As many in the tech, film and music communities know, SXSW is one of the biggest creative festivals held each year. It presents people working in these fields the opportunity to get discovered and add momentum to an already working machine. In recent years though, SXSW has been inundated with such large numbers of people that it is difficult to have any impact. In fact, many people in the music community of Houston choose not to attend the conference and not to bother sending in applications for music showcases for fear of rejection and a general perception that it is a waste of time and resources.
There are still many very good reasons to attend SXSW and there are even more unexplored ways to maximize your impact at the conference. The fact that the conference is so close to Houston makes it worth your while to attend even without a badge or wristband. Many industry professionals are in Austin during the week of music and the setting provides a good opportunity to contact and meet them to talk about your career. Label, booking and promotional companies also attend and fruitful research can be accomplished by sitting down with them for meetings. Additionally, with the rise of non-SXSW-sanctioned parties running virtually around the clock, the need to play a SXSW showcase is significantly less important than it was several years ago.
In personal communication with bands over the past couple years I’ve talked about how important it is to take control of your career and do game changing things to get noticed and build your audience. As a band working for itself, SXSW is the perfect staging grounds for this philosophy and the best way to accomplish this is to cut through the noise.
- Don’t play 9 shows in 4 days; those last shows are going to be low on energy and probably not represent your band in the way you wish to portray yourselves.
- Don’t try and play the hottest party at SXSW; you probably don’t know what it is and if you did you’d already have representation working for you.
- Don’t expect to be discovered at SXSW and have everything handed to you from now on
- Look at what everyone else is doing and take a right turn from that
- Do play (at least) one show that will have the desired impact to get you noticed by any potential fans, not just that talent scout: a guerrilla show in the middle of the street, on the back of a flatbed truck while driving around, play your music blasting from a boombox while walking down the street, hang shirts of your band just out of reach on telephone poles near the convention
- Do your research beforehand to target the people you want to work with, write them beforehand, and get a committment to meet with them to talk
- Do attend Bandcampus: SXSW PREP at Caroline Collective on February 28th from 2-4pm to make plans to attack SXSW and get your digital and physical toolbox in order
That last part is key. This Sunday at Caroline Collective we will be holding the latest installment of Bandcampus, entitled SXSW PREP. Similar to last year, this will be a workshop pairing volunteers with musical artists working to get prepared for SXSW with the following goals:
1. Prepare press materials and basic online presence items for bands interested in attending SXSW.
Any band playing in Austin during SXSW needs to be prepared to promote themselves given the chance. Playing a show is just the start of that promotion. Artists need a press kit, songs hosted online, video posted online, booking and contact information somewhere as well as physical cds to sell to interested parties or to give to record labels or booking agents. Many bands are unprepared for this situation and are lacking many of these items. By providing musicians with creative experts bands can receive focused attention to generate or upload these items to a location on the internet that raises the artists’ visibility.
2. Announce the bands that will be playing at Houston@SXSW, a Houston focused party showcasing Houston musicians, filmmakers and technologists.
This year we will be holding the second Houston@SXSW party. Last year’s party, held at Gruv, sponsored by Kirtsy, Werkadoo, Schipul, AYNBrand, and Caroline Collective , was a locally focused party showcasing Houston talent in three areas: technology, film and music. The following artists showcased: Dave Wrangler, Western Civilization, Wayside Drive, Ben Wesley, Espantapajaros, Golden Cities, Liquid Kitchen, Tha Fucking Transmissions, American Sharks, Something Fierce, and Fat Tony / B L A C K I E.
This year’s party will again focus on the contributions of Houston’s creative professionals. Startups will present, films will be shown and musical artists will showcase. This year’s party will be held at Hudson’s (301 W. 5th), Monday, March 15th from 5pm-2am. Last year’s music was curated by myself selected from the bands who attended Bandcampus: SXSW PREP. This year’s showcasing bands will be selected by the community. That means you. And your community.
Pay attention because we are going to do this very quickly. Nominations are open as of now and will close on Thursday, February 25th at noon. If you are in a band, know a band or like a band, DO THIS NOW: nominate them in the comment section below.
Starting Thursday at noon, voting will open for all bands who were nominated. Voting details, site and rules will be given on Wednesday. Voting will close on Sunday, February 28th at noon. Bands who are selected to play the party will be announced at Sunday’s Bandcampus: SXSW PREP.
Sunday’s Bandcampus: SXSW PREP is for 1) Houston musicians attending SXSW as official selections, 2) Houston musicians interested in playing at the Houston focused day party, 3) Bands looking to get their physical/online toolbox and online presence set up or checked by industry professionals, and 4) industry professionals looking to donate a couple hours to help bands generate/solidify these materials.
We need skilled graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, PR reps or any other creative professional which would be able to donate time and services for a couple hours to help bands prepare their online presence and press materials for SXSW.
WHAT: Bandcamp: SXSW PREP
WHEN: February 28th, 2-4pm
WHERE: Caroline Collective, 4820 Caroline Houston, TX
WHY: Prepare for SXSW, find out who’s playing Houston@SXSW; a free showcase of Houston creative professionals