By Glenn T. Litwak
Whether you are an aspiring recording artist, music producer, artist manager or music industry executive, music conferences can provide cutting-edge information to guide your career. Much more important, however, are the networking opportunities that a conference can offer. Make just one key contact at a conference and it could mean all the difference to your future.
FIND THE BEST CONFERENCES
The first step for effective networking is to find the best conferences for you to attend. Most music conferences today cover more than one genre of music but may have an emphasis on rock or urban or country, etc. Thoroughly research this aspect before attending.
The geographic location of the conference is another consideration. Local conferences where you do not have to fly or stay in a hotel are obviously more economical. You can do a Google search, for instance, for “music conferences 2012” to locate potential conferences.
By carefully researching, you can find out if it is a new or established conference. Be aware that if it is being held by an unknown entity it may not be well attended. I have seen some conferences cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. Your best bet is to not fully believe all the hype you may find on a conference’s site; try to get first-hand information from others who have attended the conference or who have good things to say about the organiization that’s presenting it.
Be careful about spending a lot of money on a conference that’s far from your home. Sometimes a smaller local conference provides a more relaxed atmosphere and is therefore easier for networking. It is better to go to a smaller or poorly attended conference and meet lots of people than go to a major conference with big sponsors and lots of people where you end up not meeting anyone. Well-established conferences such as South by Southwest, The ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo, and the Billboard conferences offer a lot but are more expensive. Be sure to go on the conference website and check to see how many speakers and panels interest you and are truly pertinent to your career.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
Networking begins well before the conference. In order to maximize your results at the conference, you must carefully prepare by determining who you want to meet there and what panels and parties you want to attend. You should do your due diligence and research the people you want to meet. This entails exploring their background, education and experience. Maybe you can find something you have in common. When you meet the person they may be flattered by how much you know about them.
It is good practice to email the people you would like to meet ahead of time to try and set up a meeting while at the conference. Let people know that you will be there and post it on your social networking sites. Make sure you prepare a detailed schedule of exactly what panels you will be attending and the times. In addition, find out if there is anyone you know who will be at the conference. It will be good to have some company at the conference and you may be able to help one another network.
This sounds simplistic, but make sure you bring the items you will need for the conference. Have plenty of business cards, pens, and any other materials you would like to hand out. If you have a laptop or tablet it is wise to bring it so that you can check the conference website and do research while there. Bring appropriate clothing for the event including both leisure and business attire. Of course, if you are in a band, no one would expect you to wear a suit to the conference. Common sense dictates what to wear.