Every year, thousands of bands, managers, media, labels, agents, and everyone in between descend for a week onto Austin, Texas for the annual South By Southwest Music Conference. It’s a week of parties, roundtables, and relationship building pretty much unmatched anywhere in the world.
It’s also a great place to have your band discovered by some pretty influential people. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but some of that magic sure has rubbed off SXSW alumni Kimbra, DZ Deathrays, Alpine, Bleeding Knees Club, Big Scary, Chet Faker, Emma Louise, Matt Corby, The Temper Trap and a whole mess more!
Melbourne songwriter Vance Joy recently signed a five-year deal with Atlantic Records in the US after label executives were impressed with his skills at SXSW 2013, and four North American agencies ended up chasing The Trouble With Templeton after they too performed at the annual conference.
Of course, not everybody who wants to play can, and organisers every year sift through thousands of applications to put together an amazingly eclectic and diverse array of talent from around the world. They also have a particular fondness for Aussies, who every year are over represented.
More than 70 Aussies were invited to attend this year, although the final contingent was a list of 40 who accepted and confirmed their attendance, due to a number of other artists and bands have had to respectfully decline due to scheduling conflicts, release commitments, or the burdening financial costs. The Aussies joined a lineup of over 2,000 performers playing at more than 90 different venues over a period of 10 days,
Now SXSW have announced that it’s almost time to start sorting through applications for next years conference, and that this year they’ll be opening up submissions a full one month earlier than previously.
In an effort to ensure thoroughly reviewed submissions and inform applicants of their status sooner, the official Sonicbids application platform will open on July 9 for only $33. After September 6, the application fee will be raised to $45.
The final submission deadline will also close earlier this year than previously, on October 11th, so make sure you mark your diaries so you don’t miss the deadline for your opportunity to be part of the SXSW 2014 lineup.
If you’re thinking of applying, the first place to look is the official website, for details of how to apply: http://sxsw.com/music/shows/apply and there’s also a handy Showcase FAQ: http://sxsw.com/music/shows/showcase-FAQ.
All submissions to SXSW are done through Sonicbids and applicants also get a free membership through the duration of the festival.
Australia’s SXSW representative Phil Tripp has these handing tips for bands thinking of applying, learnt from over a decade of helping bands showcase at SXSW.
1. Make sure you know when it’s time to apply–are you really ready; is your career at a tipping point that you will benefit from the exposure; do you have enough money (think $20,000) in hand to afford the trip; should you maybe wait a year; do you have a proven track record, things like this you need to ask.
2. If you have a Sonicbids account, has it been updated with the latest info on you or your band? Have you added the latest press clippings? Redone your bio? Added more images? Have the latest or best versions of your songs? If not, update it before applying. If you don’t have a Sonicbids account, you can create one free for six months by applying for SXSW.
3. Do NOT send unsolicited MP3s or other audio files to me–I am not on the talent committee (deliberately) and I have no influence over decisions. I don’t need your bio, photos or schmooze either please. Same with other SXSW emails.
4. Do you have effective management? Have an overseas booking agent already? Is your record company behind you? Get documentation of this as we look at more than the bio and pics and want compelling business reasons to choose you.
5. You really need to have paperwork together including reviews, press clippings and other data that will be used in your visa application if you are chosen. We do not file for your visa (think $5000 for an expedited 6 week turnaround for your artists and crew who have to file separately. You need to use a US immigration agent and we can recommend them AFTER you are invited.
6. Review the criminal records of all band members and manager. It is unfortunately common for one member to have an arrest or conviction of a minor nature–assault, drugs, DUI, even protest marches–that can stop the visa process while they are cleared through the US authorities. A lot of bands have missed out because of an old charge that did not come out until too late.
7. Don’t think you can get around getting a visa. We’ve seen whole bands or members turned back at the border and you must believe that immigration staff have access to the Internet and can see your Facebook, MySpace and band pages. Lying to them means you will be denied future visas. Take this seriously.
8. If you are going for funding, know the deadlines and rules at Federal (Australia Council), State and even industry organisations. Peak bodies like AMIN, WAM, MusicNSW, QMusic, Music Victoria, CMST and MusicNT can guide you and have the latest on all levels of assistance. But don’t count on it–grants are often too small, too late or not available so don’t base your submission on believing you can get one and then having to drop out because you can’t.