Whether you're new to WOMEX, or a seasoned pro hoping to pick up some additional tips, here are a few ideas on how to make the most out of your time at WOMEX 12 in Thessaloniki.
Don't miss the WOMEX Orientation for New Delegates on Thursday morning, offering useful advice on how to use all aspects of WOMEX as well as tips on submitting Conference and Showcase proposals.
Our Make the Most of virtualWOMEX session on Thursday afternoon will help you discover the opportunities that virtualWOMEX has to offer to promote your business, as well as tips and tricks that will be useful to newcomers and WOMEX regulars alike.
If you are a filmmaker, TV/film programmer or producer, festival organiser, DVD label owner, or if you are just interested in music documentaries, make sure you attend the IMZ Film Screenings.
We will let long-time delegate Dmitri Vietze (USA) take over from here...
How to Prepare for WOMEX 12 - by Dmitri Vietze
You’re registered for WOMEX and starting to pack for Thessaloniki. Don’t forget to think about why you are attending and to prepare to accomplish your goals. Here is a guide from 14-year veteran WOMEXican Dmitri Vietze, founder of rock paper scissors, the U.S. music publicity firm that promotes "music of global significance".
Quick Checklist for Everyone:
- business cards (virtualWOMEX is a great resource, but it’s good to have a physical souvenir)
- comfortable shoes (convention centers have hard floors and there is lots of walking)
- a water bottle (you may not have time to track it down and you’ll be talking a lot)
- presentation materials (see appropriate section below for more suggestions)
- a schedule for meetings, panels, showcases, and meals
- a map from your accommodation to the conference location
- I.D. (WOMEX needs a photo I.D. to get you checked in)
Before You Go:
1. Schedule meetings. The biggest mistakes less experienced conference-goers make is not having some meetings scheduled in advance. There are plenty of panels to attend and trade stands to visit, but if at all possible try to schedule meetings related to the business you hope to conduct in advance. The more in-demand people may not have time to meet on the spot. Use virtualWOMEX to identify and contact possible business contacts. Try the Advanced Search if you are not sure who to contact; you can still filter by country, company type, and role. Scan panel presenters for contacts of interest as well. If you are not succeeding at scheduling meetings, schedule yourself for Mentoring or Matchmaking sessions offered by WOMEX, and put the most valuable-looking panels on your schedule. Schedule more of your meetings earlier during the conference so that you are available to schedule impromptu meetings later during WOMEX.
2. Prepare materials. A lot can be done with a meeting. But you may not have enough time to explain or demonstrate everything you need to. Information about what you might bring:
Tips to Meet People (especially for first-timers):
- Recordings. A few years ago everyone brought CDs. Popular label or festival directors literally filled entire suitcases with CDs. Only the most organised person was able to process and audition that many recordings before their next conference. Nowadays, people still bring full CDs, but others bring download cards, flash drives, or flat CD sleeves. It is good to have something physical to hand out, something to be remembered by. But your goals should dictate what format. If you have a large roster and a few targets, flash drives make a lot of sense. If you represent a single artist, you might consider a combination of CDs for DJs and journalists, postcards with web links for festivals, and nicer special packages for key targets. Having a variety of formats of audio means you can give the recipient whatever they prefer. Preferences vary quite a bit from person to person. Someone hearing your music for the first time may not want a ten CD catalogue plus three DVDs in long boxes in their first meeting with you. Sampler discs can be useful for that first meeting. But when you meet that right person who is already a fan and can make a difference in your career, having a full CD on hand can make or break an offer.
- Postcards. Think about who your target is and prepare postcard information for that audience. If you are an artist looking for festival bookings, include compelling information about the live touring act as well as career highlights. Also include what territories you are hoping to tour and when you are available (month and year). Avoid hype and clichés. Include musical styles, country of origin, key web links, and contact info. If you are an agent with a larger roster, include shorter blurbs. Compelling photos will always catch people’s eyes.
- Posters. If you have a showcasing artist, you can increase attendance with posters. Leave room to write in the location and time. Artists with fewer posters feel less important. There are WOMEX and venue rules about where posters can be hung [comment from WOMEX: there will be designated poster walls in the Registration area].
- Sticker and buttons. These are a great inexpensive gifts you can hand out to people you meet.
- Gifts. It is not uncommon for people to bring small gifts to give to people they meet along the way. Candy, local beverages, and handicrafts are common. But you may consider something even more valuable as a thank you for someone who has helped you in the past.
1. Write down 2-4 goals. The more clear you are about what you specifically want out of WOMEX, the more likely you will accomplish it. If you write it down, you will realise just how specific you need to be. Goals could include: Meet and get contact information for 20 festival directors. Meet 10 record label decision-makers and hand them my demo. Put faces with names with the 20 people I already know in the world music industry. Dance with 10 attractive people. Discover five performers I want to book this year at my festival. Write them down! Now.
2. Have a sound bite. Make sure you can give an overview of what you do in a minute or less. Then if someone is interested to learn more, you can talk more. But there will be a lot of: "What do you do?" in passing. Be prepared to answer it simply and clearly, or in a way that will pique more questions or interest. Be prepared to be able to describe the music in a way that quickly gives the listener a sense of what you are talking about. A simple way to do this is to say: "It’s like ______, but with _________."
3. Talk to people. You spent all this money and time to get to WOMEX; you will get more out of it if you meet more new people and the only way to do this is to talk. This means talking to complete strangers. Everywhere. Grab their badge and say with a smile: Oh, where are you from? Figure out how YOU can HELP them? Ask them what they are trying to get out of WOMEX so that you can keep an ear out for them. Offer to help someone carry something heavy. Buy someone a coffee. But just as importantly take the conversation deep, fast. Try to understand what someone does and what makes them tick and offer an ear and a hand.
4. Be respectful. There are a few people at WOMEX who are always for sale. You see them coming with their hand extended and everyone turns the other way. Why? Because they are always selling all the time. Every conversation leads to what YOU can do for THEM. People at larger festivals or record labels or media outlets get hit up that many more times, so be respectful of their time and interest or you will lose their time and interest. Make it short and sweet and if they are not interested, move on. Being forceful or louder or more aggressive will not change their mind. Hook them with something personal or compelling and the story changes. Beware that many people have back-to-back meetings throughout WOMEX. With those people, you can ask if they have time later or if you can hand them something and follow up afterwards. Anything more, and you will get an unequivocal rejection.
5. A little of everything. You may need a taste of all the WOMEX offerings before you figure out what works for you best. Plan on attending a couple of panels, going to lots of showcases, and perusing the trade hall. If you have a lot of trouble meeting new people, attend more relevant panels where you can put faces with names. Introduce yourself to panelists after it is over. Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. If you have something relevant to the panel discussion, raise your hand early in the Question & Answer portion, introduce your name and organisation, and say your comment or question. Make it compelling and people will be attracted to you. Sign up for Matchmaking and Mentoring in advance, as those slots go fast.
Chances are that you have decided to attend WOMEX a little bit for fun, a little bit to check the pulse of the scene, and mostly to move your career forward. The types of opportunities artists may find at WOMEX include getting a booking agent or manager, getting a deal with a record label, getting bookings at theatres or festivals, getting media coverage or radio airplay, connecting with other artists for collaborations, working with a government or other agency, etc. You will find that some music industry professionals do not want to work with an artist directly. In this case, the best strategy is to act as much like a professional as possible. Record labels at WOMEX typically are not looking for new acts. They tend to have in house producers who like to find and produce/record albums for their artists, though some license tracks or full albums form territory to territory. Many festivals and concert promoters have "go to" people in each country of interest such as booking agents, record labels, or managers who they rely on for new programming material. But most will accept music from anyone. It can be very tough to pitch a booking agent at a conference because agents at these events tends to be in "selling" mode, not "buying mode". Most will still be receptive to quickly taking a CD or download card for future consideration. You may have to catch them at a less formal time, such as at showcases so they have enough time to talk.
Commit to Follow Up:
No matter what you do at WOMEX, it will be worthless if you do not have a plan for follow-up afterwards! Before you go, put a couple of follow up days in your calendar about 1-4 weeks after WOMEX. Or else you have wasted your investment in WOMEX. If you use a smart phone, get an app that lets you scan and archive business cards. (By the way, virtualWOMEX is a GREAT resource. If you lose a card or for whatever reason need to find someone later, you can usually find their contact info in the WOMEX directory.) Plan on creating a spreadsheet with all the contacts and what the next step and due date is. Do this, do this, do this!