Every year, there are several events such as Tin Pan South in Nashville, Key West Songwriters Festival, ASCAP Expo, NAMM, CD Baby DIY Conference, TAXI, GEAR FEST by Sweetwater, 30 A Songwriters Festival, Frank Brown Songwriters Festival, Immerse, Island Hoppers Songwriter Festival, South By Southwest, Americana Fest and other events around the country and around the world.
As a songwriter, artist or industry professional, there are many ways to make the most of these conferences to learn, network and build relationships.
LODGING & TRAVEL: Before the conference, plan for your lodging. Do you have friends or relatives in that city that may have an extra room you can stay during the event? If they are in the music business or a fan of the event, perhaps offer to get them a pass or ticket to the event in exchange
Hotels, Motels or Vacation Rental by Owner such as in Nashville there is a company Next Stay Nashville that owns several VRBOs and most towns have the Air B&Bs that may have lodging available. You may prefer these homes and condos instead of a hotel.
How far away from the event do you want to stay, does it make sense to stay a little out of town, then you must consider transportation to the event. If you fly to town, instead of renting a car, as you will be inside most of the conference, you still must pay for parking along with the rental for the car. Is it better to take a LYFT or UBER to the event? Do the math before you get to the destination city for the event.
Is it cheaper to drive, by time you factor how many hours you will be in the car, gas, meals, wear and tear? You will have additional parking costs at the event – which usually is a minimum of $25.00 each time you park your car. Also consider each time you go to see an event that evening, additional parking and time figuring out where you are going for the show or dinner. It all ads up to the total cost of the event.
Make sure you have your LYFT and UBER accounts up to date and in good working order before you travel. Nothing worse than getting to the airport, pulling up the app and discovering it is not working, you may not have the money in the account that is attached to the app, the credit card you put on the app is out of date, which would leave you stranded at the airport while you try to figure out why it is not working. If you have not used UBER or LYFT, make sure you know how to use it in advance of arriving at the airport. Be sure to ask the proper location to catch the ride at the airport as they all have designated zones for auto transportation and pick up.
Sometimes, the hotels will have shuttles to the event. For instance, Gearfest that Sweetwater hosts every summer (June 22-23, 2018) in Fort Wayne, Indiana which brought 14,000+ to that event in 2017, the hotels connected to the event provide shuttle busses to Gearfest at no charge to their guests.
The shuttles save you aggravation of waiting in traffic lines, gives you the opportunity to network with others in the music business on the bus and saves you the challenge of going to an event as you can relax and plan your day and relax after attending the event all day – leave the driving to the bus drivers as you also network on your way back to your hotel.
ADVANCE PREPARATION: Plan on which events you will go to if it is a songwriter’s festival, see your favorite songwriters play those songs that made you love to write songs. Look online in advance and make a note of what events each night you plan to attend with your favorite writers or the workshops and booths you want to attend at the event.
Arrive early and while you are in line waiting to get into the venue, there are songwriters and up and coming artists just like you, shake a hand, ask where they are from, who are their favorite songwriters – just be nice and meet people. Show up early for the workshops to have time to connect with others that have the same interest. If it is a trade show, I like to arrive early before the event gets too noisy.
You may end up meeting new friends at the event in line or at the booths. The people in the venues are usually songwriters from all over, so you may meet new cowriters.
SUPPORT THE VENUES: Eat dinner at Tin Pan South and other festival venues, and have the food and beverages at the venues. Be sure to tip the wait staff as next year they may be playing their hit songs on the same stage. If you are nice, you may make a new friend right there at your table. Ask if they are songwriters or artists.
After the show and you meet the songwriters that made you go WOW, just say “Thanks, I enjoyed your songs”. Do not “Gherm” them – taking your CD or card to them and telling them that the two of you should write sometime. They have their co-writers and friends in town or in their companies. Just enjoy, thank them and let those songs inspire you to want to be on the stage sometime in the future.
If it is a convention or conference, prepare for the day of the event. I always include a cell phone charger, one that is already fully charged that you can connect to your phone in your pocket. That way you are not looking for a wall to plug in your phone and you are stuck waiting on the phone to charge.
I love to take Cliff Bars for healthy snack for mid – morning and perhaps mid or late afternoon fuel to keep me going at the event. Always take a pen and paper, although yes, we use the “Notes” section of our phone, sometimes the paper and pen are effective to keep notes from the conference.
DRESS: Be comfortable, comfortable shoes and clothing. Look professional. I like to wear a sports coat if there will be business people at the event. Plus, a sports coat or nice jacket gives you more pockets for the battery charger, Cliff Bar and perhaps a small water bottle or other item you may need at the event.
Look nice, relaxed and someone that others would like to talk with at the event. The band t-shirts, jeans with holes, old tennis shoes, ballcap, sunglasses inside the buildings may not make you look like someone a professional in the business would want to talk with if they do not know you.
Hey, if it is a festival at the beach, yea shorts are ok– nice shorts, nice button up shirt or nice t-shirt, yet look professional always at
NETWORKING TIP: Your Business Cards – make sure a couple weeks in advance you have plenty of business cards. If you need to order, you have time, so you are not rushing at the last minute. I keep my business cards in my left pocket and other cards I collect go in my right pocket. I also will take plastic sandwich bags with me to keep the cards together when I get back to my room and put them in my briefcase or somewhere that I will have when I get back home to follow up from the event. Take a sharpie and write on the outside of the plastic bag the name of the event you collected those cards and the year.
When you get back from the event, I know this may sound old school, write a note to some of of those people you met and stay in touch with them. Go on social media and write the songwriters and presenters to thank them for their songs or classes or whatever the event you attended. Also make notes from the conference on what you learned and action steps from the conference to help your
To summarize, plan in advance for the event, study to see who will be there, support the vendors, dress professionally, make friends with your peers at the events, learn from the pros and companies that invested their time to play their songs, give advice for the industry, present their products and learn to use the knowledge you gained from the investment of attending the event and HAVE FUN…