Following four days of panels, seminars, workshops, and parties in Miami's popular South Beach, Winter Music Conference 2016 ended on March 24th. The annual event, now in its 31st year, is well-known and highly regarded among the electronic music community. If you haven't had a chance to review my last post about the conference, be sure to give it a read here. You'll find a variety of helpful tips that I acquired from the experienced panelists at WMC 2016, including information for producers and vocalists on promotion, branding, and the current state of the electronic music industry. In this final post about WMC, I'll be sharing some general information about the conference itself, as well as insight into how producers, vocalists, and anyone involved in the electronic music scene can make the most of networking opportunities like Winter Music Conference.
First off, attending the conference ended up being a game changer for my career and I would highly recommend it to anyone else involved in the electronic music industry. The amount of information I acquired regarding the shifting dynamics of the electronic music scene and the legal aspects of the industry, as well as the connections I made and the feedback I was able to receive on my music, made this event a priceless experience. I had the opportunity to meet talented producers and label owners from around the world while networking with house music legends such as Terri B, Crystal Waters, G of Strictly Rhythm Records, David Morales, and so many more. I certainly left Miami feeling inspired and informed!
As a result of my time at WMC, I want to provide some advice to all producers, vocalists, and anyone involved in the electronic music scene on how to network successfully. I went to school for Accounting and, following over four years of attending weekly business networking events in Washington, DC, I developed a certain confidence to approach individuals I've never met and engage in a professional conversation. One of the keys? I always have an "elevator pitch" prepared.
What is an elevator pitch? The idea of an elevator pitch originates from the days before social media. As one story has it, screenwriters in Los Angeles would wait near the elevators at big studio offices to then pitch their script ideas to executives during the minute they were trapped in the elevator together. If these screenwriters were able to capture the attention of the executives within the time of their quick pitch, they had a chance of landing a studio contract.
Though elevator pitches don't often exist in this traditional sense anymore, they're still an important concept. When attending any sort of networking event, whether it be a convention, demo listening workshop, or masterclass, be prepared to quickly provide a personal elevator pitch about yourself to guest speakers, producers, record label managers, A&R representatives, and fellow attendees.
Need an example? The goal of an elevator pitch is to summarize who you are within 30 seconds to a minute (keep it short!). For example, my standard elevator pitch is: "Hi, I'm Dylan. My background is in Accounting and classical piano. I've also been producing deep house for a number of years and write for a music blog called The Beatforest." That's it! Of course, if the person is someone specific, such as a vocalist or record label, I might add a little bit: "I'm looking for a vocalist to collaborate on a deep house track I'm completing and I feel your voice would be a good fit," or "I'm currently unsigned and am looking to team up with a label."
Now to clarify: An elevator pitch is not meant to be your time to sound "braggy." Share the facts about yourself, but do so in a humble and objective way. This is an opportunity to educate the person you're speaking with about who you are while discovering any common interests and goals you both share.
So when do you begin your elevator pitch? The answer: it depends. Be smart about how and when you introduce yourself! If you're in a room preparing to register for an event and are standing in line with another attendee, introduce yourself and provide a brief "pitch" about yourself. You'll "break the ice" and make a new connection. Encourage the other individual to share a bit about them self as well. Ask them questions and strike up a conversation!
Okay, now what if you're at an event and have an opportunity to speak with the key-note speaker, a famous producer, or a celebrity vocalist? I see people handle these situations a few different (and often inappropriate) ways: some people are intimidated and don't say much and don't inform the person about who they are... They state their name, hand the person a business card, and charge off. Meeting the key-note speaker of an event can be an outstanding opportunity to make a career changing connection! This is time to stand out.
On the other side of the spectrum, I also see many people go too far when they meet a "key" connection. Many individuals, especially musicians, tend to come on way too strong! When there are 100+ artists in the room and just one label manager or big-time producer to meet, it may seem like there is a sense of urgency to tell that person everything about you and "how great you are" right then and there. However, this is often a major turn off and I encourage you to take another approach.
Here's the key: Let's say you've attended a masterclass and Producer X is hosting. When the class is complete, you have an opportunity to wait in line with all the other producers attending to briefly meet Producer X. How do you stand out? First, be genuinely interested in making that connection! If you're trying to meet people only to "get ahead," it will show... I've witnessed many producers get aggressive with a faulty pitch right away: "Yo, I've worked with so and so and have music on Beatport. Here's my card. Visit my website. Listen to this USB drive with my entire discography. I'm available to produce with you." Sure, maybe this will work and the producer will end up having some time to check out your tune and get in touch, but most likely your business card is going into the trash.
Instead, start with a simple introduction: "Hi Producer X, I'm Dylan." Step back and comment on the masterclass you just attended. Complement the producer on things you enjoyed most from their lesson. Consider asking a quick question about the masterclass that shows you understood the topic and were engaged in the presentation. Remember, even if you're speaking with a celebrity, they're human too! They'll be more interested in getting to know you if you demonstrate that you're a pleasant person. Make a genuine connection with Producer X and show that you're not taking the time to meet him or her solely because they'll give you an "in" to the industry. Having a good personality goes far. After engaging in a brief conversation, feel free to introduce yourself more in-depth. Likely Producer X will ask you to share a bit about yourself anyway. This is when your elevator pitch comes in handy! You'll know exactly what to say in a clear and concise manner. Introduce yourself and continue the conversation as long as time allows, but don't overextend your time if it's apparent Producer X has a long line of people to meet with or somewhere to go.
Before leaving, hand Producer X your business card (oh, and be sure to include your producer name, real name, website or Soundcloud URL with music, and all contact information on the business card!) and ask them if it'd be okay to keep in touch. If this is a producer who's sound and productions fit within your genre, ask if they would consider becoming your mentor. For instance, you could suggest, "Would it be okay if I were to send you a track for some constructive criticism? I would be so grateful for your opinion on how I can improve!" Suddenly, you've formed a positive relationship with Producer X and are not just another producer behaving like an overly-aggressive salesperson.
Almost 100% of the times I utilize this type of approach at networking events (in both the Accounting and music world), I've had success. I am a person who is interested in many things and it's always been my approach to get to really know people, ask them questions, and develop a sincere relationship. Be genuine when you network and don't always make the goal of networking to be about "getting ahead"; you'll find the result to be an increased network of long-lasting and beneficial relationships!
I have one more important comment to add about networking before moving on. Be sure to follow up with the all of the connections you've made within 48 hours of leaving an event! Don't make the mistake of procrastinating and letting the stack of business cards you've acquired sit on your desk. If Producer X and ten other contacts have provided you with business cards, be sure to send each connection a personal email before they forget who you are! In the email: introduce yourself again, remind the person where you met, include a personal note about something you discussed with the person (ie. I really enjoyed learning about your upcoming release! Please be sure to send me a copy), and maybe ask some questions to assist in continuing the email conversation. Trust me, the follow up email goes far when making connections! Also, consider adding your new connections on social networks while taking the time to listen to their music and comment on their tunes as well (if applicable)! After all, what's the point of attending networking events and meeting people if you aren't going to keep in touch and build a relationship?
Finally, I want to share an insightful statistic I received at WMC. One of the panelists, a well known PR representative for dozens of major music festivals around the world, stated that, in today's technology and information age where we're constantly bombarded with social media notifications, text messages, emails, etc, the average person requires 8-12 friendly "pushes" to really remember and ingrain something into their memory. What does this mean for us as musicians? Well, this directly applies to our promotional and marketing efforts. It indicates that we need to utilize 8-12 marketing tools for our fans to really remember and pay attention to our new album release, upcoming performance, or merchandise sale.
So how do we "push" our fans into remembering us? Be creative! Send out newsletters, post on social media, get featured on blogs, and hand out stickers and business cards. Also, "think outside the box" and be creative when promoting your discography! One of the WMC panelists, Sebastiaan Hooft, has done exactly that.
Hooft has attracted attention from big name DJs and labels, including Spinnin' Records, in just two short years of producing and DJing because of his self-promotion efforts. Not only does he utilize traditional promotional tools to get his name out there and "push" fans, he's worked hard to acquire sponsorship from Fiat, Nike, and others who feature his music (and provide him with free products) in exchange for promoting their brand. In addition, he's also branded himself as an entrepreneur while traveling around the world to speak at conventions and music schools. Finally, and most importantly, he's attended every electronic music industry-related networking event possible. Not only that, but he approaches every "big name" attendee and asks them to become his mentor. Sebastiaan now admits to having an extensive network of producers, vocalists, and music industry representatives around the world who he can count on to show him the ropes and provide him with advice. As a result, he's become a known producer and DJ with a global following!
I hope that this and my previous posts on WMC prove helpful to you as an individual with an interest in a career in the electronic music industry! Visit the links below to learn more about Winter Music Conference and follow The Beatforest for more music convention and festival coverage in the coming months!
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