By Erin Austin (of OK SWEETHEART)
With everything in life, making little adjustments to habits can make a big difference in results. Being a full-time independent musician has been a series of continual adjustments. Well, let’s be real—these “adjustments” are more like mistakes that I have to learn from and try my darndest not to repeat. Since OK SWEETHEART came into existence in September of 2009, we’ve officially played at 20+ festivals, ranging from the petite and magical like Doe Bay on Orcas Island in Washington, to the sometimes overwhelming but incredibly valuable and productive circus that is SXSW in Austin, TX. Each experience is a new one and each year I learn how to be a better performer and business person. Yes, I said it: BUSINESS PERSON.
Most musicians love playing music and aren’t too fond of the “networking” side of the industry. Festivals are not only about hearing great music, but also about building a team of people around your music to get it out to the world in an effective way. There’s prep work to be done prior to the festival that could be an entirely different blog post—“How To Prep For a Music Festival”—maybe I should write that one first? Anyhow, my best bits of advice for post-festival steps can be narrowed down to 5 points…
1. Learn from last year & prepare for next year.
Like I said, every year I learn more and more about how to make my festival experience more effective than the last. Write things down while you’re at the festival that you feel inspired by, or things you can do differently. When you get home, organize those thoughts and ideas into tangible goals for the next time.
2. Figure out what you want.
What is it exactly that you want to accomplish before festival season rolls around again? Have you recently released new music? Are you looking for a producer to make new music? Need a publicist? Publishing? Label? Booking agent? Figure out what you want first, then figure out what kind of folks you need around to make that happen.
3. Get the most out of the business cards you collect.
At the end of festivals (especially honkers like SXSW), I usually have a stack of business cards and bar napkins with emails scribbled on them. If I’m good (haven’t partied too much), I write down on the card or napkin who that person was and what we talked about. Once I’ve figured out my goals and what I need, I go through the cards and start getting in touch. Depending on the person, I tailor the interaction to how their expertise might be utilized toward a specific goal. Avoid using people without figuring out reciprocity. Create mutually beneficial relationships.
4. Build your team.
After getting in touch with people you met, wait a few days for a response, and follow up if necessary. If they get right back to you, which is usually a good sign for a variety of reasons, then the conversation can begin about how they can be incorporated into the big picture. It’s important to find good people that absolutely LOVE their jobs and are good at them. Attitude and work ethic are paramount to every position in a band (including yours). I look for people who get the results I want, and tend to lean more toward positive, kind and fun folks—that’s just me. Whatever it is you want in your team, go out and get it.
5. Trim the fat.
At the end of the day, you’re only as strong as your team. It takes patience and persistence to build the right one. If you get a bad egg on board, or someone currently on your team doesn’t fit with your vision, gracefully cut the chord without damaging the person’s pride (it’s a skill worth developing). “It’s business, not personal” is hard to communicate and embody when, in all actuality, letting someone go can feel very personal, but it’s a good relief mantra when knowing you’ve got to give someone the boot. The good news is, if someone is not a good fit now, they may be later. So, always keep the lines of communication open and positive.
Do you have your own tips when it comes to keeping the momentum alive after you play a music festival? Share them below in the comments!