What is the point of a music industry event?
A showcase festival is a key event where the music industry comes together to connect with each other and network, discover new artists and do business. These events happen all around the world. Some showcase festivals are genre based and some are not. There might also be a conference associated with the event.
One of the biggest benefits of a showcase festival is that there’s a high concentration of industry people in one place. People who organise these events want to create an ecosystem where people can do business and see each other multiple times over the event. They give tickets to ‘music buyers’ (e.g., bookers, promoters, labels) so that they attend these showcase festivals and create business opportunities for artists and other people within the industry.
For people in the music industry, a showcase festival can be a great way to know what bands are doing well and a place to learn about what’s hot and what’s cutting edge.
What are the benefits to artists who showcase?
For artists and bands, a showcase festival is a chance to get your act in front of people who work in the industry, to build your team, and grow business opportunities. The actual showcase often looks like a 30 mins set without much by way of soundcheck or loading time. Some festivals will have artists showcase multiple times over the festival.
Showcasing can be an important building block to establishing artists in new territories, building their team and industry support in that territory, building their story and the media buzz around them.
Who are these artists who showcase at these music industry events?
Artists who play at showcase festivals have successfully applied to play and are looking for a specific business outcome, for example, to get signed to a booking agency or label. It is often a huge investment in an artists’ career especially from a travel and accommodation point of view (it can cost tens of thousands of dollars!), so it’s important to know that the time is right in your career to be making that sort of investment.
When is the right time to play a showcase festival?
Playing at a showcase festival should ideally be aligned with a bigger career strategy for establishing an artist in a territory. The artist or their team should already have established some connections in that territory before showcasing so that there is a buzz around the act coming to town. Playing at this showcase festival would be the next strategic step in working towards that bigger picture project. If you don’t have the resources, capacity and finances to go into that territory again and build upon plans that are already in development, then showcasing is probably not the most strategic next step to growing your career.
How do I know if I’m ready to showcase?
When you go to play a showcase festival, you need to be tour ready and export ready. Logistically, that means your show is tight, you are established domestically and making money from music, you have team members in place, you hold appropriate working visas for that new territory or an application is in process.
The showcase should be a stepping stone in a bigger picture project that allows the artist to return to that territory multiple times to continue to build on the work that the showcase festival aimed to do.
For example, if you get picked up by a promoter or a booking agent who was at the showcase festival and they want you to be back in that market within 6 months to play a festival circuit, how will you fund that return tour? You don’t want to let that energy die down by being forced to go home and save money. Momentum and readiness is key here.
Is it worth travelling to attend a showcase festival?
There are many ways to export – and playing at a showcase festival is not the only way. With travel getting more and more expensive, and accessing audiences more accessible through online platforms like Tiktok and YouTube, then perhaps a portion of the tens of thousands of dollars of showcase investment could be reinvested in great digital content and strategy.
One of the huge benefits of a music industry event is that the industry is all there in the one place ready to do business. You don’t have to knock on doors. If you do decide to travel to play a showcase festival, plan for other activities around this to support and bolster your investment, for example, a tour, media and radio interviews, etc.
What is the best way to know if a showcase festival is right for me?
Do a reconnaissance mission if you have the means to. It’s a great way to meet people and break the ice with people who attend this specific event and see how it all works. This will make it less overwhelming if you choose to return to showcase as you will know the lay of the land and the vibe of the event. You’ll have a better indication if it’s the right sort of event to do business at.
What makes a good showcase festival?
Ideally, the festival is not too big and spread out and easy to get around. This makes it easier to bump into people. A great showcase festival is one where the organisers take responsibility to create real opportunities and outcomes for the industry, rather than just taking your money for attending. They have a clear idea of why the event exists and what they offer and they make quality invitations to music buyers that will allow their event ecosystem to flourish. Another good indication of a great showcase festival is if music peak bodies and export offices are involved in supporting the event in some way. There is an accountability in these bodies being involved. Finally, the showcase festival organisers recognises and invites artists who are a good match for the type of event they are putting together, and are inclusive in their approach to programming the lineup.
How do I make the most of showcasing?
- Before the event, do some research. Look at the conference line up and see what industry people will be there. Look at what they do: do their values align with me, do I like the people that they work with? Reach out to them through a delegate portal.
- If you can get there a few weeks before the event, have meetings and do media promo. This can be a great way to make connections before the event and generate a buzz for your showcase.
- These events are prime networking and social events to meet people, so have people on the ground at the event talking about you, whether that’s a manager, or band mates, or just people who can help build a buzz and get people to your showcase. Don’t go in cold and don’t expect attention just because you’re on the bill.
- When you’re not playing, go and meet people, including other bands and industry people. Attend the conference and learn about new ideas and concepts within the industry.
- Get lots of rest. These events can be exhausting, so ensure you’re well rested before your showcase.
- Play a great show!
- Ensure that you follow up. It’s up to the artist and their team to follow up with people who came to see their showcase.
How do people in the music industry work approach a showcase conference?
People in the music industry will be going to see artists who are generating a great deal of buzz and you can bet that those artists’ showcases will be full of industry people keen to see what they can do live. If they then put on an amazing show then people will be vying to sign them.
Who do they want to sign? It always comes down to the music and they need to know that they can help take that act to the next level. Questions they might ask themselves are: Are they connecting to the music? Are other people in the room connecting to it? Do they have momentum in their domestic market? Are they road ready? Do they have a team?
How do I build a buzz and get on the showcase radar for next year?
A showcase can be a good building block in an artist’s career. Firstly, you need great music! Then focus on building your audience domestically first. Use the growth in that arena to start building a team, perhaps a manager or an independent label. Put a great tour together and learn how to tour effectively. All these things add to your story.
How do I apply to showcase at a music industry event?
Showcase opportunities are competitive. There is an application process and there are way more applications than spots to play. Get on the event mailing list so you can be the first to hear when artist applications are open for the next event. Application closing dates are often many months before the event happens.
When applying, be clear about saying what you’re good at and be clear about what you’ve achieved. Don’t be vague. Be specific. Be confident. Be articulate and succinct. What is your story? What gives your music a unique perspective? What’s your point of difference? What separates you from the pack? And then hone in on that.
If you can’t speak up about what you do and how good you are, then you need to get others to say those things for you because once you get to the event that’s all you’ll be doing.
Remember, these music industry events are a building block to something bigger, so look beyond this one event. How does this showcase fit with your bigger strategic picture? What’s the pathway to continue to grow in that territory? Is there a touring and venue circuit? And will it support your return?
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