Cosmic Debris Issue 26 - FEBRUARY 96 edited version
Copyright by MONTE NORDSTROM
Greetings musos & afficiandos! Well artists, if you didn't get your Music West 96 showcase
application in by Jan. 15, you have a year to prepare for '97. Even if you missed the cutoff
I strongly advise all musicians, especially writers & managers to attend MW96 as a delegate.
The event takes place May 2-5 in Vancouver. Ask to get on their mailing list by sending a post
card with your contact info to: Music West #306-21 Water St. Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1A1.
Networking opportunities are there for the making & the conference offers a staggering array of
features to artists. The curious layman can benefit from the experience too. It will help you
understand how the business works.
For the uninformed I will elaborate. MW96-Vancouver, NXNE-Toronto, SXSW-Austin,
NXNW- Portland & the New Music Seminar-New York are music business conventions. They generally run
for 3 to 5 days & combine a music festival, business seminar & trade show. The music festival
showcases 200 to 400 acts in a variety of venues. The seminars feature a variety of panel discussions
regarding aspects of the business. Record execs, managers, agents, publishers, producers & artists etc.
are paid to expound on the vagaries of the biz. The trade show is an exposition with manufacturers & service
providers presenting their wares. You can attend a portion of the proceedings or go for the full
Note! If you are ready for adventure right now, the showcase deadline
or North By Northeast in Toronto is
February 1. (Fax: 1-416-469-0576 for a showcase application)
If you aren't ready to apply for a showcase at either MW96 or NXNE96, despair not my Westcoast wunderkind! There is another conference with muchos lead time & it's not too far away to consider getting to. The NXNW conference in Portland, Oregon will take place Oct. 17-19. The deadline for an artist showcase will probably be in April or May so there's time to put your best foot forward. Request to be put on the NXNW mail list by Fax: SXSW @ 512-451-0754 or write NXNW c/o SXSW, Box 4999, Austin, Tx. USA 78765
Here are some guide lines for an acceptable package for any of these events. First of all you will need to have a well recorded representation of your material. Remember that the festivals feature "live" music so don't overproduce. A good quality "Off-the-Floor" tape or even a hot live recording of your act will suffice. Obviously having a quality Cd release as a part of your
package is impressive & indicates the level of your act's professionalism. Choose no more than 3 of your best tunes (& indicate which one's they are if you send a Cd). Get other people's opinions of your material because as the writer you may not be objective to what's your best.
Also be aware that the industry is fickle & faddish. They may not be interested in your opus or recognize your genius. They're swamped with thousands of tapes from other bands who may be current in their appeal. So keep it straight & to the the point.
Videos may not be accepted. Do your research so you don't waste money. An 8x10 promo picture, a short bio, & a few press clippings will complete the package. Also compile a brief description of your style for the festival guide.
Avoid hyperbole. Just the facts, ma'am. This is referred to as the KISS factor. Keep It Simple, Stupid! (or is that Keep It Stupid, Simple?) Fill out the form & get it delivered early. Include the processing fee! & Don't pester the organizers by phoning. You will be contacted in due course. In the mean time apply yourself to your craft & research the mechanics of the upcoming event. Reserve your accommodations early as rooms get booked up quickly.
If you don't get a showcase don't be discouraged. Realistically, getting a spot will not guarantee you diddly. (Or maybe it will guarantee you diddly). Picture this. On any night
of the festival there are upwards of 50 acts playing in 20 or more venues. Chances of a honcho seeing you is fairly low. Your profile can be improved by adding a promotional insert to the
delegate "Goody Bag" or by advertising in the "Festival Guide" or the delegate "Big Book". This will involve a substantial fee & lead off time so get it together in advance & keep aware of the
calendar. Even if you don't showcase you can advertise your act/product in the Big Book & be listed as a delegate. Big Book ads have a shelf life because delegates tend to keep them as a
reference. Use professional art & design to maximize impact of your act/product advertisement.
Another angle is to rent a booth in the trade show which is costly but the walk-by traffic is intense & a well presented display of your product can be effective. Once again your
exposure can be enhanced by advertising in the big book. Remember this is a business & you have to spend money to make money. You must be creative, flexible & willing to invest time into your project. Also, don't get your hopes up too high because there is a downside & the post-partum blues can be crushing!
These events are primarily rock oriented & the rock business is youth oriented (& the Orient is being rocked by youth). The competition is fierce with everybody trying to be the next big
thing. The record people are aloof & jaded from years in a dog-eat-dog racket. They disappear most effectively when an artist approaches with product in hand. There are always acts that are
touted & they tend to get the attention you so richly deserve. Accept this. If you think that you will sell a lot of product, you will be disappointed. People are looking for freebies & the
most effective promo is a business card & a handshake with someone that you can look right in the eye. The executives you may meet are travelling & not usually interested in carrying a
suitcase full of Cds & tapes back to the office & if they do take your product, you will be only one of a number. If you can get their card & confirm that they will accept your mailed package, they will eventually give it their attention. It's such a long shot that you really have to be tenacious & not a little lucky. Still interested?
The main information that you will learn is D.I.Y. (Do it yourself). This is good advice & by effectively collecting information from businesses at the tradeshow including D.I.Y
publications & by taking notes at seminars you will be educated. Don't assume that you know it all, you don't. Also the resource material you collect such as the Pacific Music Industry
Association's directory & the big book will give you all the contact information you will need to keep busy for the next year. PMIA is an excellent organisation to join if you are serious
about the biz here in the North West.
If you are a singer songwriter or a band, gig as much as possible, promote your original music & attempt to define your genre for the public & the media. People have a need to categorize so you would do well to know your niche & target an appropriate audience. Get coverage in the media & learn the business of Hype. Exploitation is the operative term & if you
think that that is a dirty word you are in the wrong game.
Finally if you are a songwriter & you want to find out what your songs generate in the ear of industry professionals there are the Demo Critique sessions. As a delegate you can sign up to
have your musical gem inspected. You are ushered into a small room with 10-20 people & a stereo sound system. There you will wait your turn to have your song picked apart. It is a humbling experience but educational. These sessions can bring you face to face with A&R executives & if you can take the stress of criticism your ditty may make an impression. Be prepared to have your song turned off after a minute or two & to have the song dismantled by forum. You may wish to have someone else represent your material. Good luck, keep an open mind, bring a notebook & antacids.
An effective demo will be in tune & to the point. Not over-produced. It will feature a good vocalist. (Not always the writer!) A well crafted song can be your lotto ticket & you can sign up for several Critique sessions. Once again, get other people's opinions of your material prior to D-Day & don't be afraid to re-write or re-arrange. A well produced Porta-studio demo is fine. Keep in mind a good song needs only a simple arrangement. Now get to work & I'll see you at Music West in May. -P.S. Tell 'em Monte sent you!
Next month's installment: The art & craft of songwriting & demo production.
Note: Author, Monte Nordstrom has recorded 8 albums to
date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at:
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