Derek Sivers

Presentations → Successful SxSW: the Tao of the Conference

Length: 5 minutes. Date recorded: 2010-03

Advice for musicians on how to get the most out of the SxSW Music Conference.

In March 2010 I did a talk at the SxSW music conference called “Successful SxSW: The Tao of the Conference.”

It was really just advice for musicians attending the conference, so may not apply to you, but most of what I said is in this article and this free e-book.

SxSW was nice enough to film it and edit it into this 5-minute overview:

But the real highlight were all the submitted videos from some brilliant musicians and music-biz people. Each just 30 seconds to 2 minutes, sharing a quick tale and lesson for people at a music conference. I showed 24 of these on the big screen during my talk, but here are the links to ALL of them. Enjoy!

Big Kenny
Be nice to everyone, make friends. You never know who is going to offer you your first break.
Have fun playing music, enjoy other people’s music, make friends, be nice to everyone; You never know who’s going to offer you your first break. Love everybody!
Ari Koinuma
Visually communicate who you are and what do you have to offer. Big name tag, different as everyone else’s is great way to do it.
Wear a big name tag advertising what you do and inviting people to talk to you. Give people an opportunity/excuse to talk to you.
When you are at conference, don’t be afraid to go out alone. You will meet more people that way and you will get out of your comfort zone.
If you are a band, split up at a conference. Divide and conquer! Go out alone, meet people, go outside your comfort zone, create opportunities.
Maury Rosenberg
When you finish your gig, go around the room and introduce yourself to people, because you will never know who is watching.
Walk around after a gig, introduce yourself to people, you never know who is watching and what opportunities may arise.
LaFamos PR
Before and after the panel circle the room 3 times. If you are in a group, split up. Afterwards go around the room one more time, but altogether. Go home and do follow up.
Circle a room before or after a panel 3-4 times so you will be familiar to people you introduce yourself to. If you’re in a group, split up. Make connections, collect business cards. Circuit room again with your colleagues and introduce them to your new contacts. Recommended reading:Networking Strategies For The New Music Business
Tim Ferriss
Skip what do you do stuff, when approaching someone new. Try to have personal connection. Get them to share their personal stories. Care.
Go up to panel/organisers and introduce yourself. Ask if there is anyone they recommend you should meet. Be self-deprecating. Skip the ’what do you do’ question. Make friends, real connections. Buy people beer!
Jeff Kaye
Always think of helping others.
Think of helping others.
Sven Hansen
People you will meet are your guests, treat them that way.
Treat the people you meet as your guest.
Duane Levi
Distinguish talkers from genuine people. It saves you time and it separates fake from real.
Separate those who like to talk from those who are genuine.
Larry Weintraub
Learn, take the best of the best, watch what others around you do, that will make you better in what you do.
Learn, watch, study, ask.
Jody Whitesides
Be open to suggestions, that is the best way to make relationships and way to improve your material.
Be open to suggestions. Be prepared to change.
Show up, go to as many panels, sessions, shows as you can. Have fun.
Show up! Have fun.
Randall Williams
Find your niche - the thing that you do, that nobody else does. Do it really well.
Find your niche, do it really well then leverage everything you can to help other people with it. They will help you in return.
Richard Danjolell
Smile for the cameras ;-)
Smile for the cameras! You don’t know what opportunities might arise from the photos!
Tom Salta
Follow up!
Follow-up on the contacts you make.
Wendy Parr
Ask people questions and learn. Follow up.
Talk very briefly about yourself. Meet people, ask questions, learn. Follow-up with the key things that people will remember from your introduction.
Greg Rollett
Be personal, do due diligence and connect.
Get personal, do your research, find out about the people on the panels in advance of meeting them.
Craig Crawford
A personal nice letter as follow up can do miracles.
A lot of good things have come out of conferences. Handwritten letters are a good way to follow-up.
Jim Bianco
Say YES to everything, give you opportunity to promote yourself.
Make the most of every opportunity to promote yourself. Say yes to everything.
Jim Powers
Don’t get down on yourself. Expect troubles, stick with your music and you will do just fine.
Bad things happen, roll with it. Even if there is hardly anyone in the audience, you never know who is in that audience.
Panos Panay
Make the most out of dance. Conference is just a ticket for dancing. Have the courage to make people dance with you.
You have to take action to make things happen.
Lou Paniccia
Document everything, film everything. Get home and make an original video of your experience.
Video everything, not just your performance/showcase. Put it to good use when you get back.
Alyse Black
Think long-term. Think, how you can build mutually beneficial long term relationships.
Think: How can we build a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
Joe Laviolette
Give away your music to people who have asked for it.
Be selective about who you give your CDs to.
Meg Okura
Keep promises, be flexible and spontaneous. Over-prepare and go with a flow, be ready for anything.
Be professional and well prepared (over-prepare) but be ready for anything (to go wrong) and go with the flow.
Interact with everybody.
Every encounter may lead to an opportunity.
Marina V
Wearing interesting and original outfits, might get people come up to you.
Wear clothes that people might comment on - good icebreakers.
Trevor Roark
If someone goes wrong during your showcase, perform like nothing has happened.
If something goes wrong during your showcase just continue as if nothing happend.
Tina Shafer
Connect. Listen. Follow up.
Connect, listen, follow-up.
Thaddeus Rex
Ask questions, start dialogues.
Ask questions at panels, it introduces you to everybody there.
Suz Doyle
Handmade personalized chocolate bars with name and brand on it is a great way to connect with people.
Create and giveaway unique and remarkable merchandise that people will come to you looking for.
Ron Irizarry
Personal level connections after showcase works so well.
In the exhibit hall after showcase, be personable, get to know people. Opportunities will follow.
Greg Spero
Give, give, give. Be generous.
Give, give and give some more.
Robin Bennet
Play at as many places as you can. Be grateful for that.
Play as many times as you can, you never know who is watching you.
Robert Van Horne
Always be prepared to have with you something what represents you and only give it to people who request it. Always thank those people who have inspired you.
Only give your CD to the people that ask for it. Thank people that have inspired you.
Jessica Paige
If you really admire someone, let them know.
If you admire someone, let them know.
J Sider
People around know a lot. Ask and get advices from them.
Ask and discuss when given the opportunity for advice. Speak to lots of people.
Jennifer Vazquez
It is all about follow up.
Pay for quality one-on-one meetings with experts, Google them in advance. Follow-up.
Paul Cullen
Spend all the money you have on finding your niche.
Find your own niche, set yourself apart from everyone else. Cross promote with product.
Nikc Miller
Document on video people who you will meet. Post it on Facebook with tagging those people in it. This gets you new friends and fans.
Video people you meet, get their full names, friend them up on Facebook (follow-up) and tag them in the video.
Jenn Ashton
Offer help, give your hand. You never know what will come out of that and if it doesn’t at least it feels good.
Offer to help. You never know what could happen.
Ranj Singh
Do not hesitate to talk to people. Just do it.
Do not hesitate to speak to other people.
Mike Lawson
Finding a new product which needs a little work to get ready, can change your life.
You never know who you are going to meet, what opportunities may arise that could change your life.
Mick Flores
Have a CD on you all the time.
Have your CD on you at all times. You never know who you might run in to.
Tori Sparks
How being a passenger on cruise and your connecting with others, can get you unofficial special concert.
Create your own opportunities.
Michael Puskas
Present yourself well, groom yourself well and keep in mind that every single person is perspective lead or potential client.
Present yourself well. Everyone is a potential client. Think the long-game.
Mario Sevayega
The best connections are the other bands, other artist who are sitting next to you in the rock club.
The best connections you are going to make are the other bands you meet.
Lenedra Carroll
Ask. Ask to be listened to. Finding an empty room is enough to be heard.
Approach a panel member after a panel and ask to perform for them right there.
Handmade business cards with name, picture and website on it.
Make personalised business cards with your photo, name and website only. Give them to everyone.
Beth Isbell
Find out where the lawyers are, talk to them, make your career happen.
Find the Lawyers, they’re the ones that make things happen.
Julie Shephard
Speak up in front of crowd and ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to stand up in front of a crowd and ask questions.
Jon Goldmann
Always be nice and helpful, you will never know who you might be sitting next to.
Be nice and helpful, you never know who you might be sitting next to.
Cort Delano
Singing on the yoga class, can get you on the radio.
Think ’outside the box’.
Charles Alexander
Find out what people are looking for first. Then instantly customize and give away USB drive with music they are looking for, it is a cool pitch.
Personalise your pitch. Research who is going to be at the conference that you want to speak to.
Bill Pere
Successful attendees are those who are coming to learn and network. Performers are missing out this essential part of learning and connecting.
Go to learn and network not just perform. This business is driven by relationships.
John Batdorf
Go to conference to learn. Then apply what you have learned to improve your own show.
Go to biggest shows to inspire you and learn then apply what you learn.
Jody Friedman
Find a way to be different. Jody stood out by including piece of chocolate with his CD.
Be different, stand-out.
Jim Vilandre
Always be open to possibilities, sharpen your people skills. Be real and make real friends.
Sharpen your people skills. Develop your craft. Life is not about you, its about caring for others. Make real friends. Be open to possibilities.
Giuliano Baglioni
Laid back approach and talking about other things that work, can actually lead to work
Take the laid back approach. Talk about things other than work. You never know when you will bump in to people again.
John Mazzei
Go out and get your dream assignment by: targeted networking, a killer demo and being ready for success.
Targeted networking, a killer demo. Be ready for success when it comes. You can do it!
David Sherbow
Treat everyone with respect.
Treat everyone with respect, even Drunk Mike.
Elana James
You never know who is in the audience.
You never know who is going to be there, even if they don’t talk to you on the night of you show.
Andrea Nardello
Be social, have fun and things will happen.
Be social, good things will happen.
Adriel Luis
Giving away USB drive instead of CD is: compact, innovative and indispensable.
Give people something compact, innovative and indispensable so they will press play.

Thanks to Ivana Sendecka, Dan Morelle, and Beth Isbell for the one-sentence summaries! Thanks again for your contributions, everyone!