[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo.]
SXSW is just around the corner and, if you’re performing at the conference this year, it’s time to start preparing.
While a lot of your focus should be on maximizing your entire time in Austin (and the number of breakfast tacos you’re going to eat), it could also pay dividends to spend some time specifically getting ready for your showcase. There will be over a thousand artists performing during SXSW this March, so much care needs to be taken to ensure that your showcase registers as more than just a blip on the periphery of people’s radar.
Whether you’re an official artist or just on the bill for some unofficial parties, the following four tips will help you make the most of your time in Austin.
As is always the case, preparation for your gig starts way in advance – both in terms of your performance and how you will use it to set up your next opportunity. Even if you are playing later in the week, getting to Austin a few days ahead of that (budget permitting) to network is a great plan. Go to shows and arrange meetings so the people you want to know you’re playing will be aware. Even before you get to Austin, use the internet.
The Unofficial Guide to SXSW is a great asset for finding things to do and places where the sort of music industry professionals and writers you would want to connect with might be. Also, use your social media accounts to reach out to people and PACK YOUR SCHEDULE IN ADVANCE. It will be chaotic once you’re in Austin so knowing when and where you’re going to meet with key people beforehand will be essential.
Connect with the Other Bands
Following up on the chaos theme, there will be a million other shows going on at other venues (often on the same street) during your showcase. This can make load-in sort of a nightmare. Reach out to the bands that you are sharing the bill with in advance to see if you can coordinate equipment.
The less running around and chaos you have to do before the show, the more time you’ll have to focus on your set. Also, the smoother the transition between bands is, the more likely you’ll get people that were there to see the previous band to stick around for your set. Maybe they’re finishing their beer when the last band is wrapping up. If you’re quick to the stage afterwards and you come out firing maybe you’ll intrigue those individuals enough to stick around.
Which is a perfect segue to the next point…
Focus on Your Set list
There is a theory on setlists – start with your fastest song and end with your most popular. This rings particularly true with festivals and conferences. Punch them in the face (whatever your band’s version of doing so is) right out of the gate to grab their attention and build towards your “hit”.
You will probably only have about twenty minutes for most showcases so pay particular attention to which four to five songs will have the biggest impact and try to eliminate as much awkward silence from song-to-song. Maybe build some transitions between songs or have some guidelines on your banter. Keep the energy up and you’ll have a better chance of keeping people in the room.
Stick Around to Network After the Show
SXSW is very transitory.
People are hopping between venues trying to catch as many of the bands they wanted to see as possible and meet all the people on their ‘to do’ list. Stick around a bit after your show and try to speak to as many people in the room as possible. Next to the music, there is no more important aspect of building a career in music than networking.
Meet as many people as you can in Austin and give yourself the best opportunity possible to translate those interactions to a wider fanbase and a bigger music industry rolodex.
Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.