Going to South by Southwest as a band manager can be either an expensive waste of time, or a business investment that ends up paying out handsomely. It all depends how you play it.
Below, artist manager and Seventh Street Media CEO Luke Girgis gives you 13 tips in order to make sure you’re primed for SXSW success.
1. If possible, go to SXSW a year before your band does
It is chaos, the whole city shuts down and transforms into showcases, parties and street performers. You need to go there a year before your band does to properly get the layout of the land, understand the logistical difficulties and what venues are good, bad or awkward. Also, you’ll learn from other acts seeing what makes a good SXSW showcase vs. a bad one.
2. Have a clear objective for the trip
Some questions to ask yourself can include:
– Do I have other international touring opportunities around SXSW to make the trip one part of a bigger picture?
– Can I get multiple showcase opportunities when we get there so we’re not just playing one show?
3. HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE
As a manager, your goal is to make sure you get as many people to your band’s showcase as possible. Yes it’s quality over quantity (you want the right people there) but padding your room out will go a long way. Make sure you get on SXSW social prior to the event and call in all your relationships/favours to ensure your band has people to showcase to.
4. Talk to Sounds Australia before you go
These guys exist in order to assist the Australian music industry access international business opportunities, so hit them up, ask a few questions, and get some expert knowledge about the big trip.
5. Go for the interactive week BEFORE the music weeks starts
Most managers just land at SXSW the week of music. Sure, that’s better than nothing, but what you’ll find is that you’ll end up way too jetlagged and have too much to do in such little time.
Also, the learnings and brand relationships you can gain from the interactive week are almost limitless. Go a week before, acclimatise, learn about marketing, technology and what the brands are doing – and by the time you’ve adjusted and made a bunch of corporate contacts, the music week will start and you’re primed for the party.
6. Buy a SXSW pass; don’t try to scam your way through as band crew
If you don’t buy a pass you won’t be able to get into a lot of valuable things you’ll need to be a part of at SXSW. Also, if you buy a pass you’ll have access to SXSW social, which is an amazing networking tool. Don’t go all the way to Austin without it.
7. Book accommodation very early
Accommodation is the most brutal part of SXSW; it’s bloody expensive. The earlier you book the cheaper it will be for you, but expect it to hurt regardless. Your aim should be to get as close to 6th Street as you can afford. A lot of people end up booking 15-20 minutes out, but if you can afford it, JW Marriott is prime – and where a lot of the industry stay.
8. Don’t be a star fucker
A lot of people brag about how many VIP wrist bands they get at SXSW. We don’t care, free drinks are everywhere, mate.
9. There is no Delta Lounge at Austin Airport, so don’t bother getting to the airport early on your way home
10. Take a lot of business cards
Seriously, take at least 100 with you. Yes, it’s 2017 and business cards are old news, but these conferences are the few times where they’re very convenient. If you bump into someone quickly, passing the card over is a lot more practical than entering numbers and emails manually in your phone there and then.
11. Make sure your band is good enough
Seriously, you need to make sure your band are VERY VERY VERY tight and can entertain regardless if the crowd is big, small, or awkward. They need to be very confident in all environments and nail it every time. If they can’t do that, wait a year before you go.
12. Get to know Phil Tripp
He’s the man when it comes to SXSW and all things Austin. After you register your pass, flick him an email and introduce yourself, see if you can pick his brain (but don’t be pushy) because he’ll open doors for you.
13. Actually contact the people you meet
A lot of people gather a lot of business cards, then get home and forget about it. If you actually email people you’ll be in the minority. Don’t be lazy, be a manager.