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Ariel Hyatt's 2012 Guide to SXSW



Having attended every SXSW for the last 16 years, and being an active member of the SXSW Accelerator advisory board, I’ve seen it all. The following are some tips on how to successfully navigate your way through the most overwhelming music conference of them all.

Envision What You Want Before You Arrive

My first bit of advice: Arrive prepared. Know who will be attending and create some goals before you get there.

Attend at Least One Music Conference Each Year

I believe all serious musicians should make it part of their job to attend at least one conference a year.  They can be expensive to get to, but think about it this way: music lessons and equipment were at one time expensive, and those things are also vital for your career. Conferences are the best place to meet people who work in and around the music industry, and conferences are a relaxed environment to connect with people in the industry who can change the course of your career.

Austin, Texas is a wonderful city, and its distractions are many. Keep in mind that this is not a vacation. It’s a work-related learning experience. With a little planning and foresight, you can have a million-dollar conference.

Before You Go, Get Connected!

SXSW Social Media:




Get registered to the South by Southwest Directory

Go through the site, which is VERY user friendly, and add links to your Twitter and Facebook seamlessly to determine whom you may want to meet before you arrive. Drop them a personal e-mail using their interface.

Bring Business Cards & Postcards

Yes, you should have a business card, and your card should not just have your name and number.  It should have good information about what you or your band sounds like (your pitch), your Twitter handle, Facebook URLS, and links to any other places people might be able to find you online.
Facebook Cards by
A photo of you or a band logo would also be highly recommended.
MooCards makes excellent business cards that are highly customizable, very inexpensive, and look great! My whole team used the Facebook Cards MooCards which pulls your information from Facebook and uses the image you have in your Timeline banner as the background for the card.

Don’t Haul A Ton Of CDs

I do not recommend bringing a lot of CDs. People are overwhelmed with free CDs, and they won’t want to carry them home. It’s better to get people’s business cards and mail them a CD, or (better yet!) send your music digitally through Bandcamp or Soundcloud as a follow-up after you get home.

Talk To Strangers

Don’t be scared to take risks and meet people. Conferences are friendly places. Just walk right up and ask “So, what brings you here?” You’ll have a new BFF in no time.

Attend Panels – You Will Learn Something

It’s tempting to blow the panels off and hit all of the free day parties, but I encourage you to make an effort to sit in on at least one or two panels per day. Choose any topic that interests you and take notes.

Get Mentored!

Most conferences have amazing mentoring sessions where you can sign up to have one-on-one face time with the industry peeps. Some of the most important people in the music business will be sitting there ready to meet with you. When you do go to a one-on-one mentoring panel, be prepared to meet these people. Make sure that you have done your research and have specific questions to ask them.

Follow Up!

The moment you get home, make sure to send thank you notes or e-mails. Follow up with every single person that you met. If appropriate, add them to your e-mail list. Never send your pitch or talk about business in the initial e-mail. Get people to respond to your follow up by just being friendly. If you do not follow up, your trip and hard work will have been a waste of your time. So, don’t rip yourself off here!

Reader Comments (1)

Great advice. It's interesting to read a good business oriented piece directed at musicians. A lot of the first portion of SXSW is about startups trying to get austin venture capital or connect with business partners or launch something or nother. In short, it's about making money :) The music part of SXSW is a great time to just kick back and have fun and a lot of people think of it that way but you are right, it is a conference and it's a great opportunity to be music business savvy, not just music savvy.

March 31 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn

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