SXSW Tips: Slow & Steady Wins the Race

IA has a few additions for your band's SXSX to-do list

SXSW essential
SXSW essential

Wednesday night, I saw Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks at the Mohawk. The band put on an excellent set, and I had a great view thanks to a new extended deck at the venue. It handily expands the capacity and the view is great.

The new deck got me thinking about growth. One of the great things about watching Mohawk evolve is that the club hasn’t rushed into everything all at once. Remodeling has been a gradual process. That’s as it should be, because in life – as in music – the best changes are naturally paced. More bands need to realize that.

With South by Southwest weeks away, it’s hard for bands not to feel the pressure to “break through.” Here are my tips for a more productive and less stressful SXSW, from the band side:

--> Does this column seem premature? It’s really not! You need to be preparing for SXSW now. Seriously. Better game plans now equals a lot less stress and mess-ups day of. Get together with your bandmates right now and make a check list of everything you'll need that week. Everything from gear to Emergen-c.

--> Don’t hand out tons of flyers for your show. Everyone's getting flyers and yours will get lost in the shuffle. Instead, spend your time networking. If someone has genuine interest in your band, give them a flyer, but don’t make it just any flyer. Try a postcard with a beautiful design. Or a business card with your contact info on one side and your show list on the other. These need to be ordered ASAP!

--> Speaking of networking, this is obviously the time to do it, but don’t get too caught up in meeting “important” people. The SXSW myth continues – that you need to meet important record producers. That you’re nobody if you don’t meet A&R reps. Believe it or not, if you invest your time in meeting PR interns or people who work at venues across the country you could end up with a cool little national club tour that gets blogged about. I shouldn’t need to say this, but you can never underestimate interns. Interns are enthusiastic, more than willing to give you the time of day, and have more sway than you think. Best of all, they're the future of this industry.

--> Go to the conference if you have access to it. If you’re an official showcasing artist, you can get into the business part of the conference, the panels. It boggles my mind how many bands skip out on this. Why would you not want to get advice from industry experts? Not only are panels really interesting, but most of the panelists – often total music industry badasses – will stick around afterward to talk. As for the trade show and gear alley, it’s a great place to brush up on cool new companies, network, and get tons of free stuff.

--> Finally, have fun. Do you want to look upon SXSW as the most stressful week of your life, or do you want to remember awesome shows and even a few shenanigans? Yes, you absolutely need to make an effort and work very hard, but if you don’t take a little fun time every day, you’ll burn yourself out. And when you’re not pressuring yourself, you can often find your best moments. I’ve accidentally made many a cool connection during my SXSW “me” time, wandering around the convention center or zoning out in the back of a club.

At the end of the day, everyone has a different strategy, and there’s no one right way to do SXSW. And it’s really not the end of the world if your band doesn’t get the buzz it deserves. Remember, to most people, SXSW is just another week in March. Be realistic, take care of yourself, and if you play a set at Mohawk, don’t forget to admire the club's visual proof of how slow and steady wins the race.

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SXSW Band Tips, South by Southwest 2012, Stephen Malkmus, Mohawk, Emergen-c

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