If you don’t have a booking agent or manager, the single most important thing if you want to get more gigs and build your profile is to be able to directly connect with promoters & journalists.
The jazzahead! conference helps you with this in 2 main ways, but both need a bit of preparation…
1) The jazzahead database
Registering for the conference gives you access to the delegates database where you can find every person who’s signed up to attend, including their email address.
So, first thing, use the filter function to grab as many relevant contacts as possible and add them to your database or a spreadsheet.
Obviously you shouldn’t be adding these people to a mailing list and sending them newsletters, but you can contact them, one-to-one, when you have relevant news or requests in the future.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to find contact details of jazz promoters. One simple answer is “via the jazzahead database!”
2) Meeting jazz industry face-to-face
If you’re coming to jazzahead 2018, you’ll be in the same room as hundreds of useful jazz industry contacts.
It’s a great opportunity to start building new relationships and so meeting as many of these people as possible has to be the #1 aim of your trip.
Of course, there are many musicians in the same situation (and not so many hours once all the meetings start getting scheduled), so you need to plan for this in advance.
Meeting slots fill up, so be quick!
As we approach the final few weeks before the conference, you should be registered and reaching out to them already. If you leave it to the day(s) before, you’re not going to have too much luck.
“Make sure you work out in advance who you want to meet; it’s pretty overwhelming once you are there and people are busy!” – Sean Foran, Trichotomy (AUS)
And remember, regardless of how successful your meeting requests are going, you can (and should) still make the most of the matchmaking sessions which will introduce you to some relevant people.
Pitching for Meetings
© Jan Rathke / Messe Bremen
There are a lot of people coming to jazzahead, so you need to be clever and focused on who you’re trying to connect with.
I’d suggest you go through the entire database of promoters and highlight the ones who fit with this criteria:
• They book artists in a similar style to you
• They book artists on a similar level to you
• You have some history, or at least plans, in their territory
Once you’ve got your target list, drop them a short, concise email, with an opening sentence that shows you are relevant to what they are working on.
Top tip from the jazzahead! organisers: Avoid standard [cliché] phrases and be PERSONAL.
I’d also suggest asking for a specific amount of time (short, 5/10 minutes) – with a specific goal (“find out more about what you are booking and quickly explain my new album which is coming out XXX date on XXX Records”).
Also try name-checking any industry supporters you have who they might know. For example, if you’ve played at London Jazz Festival, mention the promoter’s name. Same if you’ve played North Sea, Berlin, Jazz a la Villette, etc, etc, etc…
Even better, ask your existing ‘supporters’ – promoters, journalists, labels, from your home country – to introduce you by email to one or two key people in advance…. or hang around with them a bit at the conference and see who they can introduce you too..!
As Swiss saxophonist Nicole Jo put it: follow friends who already have contacts there!
Even if you don’t get replies to your meeting requests, at least you have made first contact and the next time (or time after that) when you contact them with a killer review or a new album, your name is somehow familiar…
And, regardless of what you manage to get booked in advance, there are plenty of free drinks receptions and events where you can bump into promoters.
“It’s a big family happening including doing some serious business to push your career!” – John-Dennis Renken
© Jan Rathke / Messe Bremen
It sounds like such a formal business term, but networking is really just mixing with a large group of people with the goal of trying to connect with as many of them as possible. It might feel unnatural as a musician, but it’s a vital part of growing your network and raising your profile.
Throughout the year you might only get to meet the odd promoter at a gig or event; jazzahead! gives you a chance to turbo charge that for 3 days, so make the most of it!
“Be prepared to describe your project in the shortest amount of time, have all supporting materials ready to go, and then, just enjoy the hang!” Vadim Neselovskyi, pianist
Traditionally, most booths host a drinks reception at a specific time over the weekend. Check when all these are and, if you don’t have meetings, go along and push yourself to chat to people you don’t know.
When you meet people, you don’t have to give them the hard sell. The first goal is not to get them to book you right there and then – because they almost certainly won’t – but to make a friendly, positive connection with people in person and follow it up with details afterwards, by email.
“Say hello to everyone, have no expectations and meet exciting people. You get to know everyone a little better after the official fair at the hotel bars or at the show cases. Long days and good contacts!” Nicole Jo (DE)
Also important: check the dedicated networking sessions for artists (which you can find out more about here)
Once you’ve had a meeting, make a note to follow up with them in a couple of weeks and send them your music to stream, even if they’ve got a CD.
It’s maybe also worth mentioning that out of all the hundreds of musicians who’ve attended the conference, there are a few who I’ve kept in touch with ever since meeting them. Not because I necessarily heard them play or took them onto my roster, but because they were positive, friendly and made an impression as enthusiastic, dedicated musicians who were already making things happen themselves.
I often get asked whether or not musicians should bring CDs and/or leaflets to the conference.
There’s not one ‘right’ answer to this, but here are a few things to consider:
– Not everyone wants physical CDs, so check first. No point wasting copies. Offer, as an alternative, to email them a streaming link afterwards.
– One benefit of having CDs with you (even if you don’t give them to people) is that you will get to show your promo photos and album artwork. This can play a big part in helping promoters & journalists remember your project when you get in touch by email later on. For this reason, make sure it’s good!
– Treat promo materials more like a business card. The personal connection is most important. Giving a flyer or a CD is something which should happen afterwards, as a way of them having your contact details.
– If you are connected with anyone with a booth (national jazz organisation, record label, etc) ask them to keep a few copies on their table so that people see it. Similarly, ask any close contacts to carry a copy with them.
– Are there any other more memorable materials you can bring? One year I had an artist on the front page of that month’s German jazz magazine, so I carried a few copies around.
– Don’t give out music which doesn’t represent your current project. Too confusing and difficult for people to remember when they go through their conference bags a few days later.
– If you do it right, there will be a bunch of promoters and journalists checking out your project in the days and weeks after the conference. Take some time now to make sure your website is presentable (free downloadable checklist here), your best music videos are easily found online (here’s why) and that your social media is current.
So there you have it: if you’re coming to jazzahead! this year, get prepared in advance both with meetings and promo materials and then throw yourself into the conference 100% by meeting as many new people as possible!
AFTER JAZZAHEAD! 2018
jazzahead! organiser Sybille Kornitschky made an interesting observation: each year the organisers ask for feedback from the musicians and, whilst there is no reward for doing this, the musicians who keep in touch and feedback their success stories from the conference tend to unwittingly get extra publicity and support from jazzahead!
So don’t be a stranger!
DISCLAIMER: jazzahead! has been one of the key industry dates in my diary for some years now. I’m normally a paid up delegate but this year, as I’m writing this guide to the conference, hosting a ticket giveaway and generally sharing my opinion on it with you guys, the organisers are giving me a press pass.