The past few blogs I have been instructing you on how to book all kinds of gig all by yourself. But I want you to know that there are conferences where the bookers attend for 3 days every year to find the new music for their venues.
There is a difference between a Music Industry and a Booking conference. Conferences like SXSW, ASCAP EXPO, MUSEXPO, NAMM and the TAXI ROAD RALLY are really great events where you can possibility perform, but event bookers do not usually attend. These events are learning events, highlighting music business professionals who host subject panels from ‘how to market yourself, how to produce your video to having one-to-one mentoring sessions with publishers, record people and social media guru’s.’
Booking conferences like NACA, APAP, ARTS NORTHWEST, WESTERN ARTS ALLIANCE, INTER’l FAIRS & EXPOS AND FOLK ALLIANCE are some of the big conferences that centered on booking performers for all kinds of events. What you need to know is that these events some with hearty fees.
Before you decide to attend one of these conferences, let me go over what I think you need to accomplish before you put a lot of money out to attend these events.
Whether you feel your music act would be great at colleges, county fairs, summer concert series, street fairs, festivals or performing arts theaters, my advice is to book a few of those events yourself even before you go for a booking conference. It you have performed at 5 of your chosen venues, this can really convince a booking agent at a conference to book you!
For Example. I worked with a band that booked themselves at about 15 colleges up and down the west coast. When they called other colleges to get booked, just sending them a list of colleges they already performed, was an easy booking. You see, people want to jump on a moving train! If you are playing successfully at other colleges, other wants you too!
SUBMIT TO SHOWCASE
When you submit to showcase at these events, you will be asked how many of the (colleges, festivals…etc) have you already played in the last 2 years. About 6 months before all of these booking conferences, you will be able to submit a current bio, social media sites and a great live video for committee to watch a few minutes of submission. The showcase committee will look over the list of venues you have already performed at and will choose about 25 music acts to perform (or showcase) in front of the bookers at the conference.
Don’t be surprised if you have to pay an annual membership fee and pay for an exhibit booth before you can submit your act for a possible showcase.
Your GREAT live performance video(s) will land you a showcase!
Let’s face it, getting the chance to perform for 10 minutes in front of 70 to 500 venue buyers is the fastest way to pull a bunch of touring venues together for the new year! With a good showcase, you can expect 8 to 30 bookings within a year of your performances at your FULL PRICE!
EXHIBIT HALL BOOTHS
Every conference is going to require you to buy a booth, decorate it, and man the booth so bookers can come in and see what talent you have to offer. A booth is usually an 8’ by 10’ space with 1 skirted table, a curtain for a backdrop and one or two chairs.
It is up to you to decorate your booth. You can go professional with roll up banners, 24” by 30” music posters, showcasing announcements; you can go conservative or go wild and make your booth look like a tiki hut! You want to do an inviting booth that attracts the participants to come into your booth.
You may want to give-a-way something fun for free…get really creative here! But try to connect your merch give-a-ways with your image, song title or band name. People love free stuff! Especially college students…make something fun and people will remember you! We gave Kazoos for our blues band and little shakers for our Brazilian musician….of course, with our logo on it! Someone at the NACA conference joked that we may want to re-name our company ‘the kazoo management company.’ HA!
NETWORKING AT THE CONFERENCE
You need to try and attend as many events as possible! That means lunches, dinners, late night after parties and other people’s showcases. Every time you sit down, you will be able to meet more bookers that may be interested in knowing about the music you have to offer.
There is difference between networking and pushing business in areas you should not! If you are sitting with a bunch of new people at dinner, think of this as an opportunity to ask what is everyone looking for…wait till someone asks what you do before you do a smooth pitch. These social events, allow you to really get to know the bookers personally!
If you have an expertise, you may want to consider giving a workshop or hosting a panel during the conference. Most recently, I hosted a workshop teaching college bookers how to go after sponsors for their special campus events. I had 50 students and advisors in the room. We are not allowed to pitch our artists, but they all got comfortable with me and I had 30 of those bookers come in and talk to me at my booth during the next exhibit hall.
WHAT IT COSTS
For each of these events, you will have to pay for an annual membership and an exhibit booth. Showcase submission cost $75 to $100 and if you land a showcase, your $300-$500 fee goes to pay for all your staging, sound and lights. Also, you will have to pay for a registration fee, sometimes up to $300, for each person working your booth. But this includes some meals and special events.
I suggest you attend conferences closer to your home so you don’t have cover airfare, lodging & meals costs for everyone manning your booth. Remember, you will have to pay for all the things in your booth including promotional posters and give-a-ways too! Bottom line: expect to pay $1500 to $3000 to attend a 3-day conference.
But you need to think of it this way….If I pay $2000 for a conference and we book 5 to 8 concerts at $1500 each that is earning $12,000 for the $2000 investment.
THE PROS AND CONS OF ATTENDING A BOOKING CONFERENCE
First, let’s look at what is the hard part of going to a booking conference.
- If you DO NOT have a killer LIVE video, you will NOT get a showcase!
- You have to put a lot of money out just to submit to showcase.
- Some of these conferences are VERY competitive.
- Some bookings from these conferences are booking more than a year in advance….will you act be still performing 2 years from now?
- Networking for 3 days straight is pretty wearing.
- Sometimes it is hard to connect with the bookers in your area because there are so many participants.
- If you are new to all of this, you may connect with possible bookers but you will really have to do a lot after of conference networking to get a gig.
- At college booking conferences, the students volunteer to book, and they only stay in their positions for a year or two and then you have to network with someone new.
NOW, THE PROS….WHY ATTEND ONE OF THESE BOOKING CONFERENCES?
- These events are the only place you can meet the bookers one-to-one and establish quick relationships.
- If you do get a showcase, you have shown your talent to many bookers at once….that brings gigs quicker.
- You will get FULL PRICE for all the venues you book.
- If you work the exhibit booth and network during the entire conference, you will establish long-standing relationships.
- It does cost a lot to attend and showcase BUT just booking 1 gig, you can get all those costs back!
- Most colleges book events weekdays during the day, so these gigs pay and we still have the opportunity to add other gigs a night to expand our tours.
- Big festivals and county fairs can book you for more that one date!
- Establishing a relationship with a booker you meet at a conference, may develop into booking for many years in a row!
Again, if you want to embark in one if these booking conferences, book a few of these kind of events before you apply so you can show you are good for the market you are entering. These booking conferences are still the only place you can go to meet hundreds of bookers in a 3 day period! Most of your bookings will not happen at the conference but because you did your networking & contacting AFTER the event!
If you want to get more advice before you join a conference, you can always contact us at MusicBizMentors@gmail.com. We will be glad to look at your materials and advise if you are ready to join a conference.
SOME BOOKING CONFERENCES TO CHECK OUT FOR 2022
NACA- National Association of Campus Activities – National & regional events
WAA- Western Arts Alliance
IFAE – International Fairs and Expos
FOLK ALLIANCE – National & Regional conferences
APAP – Association of Performing Arts Professionals