Previously, I talked about the importance of attending music conferences such as the Americana Conference, Folk Alliance, and others, and their value to an indie artist and how to make the most of them. Now I’d like to focus more on showcasing. By that, I don’t mean a Sonicbids $10 type of showcase listing that—even if you win a slot—probably won’t do much for you. I am talking about more of a sponsored showcase before talent buyers.

There are several of these events and they can be very hard, and expensive, to get in to. For the purpose of this article I’ll use the National APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference held in NYC in January. To give you an idea of the scale of this event, picture 1000 showcases in 3 days! This particular showcase is aimed at showcasing talent to Performing Arts Center buyers. To be able to attend, the buyers have to be members of APAP. The presenting agents and managers also need to be members so the talent level is very high.

Each showcase is 20 minutes in length with 5 minutes between acts. Yeah, 5 minutes for the act before you to get their stuff off AND for you to get on stage, setup and start! Those 20 minutes cost you a minimum of $800 for the opportunity of playing that showcase slot. Add to this the cost of traveling to NYC, food, lodging for you and your band, advance promotion, having a booth on the conference floor, manning it etc.

Man ‘o man the money adds up. The minimum for an independent, unsponsored artist is $8,000-10,000. Figure $3,000-5,000 for a sponsored showcase. Sponsored means that your management or agency already belongs to APAP and is there to promote and sell you.

My booking agency, Producers Inc., sponsored me. They handled advance promotions, promotional materials, having a booth on the convention hall floor, taking care of all sorts of details (like the best time to showcase) and most importantly, having a relationship with, and selling me to the potential buyers. Independent means you handle all of the above yourself and take on all the associated costs.

All of this sounds a little daunting doesn’t it? Add to it that you are lucky if you can get a spot. So the big question you ask yourself is “Is it worth doing?” To help you answer that I’ll ask a few more…

First, are you worth it? Are you good enough? Are you different enough, interesting enough? These are tough questions but if you answered yes to all of them, keep reading. If not, ask yourself what it would take to answer “Yes” and are you willing to go for it? Then get busy.

Second, why bother? The basic reason is that the real buyers are all there in one space looking for talent. They are looking to book their year. You know the old adage, location, location, location? This gives you a chance to be in front of a concentration of buyers.

Third, are you guaranteed bookings? Absolutely not. “You pays your money and you takes your chances.” The only thing you are guaranteed is that you have a chance to strut your stuff.

Fourth, are you guaranteed an audience? No. Remember that there are 1000 showcases in 3 days. There will be other good acts playing when you are. Part of getting an audience is how well you and your team do the advance promo to reach out to the buyers to let them know where and when you will play. I heard a few artists feeling down because their showcase only drew 10-20 people, some as few as five. The thing to remember is that this isn’t your fan base, it’s buyers. So if only 10 show and 2 buy, well, that’s a success. And you are on your way to recovering your investment. This takes me back to the first question, are you worth it? Can you put on your best performance for five people? Can you look out there and see a full house? That’s what you need to do, always!

OK, OK, I’ll quit with the hard core stuff. For me personally a big question on anything I do is, “Is it fun?”

So, is it? It was for me. You are thrown in with tons of talent putting their best foot forward to get some dates on the calendar. The camaraderie among the artists was high, most everyone was supportive and excited to be playing. I had the chance to see other artists showcase which was both enjoyable and educational, how do others handle their 20 minutes to sell themselves, what to do, what not to do?

Keep in mind that this is a performing arts showcase so that any type of act that would play that type of house was there. You could have a singer/songwriter in one room, Chinese acrobats in another. You might see a Celtic act on one floor and Russian folk dancers on the next. They are all good and all vying to get noticed. To me the energy buzz of being in the same place with a large amount of good artists getting ready to put it on the line is always a positive rush, both humbling and inspiring.

Last question, is it worth it? For me… yes,it was. As usual time will tell and as always, it is worth what you make of it.

Originally posted 2009-08-26 01:07:38.