I'm a huge skeptic of Music Conferences. I've sat through my fair share of uninspired panels where the same group of usual suspects dribble at the mouth about "You just have to make good music and that's what really counts to find success in this business". The truth about the music business, and any business for that matter, is that it is about who you know, making the right connections at the right time then having a great product to allow you a sustainable life in this game.
Break Out West is a great conference; well organized, helpful and knowledgeable staff, well booked speakers and efficiently run showcases. The conference brought together a slew of bookers & promoters (many of which arriving from the UK), social media experts, a small army of music supervisors and label types that actually cared about meeting artists. I spent much of my time at the conferences sitting through 1-on-1 "speed dates" requiring my inner hustler to make the most 4 minutes to make a lasting first impression.
Here are 5 of the most inspiring things I took away from my time at the conference...
5. Allow myself to introduce...MYSELF: It is sometimes awkward to sell YOURSELF to a group of strangers. As well, with a limited time to interact with the delegates at a conference you have a better chance of maintaining an ongoing conversation by inadvertently introducing yourself before you meet in person. What does this mean? Create a buzz for yourself by being prolific online (thanks Swejam team!), rocking shows, releasing content consistently - thereby allowing your reputation to precede your arrival to the conference. I chose to also make use of promotional tools by putting together a solid 1-pager and taking advantage of Hula Girl's offer to mail this out to speakers arriving to Break Out West. When "Hi I'm Masia One" meets a reply of "I've definitely heard about you, tell me more about what you do" it allows that first conversation to flow a lot smoother.
4. Diversify your propaganda: I tested the reactions of each person I met at the festival offering either a CD or a pack of stickers. We are spoilt in this generation to know that we can likely stream the music we want to listen to online. A well designed sticker however is less likely to be found as a torrent. I find it more effective to provide stickers and buttons which provide a link to your Soundcloud or website rather than forcing your precious music in the form of an awkward CD that does not fit in anyone's pocket. I'm not saying that if you've taken a meeting with someone, and they have expressed interest in your music that you should not pass on that CD. I'm suggesting that as a first impression, gifting a sticker that might go on a laptop might have this person remembering you every time they sit down at their computer. Your music if far more precious and valuable than cramming it down someone's throat before they have expressed interest in it.
3. Service with a smile leaves a lasting impression of your brand: I definitely have a great overall impression of Break Out West as a well run festival because their staff of volunteers kept smiling no matter how tired or burnt out many of them felt. At the busiest point in the festival I stopped a key staff member to ask some irritating question about where I would find my tickets for the award show. I recognized this person was under slept, hungry and rotating a list of To Do's in her head that did not involve my missing award show tickets. She slowed herself down to explain where I would find the tickets and that I could reach out to her if I faced any further problems locating them. It was good to feel the love and respect given by the festival toward everyone from independent artist to the top business delegates. I should also mention that every email sent out to Break Out West was answered within the hour. Great job BOW! This would make any efficiency craving Singaporean proud.
2. Different genres of music have so much to learn from one another: While charging my laptop in the lobby of the conference I met many musicians from different parts of Western Canada. Everyone from a Winnipeg blues singer to a the only reggae band out of Northern Alberta. It is important not to dismiss those you meet simply because you may not have the same musical inclinations. I had the most inspiring time listening to how the blue singer organized his touring circuit or how the Reggae band was able to chart in the top 5 on Reverb Nation in Alberta (since they were the ONLY reggae band on Reverb Nation from Alberta.) We traded marketing notes and I got to understand where my brand of music fits into the whole puzzle of the growing Canadian Music scene - to which I promptly concluded that Country Music is the most profitable way to go.
1. Nerds Rule the World: The unsuspecting rock star of the conference was not a musician but a Facebook expert by the name of Dennis Yu. This man's Google Calendar is more dotted than a 16 year old boy on proactive. In spite of this, his willingness to provide hands on and individualized help to many of the attendees was humbling. I watched groups of people follow this man around like disciples in pursuit of his knowledge and willingness to share these social network secrets. I asked Mr. Yu if he would be willing to mentor me to which he agreed only if I would share the knowledge I gained. I felt inspired and agreed. To make good of this promise I will begin writing music hustle advice to my blog and newsletter. In the coming months I will post independent business advice to this web page and bi-weekly mail outs. Sign up at the top right hand corner of this webpage or right HERE! Each one teach one...MESSAGE