5 Reasons You Need To Attend A Music Conference

I recently attended my first music industry conference.  It was such a valuable experience that I decided to share five reasons every musician needs to attend a music conference.  It pulled together emerging to big name artists, talent buyers, agents, songwriters, radio show hosts, and more.  I went home with not only good memories, but a stack of business cards and excitement for newfound opportunities.  My experience was with IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association), but there are conferences for a variety of genres.  At the end of this article I’ve included several links.

Here are the top 5 benefits musicians can gain from attending a music business conference:

1. Meeting people from afar

At a conference, you’ll meet a myriad of people that you’d never dream of meeting back home, or even on your tour stops.  Conferences tend to be held in cities with a flourishing music scene.  That gives you the chance to immerse yourself in that market.  Plus, you’ll have people traveling in from all over the country and world.  Being from the Northeast, I benefited from meeting musical peers from Colorado, as well as making new friends from Germany.

2. Learning

With three days of seminar and workshop offerings at IBMA, I went home with real-world, practical information.  Unless you’ve already made it to the Top 40 charts, everyone stands to learn more about the music business.  Some sample topics:

IBMA workshop

Expert panel at IBMA workshop

  • Publishing
  • Booking Yourself without an Agent
  • Planning a Recording
  • Getting to Know SoundExchange

Beyond the formal sessions, you’ll learn by observation and through discussions.  Every performance that you watch and every person you sit next to at lunch provides an opportunity to observe, listen, and learn about what others are doing and what works.

3. Building relationships

The music business is all about networking and building relationships.  If you stay stuck behind email, phone, or messaging, you’ll never make true personal connections.  By meeting people face-to-face, you build a real connection, and over time, trust.  If a talent buyer needs to fill a slot at a festival, who do you think she’ll go to?  The artist cold-calling her, or the artist she’s met and talked to the past few years at a conference?

4. Targeted Advertising

This is a big one. Every single one of the hundreds to thousands of people at the conference are there because they have a professional interest in music.  And not just any music – your kind of music.  Select a conference that caters to your genre and you’ll instantly have relevant promoters, agents, radio stations and other tastemakers accessible literally at your fingertips.  I had a DJ’s business card shoved into my hand before I’d even left the orientation session.  Arrive prepared with your own business cards, one-sheet, flyers and CD’s, and you’ll be investing your time and money well.  Kick it up a notch and play a showcase.  Take that, Facebook advertising.

5. Leads

While you shouldn’t expect to walk away with a bunch of new gigs in the bag, you will most certainly have many new leads.  There are gig opportunities you may not otherwise know about, whether it be festivals you hadn’t heard of yet, or European tours.  But it’s more than just gig leads.  Do you need a manager? A booking agent? Are you looking for journals to blog about you? Radio stations to spin your new album? Songwriters to collaborate with?  Peer bands on the opposite coast to swap gigs with?  Decide on your goals and make it a point to meet applicable people at the conference.

In summary, I’ll quote Mike Drudge of Class Act Entertainment:

“Must be present to win.”

Now check out which music conference would be a good fit for you.  Here are a few ideas to start with:

Americana Music Association  http://americanamusic.org/

Folk Alliance International  http://www.folk.org/

International Bluegrass Music Association  https://ibma.org/

SXSW https://www.sxsw.com/conference/

 

What’s your experience with music conferences been?  Leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. Lots of truth here. I attended two of the big Folk Alliance Conferences back when my CD came out (long ago). I hung one around my neck like a backstage pass. Several folk DJs recognized the package and it was a good reinforcement. I was in several informal showcases. There was a lot of relationship building and rebuilding. There were a few pity parties too with starving folk singers complaining about no radio play and the costs of making CDs (and at the time cassettes). Now it is totally changed. Going to the big conferences can be pricey with hotels etc. but there are many regional ones too like the New England Folk alliance which can be less expensive. Hope to go next year to something.

    • Great to hear about your experiences. Love the idea of hanging your CD around your neck. Anything creative a musician can do to stand out will help. NERFA is in Stamford right now, definitely worth looking into. And as for the hotels…there is a reason 4 of us crammed into a room with 2 full size beds LOL.

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