On this blog we often talk about building the audience first and letting the music industry come to you, this will happen as soon as they see you playing large venues, selling thousands of CDs and bringing a crowd. The other way is to play music industry showcase gigs, often at conferences, sometimes in front of a panel of people in the music industry including managers, PR people and A & R people. It can feel a bit like the X Factor. Approval from these people can make a massive difference to your career, but how can you best take advantage of this opportunity? Here are a few ideas:
- Make sure it really is an industry showcase – Many so called music industry showcase gigs are an excuse to get bands in to play for nothing. If there isn’t a guaranteed industry audience then it is not a showcase, be careful and research who is going to be there.
- Have business cards, CDs and information that you can give to the panel – Make sure you have something with all your contact details on. Include an email address, a phone number and your website URL. If you are getting business cards get ones with nothing on the back so people on the panel can write notes on the back. QR codes that link to your website are good on anything. Little details make a difference so make sure anything you have to hand out looks professional.
- Make an effort to talk to the panel – Not just when they are talking to you, shake hands and thank them for the advice. Ask for their business cards and email them later on to stay in touch. If you want people to remember you make an effort to connect with them. Be polite and take any criticism well (avoid getting drunk and telling them what you really think!).
- Be prepared – Every detail makes a difference. Make sure every detail from batteries in your pedals to the perfect setlist is right. You only get one chance to make a first impression, if a panel is seeing twenty bands over the course of a few hours you really need to make an effort to stand out.
- They see you before they hear you – Consider carefully what you wear, make sure you all look like you are in the same band and that your image is consistent with your music. If you look like Slayer but sound like the Kings Of Leon it is going to be hard for people to take you seriously. It should be all about the music but your image does make a big difference.
- Get your fans to come – If possible try and get your fans along, show that there are people who already love your music. Post the dates on Live Unsigned, to your email list and across social media.
- Give them the full show – Even if it’s a private showcase (just you and a panel) still give them the full show. Sometimes it will be a situation where all the bands have to share a back line, play one or two songs then get feedback from the panel. This is a very difficult situation and there can be metal then hip hop then punk all together. You need to get up there and really go for it. Make eye contact and play like it’s the encore in front of 700 people.
- Play your best material – Spend some time really working on your best songs. It’s all about making the most of the tiny amount of time you have so get them so tight you can play them without thinking. Then you can focus on really performing. It may sound cheesy but practice stage moves in advance, think about what you’d like to see when watching a band and remember how bands have performed at the best concerts you have attended.
Making a good impression at a showcase can really help your career. Industry people may not want to sign you to a label or management deal straight away but may want you to stay in touch and send them new material when it is available. If they ask you to do this make sure you continue to send new recordings and information through, these contacts can really pay off in the long term. Signing to a label or management deal may not be the right thing for your band, remaining 100% DIY can also be an option that can potentially be equally rewarding. You don’t have to sign away any of your rights to build an audience and have a successful career in the music industry, there are other options.