Are you going to Canadian Music Week? What are you doing to get ready for the event?
CMW is one of Canada’s largest and most impactful music industry conferences and festivals. Most of the Canadian music and radio businesses are in attendance; however, it is a big event and it is difficult to get to everyone. Access to the people that you want to meet is very limited. Also, there are so many showcases that is it hard to get people out to see you. That means that you need a plan for success at CMW.
If you are a showcasing artist, consider the following a few weeks out (if you are a label or manager, consider supporting the artist in these areas)
- Create an amazing live show. The showcase needs to be the focal point of your energies. Work on the band’s live show to get the perfect showcase set, timed for the slot that you are given. Do not play over time. Do not simply play every upbeat song or all ballads. Audiences get tired of the same thing. Create a set that this bigger than the room that you are in. If you are playing the Rivoli, then think the Horseshoe. Create moments within your set that will show the audience and the industry that you are a professional band. When I am in the back of the room with industry pros like Ralph James from the Agency Group, I want to see him nodding his head and saying, “now that’s a band!” You have to literally get people to stop schmoozing and listen to your set. That means that you need grab their attention with a very, very compelling show.
- Prepare showcase promo materials. Try and get multiple shows so that there are options for the people who you want to see you. Print up a card or postcard with ALL of your dates, official and unofficial. Get there early and hand them out at the conference and other shows. Make sure that all of the show details are available online.
- Attend the conference. Whether you are showcasing or not it is very important to attend the conference. It is really amazing how few of the showcasing artists attend the conference. It is an incredible opportunity to learn about the business and to meet a lot of people who may be able to help you with your career. Drag your ass out of bed and work the room. Like it or not, you are in the music “business,” which means that your showcase is only a part of your overall job.
- Don’t try to meet everyone. Try and meet some key people who can actually help you move forward. Spend time with them if you can. The business is about relationships, not one-night stands.
- Give advance noticeto the people who you want to meet to attend your showcases. Don’t forget about all of the international delegates and music supervisors for film and television who come to CMW. As far as emails, this means a well-drafted, thoughtful and personalized message to the agent, manager, label, publisher, publicist, radio tracker, radio music director or whomever you want to meet and attend your showcase. Send some follow-up emails, but do not become annoying. If they do not get back to you, do not harass them. Most of the music industry is getting bombarded at all times. Be respectful, but persistent. Do not send attachments, but you can send links to soundcloud or other sites to hear your music. Always include a url to your website.
- Make sure that ALL of your online assets are up to date: website, facebook, twitter, youtube, soundclound, instagram, blogs. Make sure that your website is optimized with search engines, especially google. The first thing that any interested industry does is google your band name. Google yourself and see what comes up. Industry will assume that you are “not ready” if your online assets are not solid.
- Get what you need nicely, without attitude. Showcasing is difficult because there are so many bands and the change-overs are really fast. Getting a proper sound-check is next to impossible. The reality is that it may take the first song for the sound tech to get the mix right, so consider that when building your set list. Check out the venue the night before if you can. Meet the sound tech. Meet the staff. Meet the door guys. Figure out how best to get the sound that you want out of the room. During the set, if there are technical problems try and turn it to your advantage. After the show, thank everyone. Never get pissy or show attitude with anyone. That can come back on you. It is a very small industry and word gets around about “bands with an attitude”. One last note on this: don’t get upset if anyone from the industry leaves early. This does NOT necessarily mean that they were not impressed. It may simply be because they have a conflicting showcase and want to catch the end of that set.
- No matter how many people show up, play the show of your life – every night. I was at the Commodore Ballroom during New Music West when Sloan played for maybe a dozen people at their showcase. It turned out that most of those people were A&R from major labels and the band got signed after that show. Sloan rocked that empty room like it was Rogers Arena. You never know who is in the room. Always play your heart out. The reason why bands like “Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer” showcase so well is that they bleed every show – they never, ever leave anything on the table. That means starting strong and maintaining the authority on stage for your entire set.
Good managers and labels will help their artists maximize the impact that their artists have at CMW and other showcases by working the room while their artists are playing. If you do not have formal representation as an artist, you may want to consider bringing or finding a business representative for your band (not a mother, father or uncle – seriously) to attend CMW. If not, then someone from the band should get to the back of the showcase club (where most the industry hang out) and schmooze with anyone who is left in the room (keeping in mind that many industry bounce from club to club). Be friendly and open. Do not sell. Just get to know the industry person as a human being. Music is a social business and the artists in today’s DIY world who embrace that will get further ahead.
If you are not a showcasing artist, then consider attending CMW anyway. It is a great place to learn and meet industry. It is worth the investment in your career to build your contact list early on. Bring your guitar, you never know!
Bob D’Eith is an author, musician, entertainment lawyer and executive director of Music BC. His book “A Career in Music: the other 12 step program” is available at www.bobdeith.com.