The Indie Maximum 100 Goes To Texas ...Industry Experts & Musicians Dish Out Their Best SXSW Tips - Part 2: While You Are There
March 13, 2010
Ariel Hyatt in Advice from the Experts, Developing a Strategy, SXSW

Now that you know what to do to prepare before you get on the road, you need to know what to do while you’re there! Here’s what the indie Maximum 100 experts have to say:


Go With The Flow
Don’t bother jotting down the bands you want to see because chances are, you will not make it to most of them. You’ll be on your way to see the band you “must see,” and you will absolutely run into someone you know on the street, then one thing leads to another, and you missed the show.
- Lou Plaia

Stay Portable
Unless your artist image is “musical Sherpa,” then you don’t want to be tied down to a huge backpack or bag full of crap. You’d be better off having a second-run CD batch made in thin, lightweight packaging OR have some download cards made. Nothing sucks more than hauling 40 pounds of round plastic with you. If it’s too late to make your CD’s in flat packaging (cardboard sleeves, paper envelopes, Tyvek, etc.), don’t lug around a bunch of jewel cases. You’ll be better off in the long run if you can just pick up and move to the next party, function, session, etc.
- Matthew Ebel

Make Free Time
Scheduling meetings is great, but you never know who you are going to run into on sixth street, so leave some holes in your schedule. Some of my best meetings at SXSW have been by chance.
- Rick Goetz

Try Not To Judge A Man By His Business Card
The music business is like that board game perfection. Every few months all the pieces pop up and people land in different positions and in different companies. Do your best to meet people of quality rather than just the people you think have something you need. You never know where people end up and having been nowhere important and somewhere important several different times in my career – trust me when I say I appreciate the people who gave me the time a day when I didn’t have a flashy business card or a lot going on.
- Rick Goetz

Leave the main drag and go golfing, or go to a great restaurant on the outskirts of town with a smaller group. These little adventures are great bonding experiences and will keep you fresh for the onslaught of frenzied social activity.
- Rick Goetz

SXSW has a showcase in every nook and cranny of the city. There are concerts in parking lots and pita shops, not to mention Austin’s unique natural attractions. Take some time to get a map and just walk.This is how I found out about the bats that fly from underCongress Bridgeevery evening at dusk.Creepy and incredible to behold.We met a filmmaker at the site as we all crept out from the bats and laughed. He has my card.Films need music and he’ll remember meeting my band at the bat bridge.
- Derek Nicoletto

If You Are An Industry Professional – Go To Panels
If you are an industry professional (not an artist), go to a few panels because you will probably pick up something you didn’t already know. Also, you have a great opportunity to meet with people who know more than you do in their field. If you think you know everything, stay home because nobody wants to hang out with people who think they know it all.  If you are not interested in learning more, or meeting new people in the industry, you are one step closer to failure in this new music business.
- Lou Plaia

If You Are An Artist – Go To Panels
If you are an artist, get your butt to the panels. It blows my mind that only a small percentage of artists show up for panels. You will learn a lot. You will meet a lot of artists that you may be able to work or gig with. Where else can you get the chance to meet people face to face who may be able to help your career?
- Lou Plaia

Panels are great way to learn the latest that is happening in the music business, by actually attending all the panels and taking notes. I like to study the panels ahead of time to determinewhich ones while be the best use of my time. I look at the panelist bios and try to attend panels where I know the speakers so I can say hello before or after the event. Before is always better, as the panelists get mobbed.
- Jennie Walker

Think Of How You Can Help Them
For each person you meet: how can you help them?
Turn to a stranger and say, “Hi. What do you do?”

If you don’t know yet, keep asking questions. (Sometimes the way to help someone is not what you’d expect! If they are painfully shy, maybe the best way you can help them is by introducing them to the next person you meet, or inviting them to dinner. If they are painfully popular, maybe they need your help to escape the crowd for a little peace and quiet.)
- Derek Sivers

Follow Up While Still There
Each night, before bed, enter everyone’s info into your computer, including your notes.  (Trust me: it only takes 15 minutes, but it’s crucial to do it that night before you meet more people the next day!) Send them one tiny email immediately, connecting the digital you to the physical you.  (“Hi John. Nice to meet you today. I’m the one in red who also hates Björk. You were right about the burritos! I still want to see your Malaysia photos. Maybe see you at the wrap-up party tomorrow.”)  Your email signature should have your full contact info.
- Derek Sivers

Musicians Sometimes Do Know Best…
Wurst Dogs really are the best.
Hotel Lobbys have clean bathrooms
Get off the beaten path, check out the small parties; you may discover something.
Stay Sunday and go to The Continental.
Guerros, hand shaken margarita is a must.
Check out the art at the Yard Dog
Share a cab, always. (Last year I shared a cab at 5 in the morning with Luke Doucett, who I had been trying to see play all weekend.)
Make a pilgrimage to the Salt Lick.
If the line looks oppressively long, check the back door.
If you aren’t on the list, act like you know what you are doing and where you are going and people will usually let you in.
- Jason Walsmith

Shut Up After 3 Sentences.
Notice I said nothing about promoting your gig, your band, your service.  You have to trust the Tao of promotion.  This is about them, not you.  Your promotion will come later. When they do ask about you, have a very (VERY!) short but impressive summary of what you do, with one question-inducing curiosity. (“Songwriter of the Crunchy Frogs – the worst punk bluegrass band ever. We’re headlining the showcase tonight. Our singer milks horses.”)

Then seriously, I can’t emphasize this enough: SHUT UP after 3 sentences. Please. Stop there. Don’t pull out your CD. Don’t hand them a flyer. Wait for them to ask, or change the subject back to them if they don’t!
- Derek Sivers

Don’t Push Them
DO NOT push your crap on someone who isn’t asking for it. It’s the biggest turn-off of all. Because it shows you don’t understand the real point, which is…

REAL business is done in the follow-up, NOT the conference itself! The conference itself is a mad blitz of distractions. Only use it for these initial connections, as described above.
- Derek Sivers

Introduce Yourself And Join In!
If you overhear people talking about something that interests you (like a new producer the person is working with, or how one person got their song on a TV show), feel free to introduce yourself and join the conversation. It’s a friendly place where everyone is too drained to fight you or too drunk to
care. Make friends, not enemies and do so nicely.
- Lou Plaia

Support The Unsigned Bands.
STP doesn’t need the support. Yes, I will go see them but I won’t be going to every big artist show. Most of my time will be spent witnessing the future and not the past! Our industry works harder and longer than most industries, so I get why SXSW has become such a party for everyone and that’s cool and well deserved. But if we don’t support the new artists, SXSW will start looking like LiveNation’s top artists of 60+ year olds and no youth, which can only lead to its demise.
- Lou Plaia

Go See Other Bands
Instead of focusing solely on the shows you’re doing, be inspired by what music our colleagues are making.If you dig a show, introduce yourself afterwards.I’ve made some great connections this way, and other bands came to see my band’s shows later on in the week.Seeing other people perform is the perfect way to refuel for your own performances.Get caught up in the energy of it all.
- Derek Nicoletto

No One Wants Your Business Card
I’m stealing directly from Derek Sivers on this one, but don’t hand out business cards. Ask for someone else’s card and get in touch with them later. This is half-true for download/coupon cards as well… but if the card screams “free music” you can be a little more proactive about handing them out. Just tell the person “if you decide you don’t want this, please give it to someone else!”
- Matthew Ebel

Meet Less People
I know this one sounds counterintuitive but I have found that when I picked
a smaller group of people to spend time with that those relationships were more long lasting and more likely to bear fruit. Being a business card whore is okay, but I have found cementing a few meaningful relationships more effective than getting a big stack of business cards.
- Rick Goetz

Write On Their Business Cards
Get their business card. Take notes on the back of it as soon as the conversation is done.
- Derek Sivers

Each time I meet a new person at an event like SXSW, I write on the back
of their business card where I met them and any memorable items we spoke
about; I always have a date, place and event to reference for follow up.
- Jennie Walker

Ask How To Follow Up!
I have learned to always give out a business card if asked and not to be offended if I don’t receive one. I like to ask people the best way to follow up with them on topics of interest while I am in their presence. Every person seems to have a preference on follow up.
- Jennie Walker

Yes, They Will Throw It Out
Assume that anything you hand someone at a conference will be thrown out.  So don’t do it, unless they ask. Instead, if you want them to have something of yours, send it to them separately, afterwards.
- Derek Sivers

Push Yourself
Some people say “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. My mantra is to always go full speed ahead and enjoy the most that my mind and body can take. If I crash early on the 4th or 5th night, so be it because I know I saw some old friends, made some new ones, closed a few deals, and had a helluva time doing it.
- Lou Plaia

Pace Yourself
You’re probably thinking I mean booze…yea sure – that too… but really I mean being over saturated with parties and people. Rare is the person who thrives on meeting more than 100 people a day so take your time – it’s okay to miss a few events if you need to process all of the people and information that have come your way.
-  Rick Goetz

By the time Friday afternoon comes around, you will feel like you’ve been there for three years. One way to make it through to Sunday is to not get plastered every dayand night. There’s too much to enjoy, too many people to meet,and too much work to be done.
- Derek Nicoletto

Don’t Sleep
Don’t worry about how little sleep you are getting…you can sleep on Tuesday. (that is the title of my future book)
- Jason Walsmith 

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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