You've been playing music for a few years, you've formed a band, and together you're starting to get some recognition on the local scene. You're filling small venues, and there's a buzz around you.
Now you need to be surrounded by people who can help you get ahead in your career. You've submitted your application to participate in a professional event that will bring together the entire local music industry. Your proposal has been accepted, and you'll be performing a 20-minutes set for industry people, which is what we call a showcase. In an ideal world, someone would represent you and help you in the process. But since you are just starting out in the business and are still 100% independent, you are moving forward without a management/booking team or a contract with a label.
The event will bring together many key players in the industry, including festival programmers, record label executives, booking agents, etc. Your reputation precedes you, and some of them want to see you in action. Great opportunities are coming your way. Will you be able to seize them?
Everyone will tell you that you obviously need talent, good songs, a lot of hard work... and a little luck to stand out in the music industry.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
So here are 5 ways to properly prepare for a professional showcase.
1 - Find out about the event’s culture
Every year, hundreds of business events bring together professionals from the music industry. These people gather for a few days to network, attend conferences, hold business meetings, discover new talent... and enjoy a couple of free drinks at networking cocktails-parties. As an emerging artist, it can be intimidating to take part in such events.
That's why, before you showcase, I encourage you to research the event you'll be attending by looking for answers to the following questions:
- What is the artistic direction of the event?
- Who are the other artists on the bill?
- Is it open to the public or reserved for professionals only?
- Who will attend the event?
- Should I attend the conferences and workshops?
- Is it a local, national or international event?
- In what type of venue will I be performing?
The answers to all these questions will help you better prepare.
2 - Plan your networking
You have identified some pros you’d like to meet? Find out as much as you can. Visit their organization's website and FB page, try to learn about them and the type of artists they work with. It's always best to know these things ahead of time, so you don't seem too lost. You play Country music? Hip-hop? Metal? Who among the pros registered for the event is working with projects comparable to yours? At these events, time is precious, and it's easy to get sidetracked in all directions. Clearly identifying the people you want to get in touch with makes the process much more efficient.
3 - Work on your elevator pitch
At these events, things often happen very fast, and you need to be able to instantly capture someone’s attention.
Good approach: Precision and conciseness
You must sum up your bio, your musical niche and your career path in two sentences. No kidding. Get the most crucial info in a few words:
- Your name
- The name of the musical project
- Where you are from
- Musical style
- Recently or soon to be released recording
- Recent accomplishments
- Date, venue and time of your showcase.
You give a flyer with basic information and move on to the next person.
Wrong approach: the artistic blur
Avoid at all costs stretching the conversation by not saying anything relevant. Example of what not to say: "We have a band, we make music, it's a really chill vibe. A little hard to describe, we don't want to limit ourselves too much by naming a style. The important thing is creative freedom, you know, but it's excellent, and people get a kick out of it when we play shows. It's never the same because we adapt to the energy of the moment. We let the cosmic forces guide us, and then we do our thing in our own way. You should come to see us. I think you’d like it. »
Your elevator pitch says a lot about your level of preparation, so practice it.
4- Be ready to share good promotional material
Your elevator pitch worked, and the person you spoke to wants more info. Do you have good promotional material? Here are some essential elements that you should be able to share in just a few clicks:
- A well-written bio
- A good show description
- Links to your best video material (music videos and live performances)
- Audio links (album, ep)
- High-resolution press photos
- A well-designed poster for your show
People in the industry like to work with artists who demonstrate a professional attitude while doing business. The quality of your promotional material and your ability to share it efficiently are excellent indicators.
5 - Build a vision for your showcase
Time is relative. A good show will go by so fast, while a lousy performance will seem too long right from the start. All the professionals in the business will tell you that they have seen 20-minute shows that seemed to last an hour, which is why it is vital to be well prepared.
- Start strong. Make sure you get your audience's attention as soon as you get on stage.
- Plan your transitions between songs.
- Have a clearly defined artistic universe.
- Make sure you communicate your band's name (or your own if you have a solo career)
For more tips on preparing a short show, I invite you to read this previous article.
Finally, here is a very incomplete list of professional events dedicated to music and the performing arts in general:
RIDEAU (Quebec City)
Le Phoque OFF (Quebec City)
M pour Montréal (Montreal)
Pop Montréal (Montreal)
Coup de Cœur Francophone (Montreal)
Elsewhere in Canada
Canadian Music Week (Toronto)
Indie Week (Toronto)
Elsewhere in the world:
Folk Alliance (Different city every year)
WOMEX (Different city every year)
The Great Escape (Brighton)