Why Are Showcase Festivals Important?

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The concept of Music Showcase is very new to our Indian Music Industry.

But, since the world has been opened up by the Internet, it has become that much more important to present music to discerning audiences. A great way to find such an audience is via showcases! In this short commentary I will tell you what it takes to put one together and how to make the most of it along with a list of showcase festivals we believe are relevant to Indian artists.

Assessing the Costs

It’s hard work and there are many factors that will deter an act from traversing this path. The first being prohibitive costs. There are flight tickets and accommodation on the top of this list. Then there is the cost of rehearsing, hiring any equipment, travel, etc. Of course we know some of this already. But, it can be endless. You can sit down to make an excel sheet with all these numbers on it and it starts to get very daunting. The trick is to work step by step.

First, put together a list of showcase festivals that are in existence (you can begin with the ones we have below). Then you identify ones that closely represent what your music is about. This can be done by looking at previous editions and the artists who featured in them.

Once this is done you can put down deadlines for applications and other ones you create of getting all the pieces together. Start thinking about how you will raise money e.g. crowdfunding. Maybe your band members agree that all or a part of earnings go towards funding such a trip. Maybe you have endorsements and sponsorship opportunities. Whatever it is, try to think of the most creative way to raise your funds. It’s definitely possible.

Building a Great Set

Next start working on your set. Showcase festivals have very strict time slots as they’re on a schedule and there are no things like encore etc. It’s one of the main things that you will be judged on. So make sure that you are absolutely tight, no matter what genre of music you play. I have seen heavily improvisational acts adhere to these strict timelines, without losing the essence of their performance. Stick to the time given.

I would recommend that spending most of your time on rehearsing a good performance is what is going to make you stand out. Get a few friends and well wishers to watch your rehearsals. Get feedback. Talk to people from the industry, especially A&R people and curators who have international exposure and strong opinions about what they’re looking for from a live act. They will help you fine-tune your performance and also give you tips on how to conduct your stage presence. More often, especially when we start out we focus so much on the music that we forget that it’s also important to look and behave a certain way on stage.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that its best to work first on the above. Then when you have put out some good videos with a cleaner act, when you feel a sense of pride in watching yourselves is when you should start making applications. The more confident you are the more chances you have.

Hard work doesn’t lie. And the rewards will come automatically.

Making the Most of the Event

Now the next thing to remember is that if and when you do end up making the cut how do you make the most of your trip. Festivals are busy places, so it’s important to schedule your meetings in advance of your arrival. Most festivals will provide you access to a database of delegates whom you can contact in advance. As you scan through the database you will be excited to see the contacts for your dream festivals, however, that should not be your priority as these guys will be watching your act anyway. And if they like what they hear they will book you! The top priority should be to identify a booking agent. Why? Because booking agents are hard to come by. They act as tastemakers and with a strong sense of community their recommendations go a long way. For example, you may meet a particular booking agent who may not be booking your genre, but may have other contacts who do. So it’s key to develop relationships with as many booking agents as you can because they are the crux of the live music business.

In order to promote your showcase I recommend that you design a poster/sticker/emailer. These can be handed out or left at different spots at the conference and this kind of guerrilla strategy/hype creation goes a long way in getting people to your showcase. So design your poster well and think of other strategies to create a buzz!

Here’s our top list of festivals to consider:

  1. Jazzahead : Bremen, Germany
  2. WOMEX : Different locations in Europe
  3. Midem : Cannes, France
  4. IOMMA : St.Pierre, Reunion Island
  5. Indi Earth Exchange : Chennai, India
  6. The Great Escape : Brighton, UK
  7. SXSW : Austin, Texas
  8. Amsterdam Dance Event : Amsterdam, Netherlands
  9. Visa for Music : Rabat, Morocco
  10. Music Matters : Singapore