Be prepared – get to the venue early, have back-up equipment and don’t be too worried if things aren’t perfect
Have a list of outcomes you want to achieve, such as meeting an overseas agent
Take care of yourself by drinking lots of water and taking care of your voice
After 30 hours on various planes, another 10 hours driving a hire car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, and settling in to a very curious smelling Airbnb, you and your beloved bandmates, full of youthful optimism and vigour, are ready to step on a stage in the back of a TV-filled sports bar to play 30 minutes of your best music to the most important audience ever in your career.
And…everything goes wrong. You brought in-ears that aren’t working, the bassist has a "stomach bug", the microphone needs disinfecting, the room is maybe one-quarter full? Industry types are enthralled by their phones, or hunched together in conversation - no doubt having business meetings about some other band. And it’s only midday.
This, dear reader, is called showcasing.
APRA AMCOS recently hosted and live-streamed a Masterclass at BIGSOUND on the art and business of the showcase. Industry experts shared valuable insights and real world advice on how to prepare, goal-set, and deliver on a showcasing opportunity.
SOUNDS AUSTRALIA Export Music Producer Glenn Dickie moderated the panel and was joined by:
Isla Angus – ATC Live
Charlotte Abroms – manager
Donny Benet – musician/performer
Glenn has generously shared the wisdom gained from dozens (nay, hundreds) of international showcases he has facilitated for Australian artists, and we have gathered some real gems from the panel’s discussion as well.
1. Practice for catastrophe
There’s no real way to get showcase experience under your belt before your first showcase experience so rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and practice for catastrophe. Invite some friends over to your rehearsal space and get them to randomly do things like knock the power out, unplug pedals, cut a string with scissors, basically put yourself through worst gig possible boot camp. (Glenn)
2. Budget and plan, and then budget and plan some more
It's not all about that one big overseas jaunt and then sitting back and signing deals. When you take the plunge to head overseas, you should plan on having enough coin in the bank to head back two more times in a 12 month span. Maybe you have an APRA live performance payment or sync deal coming through or you can do a quick national tour that will fill the coffers, whatever it is just make sure you can get back if the opportunity arises. (Glenn)
3. The reconnaissance mission
This is related to that whole "plan and budget" tip above. Prior to your overseas showcase, Sounds Australia suggests sending a manager or one member of your band to go in and do a reconnaissance mission first. This is all about building a profile for your next 12-18 months of overseas development - pre-meeting with industry contacts, laying the groundwork for being in-market, allowing time for visa applications, and of course building the heat by simply BEING THERE. (Glenn)
4. What are you trying to achieve?
Instead of going through the delegate list and contacting every single person on it, do your research and find out exactly what you want and make a goal (ie locking in an overseas agent). (Meeting with) four from a list of about 1000, is probably going to more worthwhile than trying to catch up with 100 people. (Charlotte)
Arranging a meeting 2-3 weeks before a conference is pretty keen, but ideal. (Isla)
5. Become an zen master of setting up and packing down
If you’re lucky you’ll get a 20 minute change over but you should try and set up within 10 minutes which might allow you to add a song to your set. Packing down quickly is equally as important and goes a long way to building a good reputation. (Glenn)
6. The art of the setlist
Assume you have five songs in a half hour or 45 minute set. Your first song is pretty much your soundcheck. Your second song is essentially getting comfortable. Your middle track is where you could possibly play your "hit" song or single. And then you have two spares. If you want to get heat in the festival, there is nothing wrong with playing a song twice. This is a transient audience. Say your name after every song so this audience catches who you are. Be aware: your half hour set includes your talking time. (Glenn)
7. Know your sound engineer
Get to the venue 10-15 minutes before your set to check it out. You have the option to push back on venues and to find a venue that suits your sound. Travel with your own engineer or speak to the in-house engineer ahead of your performance. Have a quick think about lights, so you can say "On the third song we need to change the wash", these are cost-effective things to make the stage and performance your own. (Isla)
First thing you do when you get to the venue, is meet the sound person. The people in the venue will help you have a success show. (Donny)
The in-house engineers might be mixing 10-15 bands in one night, it's so important to be prepared, and to be grateful, and calm. (Charlotte)
Provide a tech spec to the in-house engineer ahead of time if possible. Make notes on every single song you play, i.e. reverb on the lead vocals, none on the backing vocals. Don't rely on in-ears. Don't rely on backing tracks. (Glenn)
8. Let it flow
There is something actually kind of charming about performers making mistakes, and kind of laughing off and carrying on and going on to something else. (Isla)
You can practice your performance too much. Do your work and then go up to the mic and enable the performance to happen - you will have a great time. (Donny)
9. HEALTH TIPS FROM THE PANEL
- Carry disinfectant wipes for microphones (so. many. germs.).
- Drink lots of water.
- Take care of your voice. If you're a singer, let your manager do the talking, or if you're self-managed be mindful of how much talking you are doing.
- Be careful of the free pour in the US.
- Artists, take your time to relax and rest. Nap.
- Avoid social smoking.
- Eat a vegetable!
New Zealand - Outward Sound