Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 | Page 29

COLUMNS or some team member on the ground who will get invited to the exclusive parties , have a network , and can wrangle delegates to the showcase , it ’ s unrealistic to think anyone of value will show up . The industry pros will go wherever their friends go – meaning artists with a representative have a major leg up simply by having someone who can hang around . And for the artists who are there without representation or prior buzz ? They ’ re simply paying to play for the bar staff and the handful of people they already know .

These are just a few of the harsh truths about most showcasing festivals . In this post-pandemic climate , witnessing it feels like lemon juice in a papercut . While this model exists and has been supported by funding bodies to help artists succeed , it seems to be getting further away from helping artists and closer to making them needlessly go into debt for little ROI .
So , what can be done ?
Focus on showcasing the artists : Yes , this reads dumb because it ’ s so bloody obvious . If you ’ re a festival presenting artists without compensating them then you sure as hell better pay them with a room full of interested delegates and every opportunity to make lasting connections – and I ’ m not talking five-minute speed meetings or watching a circle-jerk panel about all the things artists aren ’ t doing enough of – I ’ m talking roundtables , mixers that encourage delegate-artist conversation , mentor cafes , and other outside-the-box methods of networking . Ensure that there are no competing events when it comes to their short banger set , take the wine ’ n ’ dine budget meant to entertain industry pros , reinvest it into better quality production , and let the artists be the fucking entertainment they deserve to be . enough money to support those who are showcasing … the “ less is more ” sentiment regarding actual selections would surely help .
Update the model : The global music climate , social priorities , technology , and economy have vastly changed since the showcase model was first developed , so why shouldn ’ t the model for export development reflect that ? The fact that it ’ s an industry-wide norm to uproot an entire band , put them on atrociously priced and problematic flights , with thousands of dollars of musical gear , cram them into questionable Airbnbs , try to fill a room in a city they ’ ve never played in before , with sound so bad that they don ’ t even want to be in the band anymore … is absolutely fucking ridiculous ! I can assure you that it would do more good and cost far less – in money , sweat , and mental-health – to bring the five to 10 delegates the artist really needs to their hometown , in front of the fans they worked so hard for . That would at least show what the artist is capable of when given proper staging , attention , and opportunities to build their audience . In any case , it ’ s due time to go back to the drawing board with some new ideas .
While it ’ s nice that these festivals want to include as many artists as possible , whether for more money , more clout , or to feel inclusive , it ’ s doing 90 % of the artists a disservice by letting them pay to play for a sugar-coated carrot that does not exist for them . As industry , artists , and funders , we need to hold a microscope to these festivals and remind them who and what showcases are really for .
Less is more : A festival boasting that they ’ re showcasing the “ best 100 artists in bladdy-blah ” is as obnoxious and untrue as the hundreds of Black Friday ads that pop up with “ Best Deal Ever ! Today only !” for an entire month . You simply cannot have that many bests . Being hyper-curatorial increases value to the artists , communicating to the delegates that these are hand-selected artists worth researching , seeing live , and doing business with . Fewer artists would open up the production budget to properly support them and eliminate the need to have competing showcases allowing them to get more facetime with the delegation , which will directly result in the relationships and deals that showcases are meant to build . ( Mundial is a prime example of points one and two – it can be done .)
Artists should be funded to attend a conference without a showcase : The ability to learn , check out the calibre of artists who are raising the bar , and network with industry tastemakers without the pressure of getting them to a showcase is an incredible opportunity for growth . I ’ d argue that a prepared artist could do just as much business without a showcase as they could with one . Especially for those who face financial barriers and can ’ t afford to fly an entire band until they ’ ve already built some global connections . Unfortunately , our funding bodies only have
Elise Roller is the founder of and artist manager at Misfit Music MGMT , an artist development and management company based in Winnipeg , MB . With an honest art-first , industry-second approach , Misfit helps music creators set realistic expectations , find sustainability in superfans , and celebrate the milestones it helps them reach . To learn more about Misfit ’ s Artist Evolution services , visit www . misfitmusicmgmt . com / artistevolution .