Back to Business: Lessons From SXSW and What You Should be Doing

The month long hangover that accompanies SXSW is now, for the most part, lifted.  After successfully schmoozing, networking, hosting events and eating/drinking our way through Austin, we have now had time to compile our notes, compose our thoughts and share with you what we learned from SXSW.  Rather than try to compete with every other industry expert that attends the event by laying claim to which band will be the next one to break or which new music based tech company finally has the equation to success, we found that what has and can set apart a band from the nearly 2000 other bands in attendance is again quite simple:  talent and the band’s “team”. 

Le’t s assume you have the talent part handled (big assumption, but let’s go with it).  Your focus then should shift to making the most of that talent by creating the best team possible.  

Back in what we like to refer to as the “dinosaur age” bands would look to create a team by signing with a separate label, booking agent,  publicist, manager and label.   They hoped this poo-poo platter would lead to a long successful career.  Sometimes it would and sometimes it would not.  However, here in the modern era, things aren’t so simple.  Label staffs are smaller and budgets are next to nothing; thus commissions and profit margins are smaller.

So, what is one to do?  This question not only affects artists but also everyone working in the music industry.  Publicists are often asked to link a band with another band to trade shows.  Lawyers, managers and labels are asked to do the same.  “Hey, can you ask xxxx band if we can trade shows or if they know someone who can redesign our website or shoot a video or do some graphic design work…” are all questions that come across our email boxes, text screens and phones every day.    “Why yes, we may know someone who can help you with that” is the response we hope to give and the artist hopes to receive.

Roles are crossing over.  In what was once a very defined career (I do publicity only, I only book shows, I only know how to review and negotiate contracts, etc) has all been jumbled together.  Artists as well as the music industry professionals have all had to review and revise the way things are done.  Many who started in the “dinosaur age” have yet to grasp this concept and are learning an ugly truth–extinction sucks. 

So what do artists need?  It seems that terms “multitasking” and “Where’s the beef” have made a comeback.  Artists need everyone to step up and help in areas not before contemplated.  It makes sense after you ponder on it for more than a moment.  We all have lots of connections and access to creative and hard working people and companies.  A publicist knows the best magazines and websites but also may know the best booking agent in town or even the best sound engineer.  A lawyer who drafts agreements with and for labels will know the decision makers at a label, the best distributors and the key producers to employ to get a band to where it needs to be.   Back in the “dark ages” people held their contacts close to the left pocket;  but, it benefits everyone if we would open up.  Some of us are and some aren’t.  

To us it is a no brainer that what is good for the band/client is good for us.  If we are able to get a band distributed through one of our connections or have one of their songs licensed, why wouldn’t we help out?  It means more work (and therefore more money) to us as well.   We are continuously baffled when we run into a dinosaur that, when pressed for a referral or even advice, retorts with “We don’t do that” or “I’ve never thought of connecting the band with my best friend at WILLIAM MORRIS”!

The point is, as an artist with talent, you need a team that truly opens its doors to you.  As important as it is to hire experts that can handle each need of a band, the lines are so blurred at this point that your team must consist of utility players that can handle more than one task.  There just isn’t enough money to go around anymore to pay 20 experts what you can pay 1 expert multi-tasker. 

A tight community with everyone working together, and the best getting referred the most often.   So, who could be against such a thing?  No comment.  But, we here at L4M have been doing more and more of this and no one could be happier.  Nothing excites us more than new and fruitful relationships.  There are many examples we could share but choose not to out of privacy and anonymity.  The future is now…find the right team.


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