Oregon-native and South By veteran Cory Kendrix has long been a solid conduit for NW artists trying to get on at Austin’s world famous mega-festival, South By South West (SXSW). Every year, the Austin transplant fields a barrage of questions from a litany of characters, all looking for the best advice and the realest advice on how to secure a chance to prove themselves as the next big thing. Well Cory is getting tired, so with just over a week to go until musicians around the world start converging on Austin, we’re going to pass on some advice. Gems like this don’t come around often; feel free to set a bookmark.
Cory: SXSW as you may or may not know is a HUGE event in Austin, TX every year. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl of music in a sense, and every year – about a month or 2 out – I get a million artists from all over the country blowing up my FB and phone asking how to get down… If only it was that simple.
Mac: So what do you tell them?
C: The first thing every artist interested in performing officially during SXSW should do is head over to Sonicbids.com, create an account and build their EPK. It does cost monthly to have an account on there, but the great thing about Sonic Bids is once you are in their system and have built your EPK you can apply to all sort of festivals, not just SXSW. That’s how I’ve been able to get on so many festivals like A3C, NXNE, Pop Montreal, etc… Then once you have your account set up you find what festivals work best for you and apply to them. It usually for the most part is MONTHS IN ADVANCE, so don’t think that you can sign up 2 weeks before the festival and apply. Usually submissions end about 2-3 months before the festivals begins and then you have to play the waiting game to see if you get accepted or not. The cool thing is they will tell you on Sonic Bids when you will be notified if you were accepted or not, a deadline for your wait essentially. (See Cory’s EPK here.)
C: Yes. Not sure if they still book through ReverbNation… I’m not sure if anybody still uses ReverbNation (laughs)… But they used to have a submission on there as well. Most submissions have a fee and the earlier you apply the cheaper the fee is generally. I think SX this year was 35$ at the beginning so if you’re not ready to invest in your music then you’re not ready for SXSW or any festival yet. Now if you don’t get booked for the official SX its okay DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! Thousands and thousands of people apply every year, so as you can imagine, its kind of hard to narrow it down to the really dope artists. The best advice is to get your EPK looking as good as you can!
So let’s say you applied and didn’t get accepted… It’s okay. First off don’t let that scare you from applying again next year. The more often they see your name pop up in the applications, the more likely you are to get booked. So say you’re not going to be an official artist this year, but you still want to go to SX and you still want to perform. There are a lot of things you can do to make this happen…
M: OK. So on to unofficial. I’ve rocked on some of those…
C: First thing you can do – and I always recommend it again months in advance – HIT ME UP! Being as I lived in Austin and built my name in the scene there for 10+ years, I have built connections with most of the hip-hop promoters there that throw the UNofficial showcases during the festivals, which honestly sometimes are way more poppin’ then the official showcases… SOMETIMES. If you take this route, again please get a hold of me MONTHS IN ADVANCE as the shows book rather quickly. And again, I will need you to email me all your press info and music links to forward to my people. Then, again, we play the waiting game. Over the years I’ve helped get a handful of PDX artists (including Tre Redeau, Tope & Myke Bogan) get on unofficial shows. Ideally, what I would like too see happen is getting these awesome PDX acts on the OFFICIAL showcases though because that’s where the big heads are that are looking for the next big thing!
I dont know if I said this before, but I have a great relationship with the head of hip-hop coordination for SX, so if you do apply officially and your music is dope and I believe in your hustle, I will go above and beyond to put the word in for you and get you on the official side of things. The problem is, rarely do people ever apply, and unless your already blowing up, applying is the only way you’re going to get on officially… And if your not touring nationally already then you’re not blowing up. Sorry just telling it as it is. (laughs)
Now there are other ways to get on unofficial shows, but I would say TREAD CAREFULLY. A lot of people try to hit you with the PAY TO PLAY aspect which does have the potential to work, but again its all about how much you’re willing to invest in yourself. If this is a route you’re wanting to take then I would recommend gettin’ on Craigslist – again months in advance – going to the Austin, TX section and typing in “SXSW Un Official” in the gigs section. But again TREAD CAREFULLY! I have heard of some pay to play shows that are pretty wack and I don’t want to see that happen to anybody out there going out off their way to play SX.
Last but not least, and this is kind of a grey area buuuut if you applied and didn’t get accepted and still want to party and network like an OFFICIAL ARTIST and get all the perks official artists get (Artist Tents,Panels,Back Stage Access, Line Skipping Privileges, Official Performer Back Pack, UNLIMITED FREE DRINKS AND FOOD!) there are options to get you to that status. This will cost you some money, and again you will have to be on it a month or 2 in advance, but it can be done.