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News July 25, 2017

SXSW veterans offer their top survival tips for first-timers

SXSW veterans offer their top survival tips for first-timers
Source: SXSW

The annual SXSW Meet ’n’ Greets in Sydney and Melbourne take place next week to see a few music industry veterans share their secrets for success.

If you’re thinking of attending Austin’s annual music, film, and interactive festival, these Meet ’n’ Greets are essential. But if you can’t make it along, we’ve got you covered with these top tips from SXSW veterans.

Glenn Dickie, Export Music Producer, SOUNDS AUSTRALIA

For Artists….

Practice for catastrophe! 

Showcase performances can be a challenge and you have limited time to get your point across so practice for when things go wrong.

Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!

Be the best live performer in town. You can never rehearse too much for this type of event.

Play the hits

This is a showcase performance, not a normal show. Don’t worry about taking people on a ride for these shows just smash them with all you best and most popular songs. It’s a transient showcase festival audience so give them nothing but the hits.

There will be plenty of other shows where you can take your audience on a journey. That said don’t play your “focus track” last. If something does go wrong and you have to cut a song last minute you don’t want it to be your single. If you’re a new act who haven’t released a full body of work then focus on the songs you hope will be singles and/or that are getting traction on the likes of Soundcloud etc.

Don’t waste an opportunity by getting wasted

It can be very easy to fall into the trap of getting a bit loose at these types of events, especially if it’s your first conference or first trip to the US and you’re not use to a good old free pour. You’re investing heavily into your artistic and business future, so be mindful of your health and wellbeing during the week. You want to be playing better than any other act and also be alert and agile in case something goes wrong.

Singers need to be especially mindful of resting their voice, drink loads of water and if you don’t already travel with your own mic make sure you take a can of Glen 20 or some disinfectant wipes because there are A LOT of people using the same mics all week and you do not want to catch someone else sickness. All that said make sure you enjoy it and have a good time because it’s a lot of fun.

For Managers…

Be a manger not a tour manager!

You are there to get the business on behalf of your artist, not to carry gear from show to show. You need to give your artists the responsibility of getting themselves to and from the venue and up on stage. Realistically you should probably only see your act just before the show with a group of people that you want to see the artist.

Set achievable goals

Meetings change at the last minute all the time because getting from one part of town to the other can be very difficult. If you can set two or three key goals of what you want to achieve and who you want to meet then you’re more likely to achieve those goals. It all depends on the individual and how they work but if you try and pack in too much in terms of meetings at SXSW you might walk away disappointed. SXSW also has the ability to create incredible serendipitous moments.

You never know who you might end up standing next to at a show, or sitting next to at a bar or restaurant. You need to be open to talking to anyone and everyone and allow time to go with the flow if you think it’s going to be beneficial.

It’s not all about the artists

Don’t forget that these types of events are as much about your personal growth as it is about find the right team for your act. You may end up parting ways with the act you’re currently working with or start managing a new act so always look after your own interests as much as the artist and be open to meeting everyone.

SXSW is a global conference, not a US conference

SXSW is still the biggest global gathering of the music industry in the world so don’t feel compelled to target the US industry while there. Better use of your time might be to have your US based meetings before or after SXSW and concentrate your time with delegates from Germany or South America as an example. Bring your (potential) global team to the one show so they can all meet and you can all be on the same page for an artists release and see your vision for an artist.

Paul Cashmere, Executive Producer of Noise 11 and 8X SXSW veteran

SXSW is big. Not Splendour in the Grass big, 20 times Splendour in the Grass big and three times longer. Plan before you go. Use the online directory to see who else is going. Work out in advance who you want to meet. Make your connections now. Do not wing it when you get there.

It is exhausting. Stay fit. Do not drink until your day’s work is done. Be prepared to start at 8am and go through until 2am every single day. SXSW delivers the industry to your doorstep. Don’t fuck it up.

Ben Keenan, The Thought Police, Creative Director, Technologist, Writer and 5X SXSW tragic

SXSW is a lottery, If you can get a 50% strike rate of genuinely interesting conversations and content, you are winning. I’ve found, your best bet is to go for the things that sound incredibly niche. If someone has been revolutionising agriculture in Africa using IOT technology, it stands to reason you’ll be hearing from the person who has actually done that. Conversely, avoid anything with a punny title or sounds too general, like “Adventures in UX”, it’s usually someone flogging a product.

Luke Girgis, Seventh Street Media CEO and Founder

If you’re a music person, come to the first Interactive week too. It gives you time to get over jetlag before the music week starts and you get unmatched network and professional development opportunities in the first week that you’ll never get at any other music conference.

Marc Sousley, Promoter, Secret Sounds

SXSW is all consuming and will blow past you if you do not have a plan.

Know what you want to get out of it and start making that happen before you get there. Set meetings. Shortlist events/panels.

It’s hard work to make anything happen once you are on the ground. With that being said, make some time each day to just let things happen and go with the flow. You will meet new and interesting contacts and attend great events. Then at the end of each day write some ideas/new contacts down on paper. After the festival be sure to FOLLOW UP.

Phil Tripp, SXSW Senior Business Development Manager Australia, New Zealand & Hawai’i

1. Get a flu shot about two weeks before you go.

2. Check your passport for six months validity beyond your planned return date.  Check your driver’s license for renewal.  Make sure any visas aren’t going to expire before you come back.

3. Take images of your drivers license, passport, any visas, credit cards and a medical history with prescribed drugs in case you need to replace them.

4.  Print an itinerary with your flights, hotels and contact info and tape it to your inside suitcase or pack in case it gets lost or delayed.

5. Take adequate supplies of prescription drugs for two weeks longer than your intended stay.  The ones I get free here would cost me US$3,800 to fill for a month. And add the doctors’ bill, about $400, to get a US script.

The annual SXSW Meet ’n’ Greets take place at the newly-refurbished Lansdowne Hotel at 5:30 pm Tuesday August 1, and Melbourne’s The Corner Hotel at 5:30 pm Wednesday August 2.They’re free, but you need to RSVP here. Speakers below.


Paul Cashmere—Executive Producer of Noise 11 and 8X SXSW veteran

George Hedon—Founder / Director of Pause Festival Melbourne, Designer, DJ & 3X SXSW veteran

Ben Keenan—The Thought Police, Creative Director, Technologist, Writer and 5X SXSW tragicAnt Celestino—General Manager One Love Music Group and 6x SXSW veteran


Dan White—Director of Technology, Rapid   3X SXSW veteran and panel presenter 2016
Marc Sousley—Promoter, Secret Sounds Touring, previously C3 Presents in Austin SX 10x years in a row veteran

Luke Girgis—CEO Seventh Street Media, Manager and former A&R for Shock Records 2X veteran

Glenn Dickie—Export Music Producer Sounds Australia, former A&R EMI, a whopping 17x SXSW veteran

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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