Career Connection: Work a Conference Like a Future Rockstar


An expert panelist on this year’s “Power Networking” panel at the SXSW Music Conference, Allison Shaw has had years of hands-on experiences dealing with major music-industry events. Meanwhile, indie rapper Kosha Dillz is a busy performer who knows how artists can get the most mileage out of a festival or conference. Both are generous with their hard-won advice:

I have now been to about 500 conferences and usually speak at around 40 a year globally. I used to produce my own conference/festival for years. I also consider myself like an indie band on tour in that I still need to work the room and meet people that can help my growth in the industry I live and love in. So here’s some advice:

Come to the panels. I see so many bands that just show up and play their gig and party and never go to the panels. I am apt to go to the shows of people that come to the panels, plug the band, get mentored, and are there to further themselves.

Come to the networking parties. Dewey Beach Music Festival has a great mixer where both the artists and industry go and meeting someone and a handshake can go so far. I have seen many artists get deals this way—you can’t beat that personal connection.

Give your music out for free to industry. I have actually seen bands at conferences try to sell their music to industry, saying it was too expensive to print up. That is the fastest way to lose respect. Industry gets so much free music and if you want them to help you, don’t charge them to listen to your music.

Go see other bands. Support the other bands who are playing. I’ve seen so many bands become friends at a festival, then one of the bigger bands makes it and takes the other band on tour.

Be professional. I’ve seen bands play in front of big wigs at a conference, completely drunk on stage, and then leave right after the show. First off, it’s not cool for any band of any size to be drunk on stage, it’s not fair to the patrons that showed up to see you. Stay after the show, sell merch and talk to people. Have an email list to sign people up.

Always be respectful. You never know who you are talking to. While in an elevator at a conference/festival a man in a sweatsuit was trying to get himself and his luggage into a relativity packed elevator. Some of us were trying to make room, but a band in the elevator wouldn’t budge, telling the man to get off and catch the next elevator. They figured he was just some Joe Schmo. They could have made room and the man could have gotten on, but they wouldn’t bother. Turns out the man owns the label the band desperately wanted to sign to. When you are at a conference, treat everyone with respect, because you never know who you'll run into.

ALLISON (Allie) SHAW is a utility worker in the music industry, from managing, to brand strategist, to music supervisor, to creating and producing large events, to owning an International Music Magazine and speaking on over 40 panels a year globally. Shaw is currently the Director Of Live Strategy for incroud, a new music technology platform launching in June. Check out twitter.com/manicmonkee.

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