Our How-To Guide To Applying For SXSW 2013

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Our How-To Guide To Applying For SXSW 2013

We here at Tone Deaf love ourselves some Australian music, and there’s nothing better than getting that Australian music heard by a wider audience; and what better place to do that than Austin, Texas’ infamous South By Southwest Festival.

Just look at the magic it worked for the likes of Kimbra, DZ Deathrays, Alpine, Bleeding Knees Club, Big Scary, Chet Faker, Emma Louise, Matt Corby, The Temper Trap and a whole mess more! What kind of up-and-coming band wouldn’t kill for that exposure.

Wanna get your music over to the annual SXSW music festival and conference? Well, we’ve got some insider info that’s sure to help all you artists (and managers) looking to get involved in being showcased for next year’s event on March 8-17.

It’s a name some of you may not be familiar with, but you’d be doing yourself a favour to learn – SXSW’s own official representative for Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii – the one and only Phill Tripp. He’s a goldmine of information when it comes to getting your music to SXSW, and he sat down with us to give us the lowdown.

The first place to look is (obviously!) 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 (if they don’t already have one). All the info is at: http://www.sonicbids.com/Opportunity/OpportunityView.aspx?opportunity_id=107961

So that’s the basics covered, but there’s some important things to consider if you’re looking into a showcase.

SXSW started accepting submissions August 1 and those artists who apply early will be listened to as a first priority – the committee of over 100 genre specific reviewers ears are freshest early in the season.

Those in early will be notified early of their invitations to play, leaving crucial time to apply for funding grants–and for those from Australia or New Zealand, the critical visas for entry into the US to perform.  You must have a visa which you must apply for early.

If you wait until closer to the deadline of November 7, Phil’s ears will be crisped and attention faltering for those last minute listens to those who forgot to apply or waited.  No submissions will be accepted past November 7th, no exceptions.

If you are just want to attend as a manager or key member, which Phil advise’d you do the year before applying, look to register now to start making contacts on 2013.

Registration for the SXSW Music Festival, Conference and Trade Show are now open at US$625 through September when it rises to $675.  Walkup rate is $795. Go to http://sxsw.com/attend  Registration FAQs at http://sxsw.com/attend/register/faq

SXSW’s official travel agent Brad Thomas has directed travellers and transported freight for a decade and has great flight deals direct to Austin via DFW as well as via LAX and onward or around the world.  His email is brad@travelmanagers.com.au or call him on 02 9280 3767.

Now here are Phil Tripp’s Top Ten Tips for showcasing artists from a decade of 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.

9.  Sounds Australia is the marketing organisation for exporting (www.soundsaustralia.com.au) and they have an all day set of shows at the Aussie BBQ on Saturday, Whole Foods Market concerts and other events as well as having had stand presences and networking events.  Contact Millie Millgate at mmillgate@soundsaustralia.com.au for details.

10.   Look at playing other shows on the way over or back.  Stagemothers do the Aussie BBQ in other cities before and after SXSW.  There is Canadian Music Week in Toronto the week after SXSW which loves showcasing Australian talent.  Look at hooking up with other bands that are going with music like yours and synergy.

Beware of companies or people who want a fee from you to rep you for showcasing or playing non-official shows outside of SXSW.  These are ripoff scams.  Also be wary of ambush marketing events like Red Gorilla and Mess With Texas that happen at the same time as SXSWand want a fee for applying.

Take your applying to SXSW seriously as in 2012 there were over 300 Australian acts among more than 10,300 submitting with 71 homegrown artists invited of which 37 actually made among 2286 from 50 countries–550 outside the US.  There were 3220 influential Music Media in attendance, over 650 Australian delegates among 18,988 badged registrants.

So if you plan to apply, give us your best shot, make it early as you can and wait for the invitation to follow should you be successful.  And if you’re not, there’s always 2014.  Realise too that we are not inviting to a quota and if an invited artist declines or can’t play, we do not replace them or offer their slot to another.


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