of people to meet with isn’t that extensive, improve it while you’re there. If you meet someone at an event don’t just bank on connecting after you get home. Take the time to meet with them later in the week in a more personal scenario. If you reside in different cities, this may be your last chance to talk face-to-face for a while.
2. Go to Networking Events
Unless you’ve got a string of top-billed showcases lined up and the industry is already buzzing about your band, a lot of your ‘wins’ are going to come in expanding your network offstage. If you’re a young artist that isn’t quite ‘on the inside’ of the industry yet, any networking event will give yourself the chance to make new contacts. When you’re not yet able to rely on the strong rolodex of a powerful manager, lawyer or label, it’s on you to really build your connections to create opportunities. That way next year you will have those high profile performance slots!
3. Turn Other Shows into Networking Events
We all love live music. That’s a big part of the reason why we work so hard to have a career in this business. But as a musician, it is best to keep in mind that you are working at these shows. Go see as many bands as you can and make it a point to connect with the artists you like after their sets. This may not be that fruitful if you’re trying to convince Run The Jewels to let you open their next tour, but if you find some good mid-tier bands there might be a chance to string together a few tour dates together to take advantage of each of your regional fanbases. Or if the band is a bit further along in their career than you are, maybe you can open for them when they come through your city.
Either way, it doesn’t hurt to approach them at SXSW and strike up a casual conversation. Just make sure you’re not coming across as if you were only reaching out to pitch them on your band. Let them know how much you like their set, ask them questions about their music and where they’re from. If that goes well, let them know you’d like to keep in touch and take it from there. Also, if you do somehow run into Killer Mike or El-P, the same rules apply!
4. Share Your Experience On Socials (And Optimize It)
There is nothing more important to creating opportunities than face-to-face interactions. Still, you have the digital realm at your disposal and you should do your best to optimize that. Take photos at the different events you attend and post them to your social networks. Make sure you’re using the proper hashtags when doing so to aggregate some attention from other people at the conference. Also, always tag the bands and companies that are involved in the showcase or event you’re snapping photos from and geo-tag your posts as well! After SXSW is over, this may also end up being a good way to stir up conversations with people you may not have gotten to talk to in person over the course of the week.
5. Organize Your Contacts and Follow Up!
This is perhaps the most important aspect of the conference and one that is often overlooked. Take as many business cards and other contact info as you can while you’re down there. Make sure you’re chronicling when and where you meet people (I like to keep a notebook that I update at the end of each day). That way when everyone goes back to their respective homes at the end of the week you can follow up letting them know how great it was to connect and set up a call to continue the conversation on how you can potentially work together. If there is no ‘next steps’ after Austin the trip may not have been worth your time and money afterall!
Also…the tacos. Eat all the tacos!