This past weekend was pure magic. If you were fortunate enough to be at this year’s CD Baby DIY Musician Conference in Austin, TX, you know what I’m talking about. As the first conference back since Covid for many, it was a milestone event evidenced by the 900+ in person and virtual attendees watching talks by some of the industry’s finest, including Indepreneur, The Rockstar Advocate‘s Suzanne Paulinski, reality TV music coach Brianna Ruelas, Rick Barker, and more. And of course, yours truly, representing MP Co. on a panel with Stefan Aronsen (Balanced Breakfast), Reed Cameron Fox (Moon Magnet Mastering), and Jeremy Boyum (The A&R Foundation).
Narrowing down to just 3 takeaways in a learning packed weekend wasn’t easy, but I went with the things that resonated with me the most, even several days after. If you weren’t able to make it (or, even if you were) I hope you find value in these lessons.
Networking is still the most important thing you can do in your music career (and the one that accelerates it the fastest)
I’ve spent my entire career touting the benefits of networking, but this weekend proved once more that it truly is the most powerful tool you have in your arsenal (also, it’s free!) I will say this until I am blue in the face, but the truth is that more than anything else you do—I’m talking social media, I’m talking ads, I’m talking shows, none of it will yield as high or as fast of results as networking.
Now, all of those things I mentioned can and should have networking integrated into them, which expedites their effectiveness. But this weekend just proved over and over how important the connections and relationships you have are. A couple quick examples:
- I wouldn’t have even been invited to speak on this panel if not for a connection I made over 7 years ago
- Because of relationships I’ve made over the last few years I was invited to meet new people and connections that I am now negotiating opportunities with
- The effort I put into meeting everyone I encountered this weekend (and then some) is already showing tangible results—some of this is in potential (paid) partnerships, some of it is in social media and email list growth, and some of it is in good old fashioned friendships (don’t discount those—they’re perhaps the most powerful).
- I know other speakers who saw actual sales directly after their talks and meeting people afterwards in the hall. We didn’t sell anything at CD Baby this year, so this wasn’t a factor for us. But, the proof is there. When people know, like, and trust you (and this is expedited when networking is done effectively) they buy from you.
All of these examples are solely from this past weekend. Over the 10+ years I’ve been in the industry I can safely say that we have worked alongside our artists to help them get to the point of:
- Signing label deals on records like SmartPunk
- Playing festival spots at Launch Music Conference and SXSW
- Gaining placements on American Songwriter, Forbes, and Lead Singer Syndrome
- Securing sponsorship & sync deals
- Being asked to be a part of tours
And each and every one has come from an existing relationship . All of them. And guess what? It doesn’t cost a thing.
Your audience’s experience matters
Experience is everything. The way that people feel when interacting with you and your brand is the difference between a long and successful career and one that fizzles out. You absolutely must be incorporating experience and the way you want fans to feel at every step of the way.
This comes into play with how they interact with you online (ie your brand aesthetic), how they receive merch you send them, what the live show experience is like, even things like what happens when they comment on a post.
A few examples of providing an elevated experience (from the CD Baby music conference)
- For our panel, at 9am on a Sunday (the last day of the conference) we brought in a colorful, fun aray of donuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. Why? Because we wanted it to be a memorable experience. We knew they’d enjoy it. That they’d talk about it. That they would remember the panel with the doughnuts. It didn’t hurt that it was on brand, or that it made sense for the time of day. But what mattered is we wanted them to walk into that room and instantly feel excited. Then, we wanted them to grab a donut and start a conversation with the person next to them and have a good time. To enjoy themselves. Something as small and simple as providing a happy looking sweet treat first thing in the morning did that.
- Another example was CD Baby provided free Starbucks coffee both in the morning and again mid-day when attendees were starting to get tired. That alone would have been enough, but they went a step further and instead of just coffee, milk, and sugar, they provided different kinds of alternative milks and sugars (including oat milk) and Starbucks flavor syrups like vanilla and caramel, plus a bowl of chocolate shavings! I mean come on, chocolate shavings! It wasn’t just doing the bare minimum of providing coffee, it was making attendees feel welcome and taken care of so they could focus on enjoying the conference in front of them,
- On Friday night they hosted an open mic where artists could sign up to sing. What I expected walking in was not at all what I got. The room was decked out with a colorful light display, full stage set up, and intermittent planned performances to spice things up and keep the audience engaged. This wasn’t the open mic you run into at your local bar, this was something designed for the senses, and it showed in the packed room.
Maintain a sense of humor and go with the flow. This is supposed to be fun after all
I fell off the stage this weekend.
In front of 50+ people, I toppled backwards through a curtain and into the abyss.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd that I could hear as I lay on the floor thinking “I really hope that chair doesn’t fall on top of me.” (it didn’t)
It was mortifying. But you know…it was ok. Because it happens. Physically or metaphorically, we all fall off the stage sometimes.
So, I got up, dusted myself off, and as I crawled back onto the stage I raised my arms in triumph and the crowd cheered back to me.
I said something silly like:
“Listen, if I can fall off a stage in front of all of you, then you can go out there and network and meet new people today.” A nice tie in to what we’d been talking about in the panel earlier. They chuckled. I got off the stage (without falling this time) and moved on.
Embarrassing things happen. You fall off some stages in life (hopefully more metaphorical than literal) You get up, you shake it off, and you give yourself a cheer of victory for getting up again and again. What else are you going to do?
What is the best thing you’ve ever learned from a conference? What would you like to learn more of? Leave a comment of email us—info (at) wearemp.co with subject line “conference”