Get the Party Started: Making the Most of SXSW & MIDEM (UKTI Roadshows)
This August and September, UKTI (UK Trade & Investment, Great Britain’s leading government agency promoting trade and investment in UK based businesses) sponsored a series of roadshows in ten UK cities designed to help British bands, labels, agencies, filmmakers and digital companies apply for and attend industry showcase events such as SXSW and MIDEM.
Entitled “Making the Most of International Music, Interactive & Screen Events,” various UKTI and related staff, including Phil Patterson (UKTI Sector Specialist, Music), Philippa McEvoy (UKTI Large Events| Technology, Innovation and Events Directorate |Trade Development Group), Leah Mayo (Vice Consul, ICT & Creative Media, British Consulate-Houston TX), Emma Hill (International Trade Adviser, UKTI London International Trade Team), Una Johnston (UK & Ireland Mgr, SXSW), Javier Lopez (Director UK Sales, Music Division) and British Underground (the UK’s leading international showcasing agency for emerging musicians) were on hand to advise participants about the logistics of a SXSW or MIDEM trip. The panel provided everything from a checklist to help artists and bands evaluate whether they were ready and prepared for that level of exposure, as well as an estimate of travel and related costs, from rock-bottom frugality to midrange.
Said UKTI’s Phil Patterson: “We encourage acts and companies thinking of showcasing artists, to make sure that they have a strategy for anyone looking at SXSW…part of that is always to be prepared, have PR in place, make sure you have made every attempt to get agents/bookers/labels/publishers/music supervisors and anyone else remotely interested in the artist or their music to the showcase. You will probably only get one chance make the most of it!”
Specifically, an artist or band should consider the following criteria to help inform their decision to apply:
Buzz & career growth
Significant social media presence
Original & compelling music
Targeted, creative, up-to-date EPK
Significant live experience
Basic business infrastructure
Clearly defined goals
Promotion for successful showcase
International fan base
This strategy includes looking at trade conference attendance as a way to create a profile, not in the short-term necessarily, but by defining goals for each year as part of an ongoing development plan. At this point, given the size and scope of a conference such as SXSW, attending once is not enough to realise all the benefits, but rather will rather serve initially to establish a presence and lay a foundation that will require nurturing over years, rather than weeks or months.
In addition to showcasing, there are also other opportunities for exposure, from Platinum Connection (“a bespoke B2B service, matching UK companies to US and other international delegates for one-to-one meetings”) to the Accelerator Programme (a pitch event for startups). It’s not just about bands vying for attention either: various British labels/venues/agencies/media also curate branded showcases, including The Lexington, UKTI/Huw Stevens, The Bedford, PPL/NME, Transgressive, Metal Hammer, Agency Group and many more.
If SXSW is a magnet for bands, MIDEM occupied the enviable spot in Europe and beyond as the go-to destination for the music industry, the place to see and be seen. However, the conference’s fortunes have taken a hit over the past few years, as the music Business (small m, big B) considers its return upon investment in these austere times. The cost of MIDEM and its pageantry, designed to create big impressions, isn’t as justifiable now.
Given these trends, MIDEM has made nice with artists and startups, seeking to attract their custom via reduced fees. However, do industry executives want to cohabit with DIY artists? Does making MIDEM more accessible detract from its lure as an exclusive watering hole where VIP’s can gather in one enormous extended backstage all access party?
SXSW has held onto their market position, and even expanded its influence, but it too has changed. Way back in the day, SXSW was a showcase opportunity for unsigned bands to get a deal, but the bands that play there now are already established. While there are no specific numbers quantifying this shift, UKTI’s Phil Patterson said, “Most acts that play there now are at a stage in the career where they have at least a following in their own market, and therefore are probably releasing music either via their own label or yes have a deal in place. This is because the demand for showcase spots is such that the organizers have up to 10,000 applications to play at SXSW every year, thus meaning the completion for places is incredible”.
To remain relevant, SXSW has also embraced film and technology, to the extent that the Interactive segment of its programming actually attracts more participants (24,569) than either music (18,988) or film (16,490).
MIDEM: January 26-29, 2013 Early Bird Registration (through 5 October), €495 www.midem.com/en/attend/