Showcases are super important for indie artists. In fact, bands big and small showcase all the time – pretty much everyone has someone they want to impress!
Organizing a great showcase is a bit of an art form. Some bands/managers know how to set up a showcase just so, and they can really make an impact.
One of my favorite examples are some friends of mine in The Dead South who were playing SXSW. They wanted to get 10 to 15 key industry people out to their show, but it was pretty hard to convince them to come to a scheduled showcase.
Instead, they put on a free, invite-only whiskey tasting in their hotel room – and it worked. Everyone showed up, brought friends, had some free booze (always a good way to please), and the band played a set right there in the room.
To me, this has all the elements of a great showcase: lots of opportunities to network, very memorable, great vibe and a captive audience. If you’re setting up your own showcase, here’s how you should go about it.
Consider Your Goal
What are you trying to accomplish by putting on a showcase? You’re probably trying to get some industry attention and play for some key people. Or maybe you’re specifically pitching your album to labels. Or shooting for some high profile festivals. Either way, you’re going to need to plan your your showcase accordingly.
For example, if you were playing primarily for festival buyers, I would create as much of a show vibe as possible – playing a real set, probably with lights and decent sound and some production (did someone say smoke machine?).
Whereas if you are shopping around a record, I would keep the event very personal. Showcase some songs from the record, but also do a lot of meeting and greeting, and show off the actual masters from the album.
Pick A Theme For Your Showcase
Steal the whiskey tasting idea! Or think up a great idea of your own. Whiskey worked well for The Dead South because they’re a rockin’ old-time Americana/bluegrass band with a rock n’ roll image.
Try to pick something that showcases some unique aspect of your act; maybe a craft beer tasting, a unique food tasting that ties in with the theme of your band, etc. It can also be simple; at a talent buyer’s showcase, my band brought a bunch of “fun-size” candy to our booth, and we were swamped!
If you’re teaming up with another band, try to have the other band fit the theme as well – e.g. How The West Was Won (for a bunch of West Coast acts). The closer you can stick to your theme and the more inventive you are, the more attention you will get.
Send Out The Invites To The Show
I wrote a whole article on who to target at music conferences and how to invite them. It’s definitely the most crucial piece of the puzzle.
I suggest an e-vite with all the information for broader invites. Personal phone calls, emails, and emails from friends in the industry are always best.
Some would say to be careful when you’re sending out invites, as you wouldn’t want to offend someone by having a competing member of the industry there, but I say nay. That is not your concern. Cast a wide net, the more industry at your showcase the better.
Hosting The Event
The key to hosting a and having musicians playing a great event is to make people feel comfortable and to have a great vibe in the room. Make sure there’s music playing in the background, food and drink to loosen up the atmosphere, and make an effort to greet everyone at some point in the event.
Try to have everyone leave with a piece of you – a CD, press kit, download card, even just a business card.
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