How Artists Can Make The Most Of Their SXSW Experience
As we prepare to fly out to Austin for next week’s CLASH SXSW Showcase, we’re teaming up with PRS Foundation to share a guide for artists looking to make the most out of their trip to Texas.
This year PRS Foundation is supporting over 40 emerging music creators thanks to their International Showcase Fund, with artists including Flohio, Novelist, Oscar Jerome and Squid - all of which will be performing at our showcase at Scratchouse next Wednesday (March 13th).
Last month they hosted UK GO, an orientation workshop for UK delegates, and here are some takeaways for artists to bear in mind as they prepare to take on SXSW!
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Remember that SXSW is about you, your music and performing in front of representatives from the global music industry. Be prepared to play live as much as possible and don’t let anything - low performance fees, lack of green rooms and riders, or your own ego - get in the way of an opportunity. No matter how big you are in the UK, the sobering fact is that you’re more than likely building from the ground up.
SXSW is commonly confused for being a music festival like Coachella or Glastonbury, whereas in reality it’s essentially a business to business music industry conference: you’re there to showcase your product to potential buyers. Be Ambitious Go into SXSW with high expectations.
Una Johnston, the festival’s UK & Ireland Business Development Manager, recommends that you challenge yourself to finding a year’s worth of business while you’re in Austin. Set goals and targets before you leave and stay focussed on meeting them. You’re going to have a lot of fun at SXSW regardless, but don’t allow that to derail you from the reason you’re there. Meet as many people as you can, and be prepared to find opportunities that you weren’t expecting.
You aren’t going to spend a lot of time there, but you will need a base and somewhere to rest your head at night. Ideally you want to be within walking distance of sixth street and the SXSW Convention Centre. Don’t worry about extra amenities, because more time spent around the house means you could be missing out on valuable experiences.
Showcases are your chance to be seen and heard. Don’t expect any luxuries and be prepared to perform with very little notice. Whether there are 10 or 10,000 people in a room, you never know who’s watching at SXSW: if there’s an audience you should be trying to make the best impression that you can.
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When navigating SXSW you need to be reactive and prepared to change direction and travel back across town at the sniff of possibility. This means that it’s important to keep your set-up - and travelling party - as minimal as possible. Don’t travel with people who aren’t essential to reaching your goals at SXSW as they’re only draining resources - even if they are fun to be around - and this isn’t a holiday.
Likewise, you want to keep the equipment as minimal as possible as changeovers at SXSW are rapid! Practice setting up and packing down at home before you travel and try to master doing so in less than ten minutes. Schedules at showcases are tight, and you want to maximise your time on stage for performance rather than spending half of your set getting your equipment on stage.
It’s not everyday that you’re in a city that looks like Austin, Texas, surrounded by thousands of other musicians and creatives. Make sure you’re taking the time to create while you’re out there. Use the locations to shoot press shots, document the experience in a music video or even find studio sessions with other artists that are in town.
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SXSW has so much to offer that it can’t all be printed in the programme you’ll receive when you collect your wristbands and badges. While this is an invaluable resource and a great starting point, events are changed and updated regularly so when it comes to planning your daily activities you need to be prepared to be reactive - the official SXSW app is a great tool for staying on top of what’s going on and allows you to develop your schedule.
We’d recommend having a plan B and C at all times, to allow you to be as productive as possible as you adapt to the ever changing environment (and the traffic that comes with that!).
It’s also important to be aware that Austin has more to offer during SXSW than you’ll find through the festival’s official channels - stay connected to other delegates and gain access to WhatsApp groups to stay aware of unofficial parties and events.
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CLASH’s SXSW 2019 Official Showcase, presented in partnership with Vero True Social, takes place at Scratchouse next Wednesday (March 13th) from 8pm. For more info on that head HERE.
Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Katherine Squier
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