Notes from the recent SXSW/Midem Briefing in London hosted by UK Trade & Investment.
Midem, held Cannes, France at the end of January, is more business oriented. It focuses on the ‘relationship between people and music’, aims to ‘transform audience engagement’ and to provide opportunities to ‘form new business connections’. One of its strengths for bands, in my opinion, is the focus on brands and the opportunities to meet them. To showcase at Midem you need to win a spot or sort out your gigs yourself. And the venues charge you to play.
South By Southwest (SXSW) held in Austin, Texas in mid March has interactive and film themes as well as music – there’s a lot of cross over between these three themes these days creating something pretty unique. If you’re a UK band, SXSW is for you if you have great career potential, are “bursty out of your home market” and wanting to launch your career in the US.
For both SXSW and Midem, the UK Trade & Industry representatives at the Briefing in London stressed the need for a plan of how going to one of these events will develop your act. Even more so if you need funding (and you would need it for SXSW for sure; the US Performance Visa alone costs about £800 for a four-piece act).
The British Music Abroad scheme is funded by Arts Council England, UK Trade & Investment and PRS for Music Foundation. The scheme offers financial support to emerging UK acts that have been selected for key overseas industry facing events which will enable them to develop their international market.
If you are thinking of going to one of these events don’t leave it too late to register - early bird rates expire very soon and to get a musician’s visa for the States you need to apply before Christmas. You also need to put in a serious amount of work outside of doing the gigs. It’s a blast being there but maybe you could spend the money in better ways? Depends on where you are in your career. There are showcase opportunities nearer to home. What could you do locally with that amount of cash?
If you do go, be realistic - there are a lot of gigs going on at the same time so you need to get noticed. One very simple thing you can do is make sure your listing clearly states what you are about so your audience comes to you.
If you do go make the most of it back home. The qualifying criteria for SXSW, for example, is very high so if you are selected you can make a noice about it back home (add that into your plan).
UKTI specialise in helping bands expand into markets abroad. They offer a lot of help and advice. Take advantage of it.
And one final tip – the best accomodation (location-wise) goes very fast. Book early.
Good FAQ on the SXSW site http://sxsw.com/music/shows/faq