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“Music is spiritual. The music business is not. - Van Morrison

It’s almost that time again - that time of year when every band and singer worth their salt makes that annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Austin) for the week-long SXSW festival. A week of no sleep, watered-down drinks, bad food, unrewarding performances and the heartbreak of the ultimate realization that it wasn’t really worth it. Never have so many spent so much time and money for so little notoriety and reward.

But wait! I bring news and hope for all who just can’t take it anymore. Even though you know that you’re really not missing out on anything, you were at least hoping to network and snare some sort of deal. After all, this could be the year! This could be our big break! This could be our time! Or not.

But you CAN still get the promised SXSW payoff. It’s really quite simple. Just follow these six steps:

1) Two weeks before SXSW is set to begin, announce to all your friends and post to all your fans that you’ll be playing multiple cool, hip private parties every night at SXSW. Let them know that most of the parties haven’t been announced yet and you can only get in by special invitation but that you’re going to work on getting a guest list for your friends and fans.

2) One week before SXSW remind them of your trip but that you don’t know where you’ll be staying yet because everything is booked up, but that you’ll try to keep in touch with them on FB or Twitter but to not expect you to be able to answer calls, emails or texts, because everybody knows that since all 20,000 people (maybe it’s 200,000, I don’t know) will be sucking up all the bandwidth in town, it’s going to be hard to get messages back and forth. So tell them to just keep checking the SXSW website, or some such silliness.

3) Three days before SXSW announce you’re leaving for Austin and hoping to take advantage of some pickup gigs along the way, hard to say where or when.

4) Then you pack up your gear and head out of town to some really nice vacation spot at the beach, or the mountains, or the lake, or somewhere no one knows you. Check into a motel and shut off your phone and your laptop/tablet. Relax. Read. Write a new song or two. Catch up on your sleep.

5) The day after SXSW is over, turn on your phone again and let everyone know you’re headed home after a very successful trip to Austin. You played to full houses, got drunk with all your idols and made a lot of contacts with some very important people. You even wrote some songs in the van.

6) Once you get home, send emails or call every important person that you know was there and tell them it was so cool to meet them and how much you appreciated the nice things they said about your music and you’re following up on their offer to get together for some lunch to discuss how you guys might work together in the future and that this time, you’ll buy!

Whoever gets your message will have little to no memory of SXSW anyway because it’s really just an excuse for the industry dweebs to get away from their miserable existences and drink and get high for a week. And since there are over 2,000 performances (I really don’t know how many; maybe it’s 20,000), there’s no way in hell that they can say that they never met you there. They may be a little embarrassed and apologize but you sure assure them that you meant everything you said and that you’re a person of your word and your word is your bond, or whatever to make sure that they meet with you anyway.

Unless they, too, have read this post and never went at all. But then, they couldn’t admit that, could they?

BTW – this same routine works pretty well for CMJ, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and all the rest. Have fun.

“I think the rock ‘n’ roll myth of living on the edge is a pile of crap.” - Robert Smith

After playing keyboards in bar bands in Ohio, Larry Butler moved to Los Angeles to work as tour manager for such artists as Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Isaac Hayes. Those efforts led to 20+ years at Warner Bros. Records as VP Artist Relations, winning a couple of PollStar Artist Development Executive awards. More recently Larry joined Bill Silva Management as General Manager where he also ran Jason Mraz’s publishing and served as day-to-day manager for Robert Francis.

Larry currently is a partner in The Artist Cooperative (, an independent label services company, and heads up his own Did It Music ( management and publishing consulting. Larry is a licensed California Talent Agent, as well as a published author, songwriter and music publisher.

February 28 | Registered CommenterLarry Butler


Reader Comments (2)

Certainly an option worth considering. Thank you for the piece.

March 6 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

The first few line holded me for a while. I so agree with that : 'unrewarded performances' :(
But honestly, SXSW has a lot to offer you. May be its a long time approach!
BTW, thanks for sharing this article. Good Read (Y)

March 7 | Unregistered CommenterAllen

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