…it’s not the end of the world (or your music career!)

ATHF at SXSW 2005

Whether due to economy or…well…the economy, it seems that many who would normally find themselves wandering around Austin’s famed 6th Street at hours most people are dreaming will not be making their way to SXSW this year .  After speaking with many musicians and other music-related professionals this past week, I can say that there is a certain sense of hopelessness that seems to afflict all of us who are not attending.  It’s as if we all believe that our careers for the next six months will only be a shadow of what they could have been, all because we missed out on the networking and other opportunities that SXSW offers.

Now, don’t get me wrong–SXSW is an amazing experience, and I do wish that I was attending this year. However, not attending is not the end the world, and as a working musician, you can use this upcoming week to your advantage if you are smart about it.

Their Absence = Your Advantage

So what if that band from across town who gets all the big gigs you should be getting is attending SXSW. You’re not, and neither are most of the people who do the booking for your local venues, so use that other band’s absence to your advantage: set up meetings this week with every venue that you can. Most clubs have already booked April, but they are still looking for acts for May, June and beyond, both headliners and opening acts. Get in there, show them why they should book you, and lock in those gigs before the competition comes back from Austin.

The same thing goes for music blogs, indie record stores and more–even though it may feel like everyone involved in music promotion and booking and retail and everything else related to music is in Austin, they really are not. Connect with those who are not at SXSW, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish this week.

Downtime = Your Advantage

With the world focused on SXSW, those musicians who are not there have a week to catch up–post those new MP3s to your website or record that video journal you’ve been meaning to finish. Most importantly, take advantage of the downtime to reach out to your fans–reply to the MySpace messages, set up a Facebook page and work Twitter into your daily routine.  You’ll reap the benefits almost instantly.

Time for Self-Assessment = Your Advantage

Maybe you’re not attending SXSW because your application was turned down by the SXSW Selection Committee–you’ve been sulking and depressed and down and utterly useless since getting the rejection email.

First things first, GET OVER IT.

Then, as you now have some time this week, sit down and determine why you were not selected. Use any feedback that you received from the SXSW Committee, but also reach out to friends and family who you can trust to give you an honest assessment of your music and marketing efforts.  It may be hard to hear some of what they have to say, but take it all in and use it to perform an honest self-assessment of where things are at for you as an artist.  Determine what is working and what is not, and make the appropriate changes: practice to get songs tighter, rewrite your bio, develop a larger local following, etc.  You will only find the success you are searching for if you start addressing these issues sooner rather later.

Finish Your CMJ Application = Your Advantage

There are two big networking events for independent musicians each year in the US, and only one takes place in Austin.

The CMJ Music Marathon is scheduled for October 20 – 24, 2009 in New York City, but the early-bird registration deadline is 3/31!

From CMJ.com:

Early Bird Rate is available until March 31 for only $35 so don’t miss your chance and apply today. When you submit early, you can save money AND have the chance to get booked early. CMJ has reserved…50 slots for artists who submit by March 31st (to be announced by June 15th).

Like SXSW, CMJ is an excellent opportunity to network with other musicians, the music industry and other like-minded individuals, as well as to connect with new fans and press.  Also like SXSW, the application process is not something you can finish in fifteen minutes, as you need to create a profile on Sonicbids and then submit that profile to CMJ for consideration.  So, why not use this upcoming week to finish your application and submit it NOW, rather than waiting for the July 15 rush like everyone else does? Not only will it be cheaper, but your odds of being accepted are SIGNIFICANTLY better when you apply early.

Yes, SXSW is wonderful, but not attending is not the end of your career as a musician, as there is a lot that you can do this week that you may not have found time for otherwise.

What did we miss? Share how you are taking advantage of the time you are not spending at SXSW…

UPDATE (16 March 09): Over the weekend, many of you forwarded suggestions for ways that people can network with others who are not at SXSW, as well as ways to vicariously enjoy SXSW. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • A very enterprising soul has launched @NotAtSXSW: The world’s first non-conference, ever! Collecting Tweets from around the world, as well as listings for formal get-togethers, this should be your first stop for all events celebrating not being at SXSW!
  • Drowned In Sound is sponsoring “A party for those off us NOT off to Austin this year.” If you are in London, I would not miss this. Details here.
  • For those in Portland, @notatsxsw and @beerandblog are sponsoring a St. Patrick’s Day event for those not attending SXSW. Go – play Rock Band – have fun!
  • SXSW Insider’s Guide has created a Ning site where those who are at SXSW can update what they are doing and seeing, and those of us who are not there can both get updates and discuss panels and announcements
  • Twitmatic is aggregating all SXSW-related videos being shared on Twitter and other websites–you can watch specific videos, or just let it play like a traditional television channel. Check it out here.
  • Use Hashtags to see what everyone is saying about SXSW on Twitter, both from those who are at SXSW and those of us who are not.
  • While many music publications and websites are covering the happenings down in Austin, Wired actually seems to be providing the most complete coverage of all three events that make up SXSW (Film, Interactive and Music). Their reports can be found here.

Keep the suggestions coming in! You can continue to send them to me via Twitter, or as comments below. Thanks readers!

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