SXSW, USA: March 2017
South by Southwest (SXSW) began in 1986 with 40 artists performing, 5 stages, a festival and conference. In 2018, it had 2,057 bands perform on 100 stages: “It started as a music festival and conference with the idea of giving artists a platform to perform in-front of the industry and to network” (Interview 15,2016). The event has expanded to include film, education and interactive sectors in order to provide a platform for all creative industries. Given the sheer scale of the event, many SXSW veterans give the advice to not just show up without doing your homework:
I’ve been attending SXSW in Austin Texas for over 10 years. In the early years it was very slow in terms of business for me. It took time to build my network, but also build my business to the point where I could add value to others. This has now well and truly paid off.
(Interview 14. 2018)
There are many established communities within SXSW that have developed overtime. It is difficult for newcomers to navigate their way through, with export offices assisting:
Export offices are really helpfiil for bands at SXSW. Certain export offices do it better than others, depending on their strategies and budget. In fact it’s more important for the export offices to provide artists with support and help navigate through these events and new markets, than writing a cheque.
(Interview 15, 2016)
SXSW also attracts a large public audience to the festival and events held throughout Austin. Accommodation is veiy expensive and high in demand with an overwhelming number of showcases, events, parties and panel sessions. In 2018, there were 75,098 conference attendees, 4,967 conference speakers and 4,035 media participants; 2,057 bands performed on 100 music stages, with 455 film screenings and 10,000 VR screenings (SXSW, 2018). There was a total of 2,147 conference sessions with 102 countries being represented by registrants (SXSW, 2018). Overall, the 2018 event saw approximately 432,500 people participating in the conferences and festivals (SWSX, Event Statistics, 2018).
MIDEM, France: June 2016
Launched in 1967, MIDEM has been a leading event for the international music industry. The market event is mostly associated with making international and territorial deals in licensing and publishing. MIDEM takes place in a conference centre consisting of stands, panels and seminars. The panel sessions included new innovations in music delivery, copyright, presenting new research. New technology was often discussed with music technology start-up events or new innovations such as blockchain. The event is not based on a showcasing model; however performances occur at events throughout venues around Cannes.
It was observed that Australian labels and publishers were introduced to international actors who could assist in creating new networks and potential new business partnerships by the Sounds Australia team. There were many “invitation- only” events, creating a level of exclusivity within established relationships and networks. There was generally an open atmosphere at the conference with just an undercurrent of a quasi-elite. For example, it was commented by one attendee that some of the more powerful industry actors never leave the hotel rooms, preferring to have meetings there and only attending evening sessions for drinks.
I would consider MIDEM [is] now for publishers; I really don’t think it’s delivering to anyone else than publishers. Others, you can go there and you can learn a few things, but it’s still very, very heavily publisher-driven.
(Interview 16, 2018)
The Great Escape, UK: May 2016
The Great Escape is a festival, showcase event and conference that occupies the city of Brighton with multiple simultaneous events. As a festival, it selects (curates) artists that it thinks are appropriate to its programming agenda. Given its size and spread across the city, it was apparent that it would be hard for a band to come to an event like this with no assistance and support, especially all the way from Australia. It also hosts a pre-festival panel for managers and industry organised with several export offices, providing network opportunities before the event. As with all of the other industry events, the panel sessions provide valuable information about music exporting, aspects of and trends emerging in the industry:
We went to The Great Escape in 2015 ... Our primary goal in going there was to get a booking agent and to get a record label to sign [artist] for the UK and Europe, and we achieved both of those things from going there.
(Interview 2, 2018)
Observation at these key events continually reinforced the following themes and priorities related to successful navigation of a new market: A digital publicist is essential in a new market; international acclaim can feed into narratives of success for domestic market consumption; local agents and publicists possess the required knowledge to place acts in front of key gatekeepers; festival bookers use showcase events as a “one-stop shop” for booking and signing talent; and appearances at one showcase event can lead to a snowballing effect of multiple offers of showcasing, festival and touring activities.
Showcase events are a major part of an international market event in which selected bands are given the opportunity to perform in front of industry professionals. Artists can apply to showcase or are invited by the market event. There are showcasing events held every month all over the world across different genres and niches. The events help build international teams around artists and help contribute to export success.