Over the weekend I attended Dallas Penn and Combat Jack’s first annual Bring Your Own Blogger BBQ. It was a grand event, filled with positive vibes and good energy, people looking to show love to others, and overall I had a great time. But I had one conversation, with an aspiring rapper, which put a slight damper on things. In the midst of our casual conversation, said rapper- clearly not knowing who I was- asked me to “sell myself” to him. Confused as to why any human, specifically a rapper without a glimmer of a buzz, without any money, and furthermore without a record deal, would resort to such tom foolery in a convo, I chalked it up to one thing, this dude just goes to too many “industry” parties.
Ah yes, parties. The supposed lifeblood of the music industry. Everywhere you turn there’s an “industry” party to go to. But what’s an industry party anyway? Why should or shouldn’t you go to them? How should you act there? And what should you take from your experience?
An industry party is an event that will usually draw a large number of people who work (or in this day and age, used to work) as professionals in the music business. I want to hone in on that word professional, because it’s a very loose term when applied to music, and the amount of professionals who attend an event will most likely correlate with the value gleaned from attending the event in the first place.
In Part 1 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, the answer to the question, “What Is A Music Industry Party Anyway?”
1) Listening Session- This is an event where an artist’s record label marketing department gets a whole bunch of tastemakers (journalists, DJs, bloggers, media personalities… etc) in one room, usually a studio space or an intimate lounge setting, and plays the artist’s new album. The purpose is to draw attention to the body of work that the artist just spent the past year of his/her life working into the wee hours of the morning in a dark secluded recording studio to create. More often than not, industry folks use it as an excuse to chit chat while getting free food and liquor before heading on to another event. Usually by the day of the listening session, a bazillion people
who make no money on the periphery of the biz have found out about it, and they swoop down on the location like vultures, in some misguided attempt to “get on.” Unless you’re a tastemaker, stay away from this type of event. You’re not wanted, needed or accepted here.
2) Album Release Party- Typically, there are two types of album release parties. There is a party that goes on in the early part of the evening, some time around 7ish, and then there’s a party that starts around 10, at a nightclub. Before you go to either event, you need to ask yourself who you are and who you want to be around. At the earlier party, you will most likely be surrounded by more professional people. You will drink and eat for free, and the artist in question will be receptive, jovial and appear genuinely appreciative of your support, no matter who the hell you are. At the later party, you will encounter a long line outside the club, groupies (depending on who the artist is), pay for drinks… hey, you may even have to cop a bottle or two just to get in the door. Here, you’ll fix your eyes on the VIP section, where the artist will be posted up with weed carriers, clearly ignoring you. Even if you do get a minute to chat with the artist, he’s so drunk and fixated on groupie pussy that he won’t remember you in the AM anyway.
3) Networking events- parties that are put together for the sole purpose of having people meet one another are the gift and the curse. People in positions of influence are generally too busy to attend events like these. Rather, you find a collection of meandering middle men, aspiring CEOs, artists and executives, people who are self-employed and just a melange of folks who you may never call after meeting them. Still, every now and again someone of importance strolls through, and maybe meeting that person for five minutes is all you need. Then again, there are dozens of other people bending their ear thinking the same thing. That’s one of the reasons why so few people who really work in the industry attend these things.
4) Charity Event- A large number of the people who attend charity events are those fortuitous enough to be charitable in the first place. That means either a) they’re just flat out rich or b) successful in whatever it is they do. Regardless, charity events draw a different type of crowd and vibe. People are at the event for a good cause, they’re around many of their peers, they want to drink and be merry, but look respectable at the same time. It is rather easy to bend someone’s ear at a charity event, hold their attention, and have a real conversation. But you may want to swallow your pride and throw a blazer on instead of that Stop Snitching t-shirt.
5) Product Launch- Usually accompanied by a red carpet and paparazzi (note the paparazzi), product launches are great for meeting people provided you show up before everyone is too trashed to talk. Come late and you may wind up having 16 conversations in 30 minutes and not one of those people will be even remotely sober. But since red carpets tend to draw high profile celebs, the lists at the doors are usually more strict, and if you can finagle your way in, you’ll probably be around some pretty official people. At the very least, you’ll be able to tweet that you’re at such and such’s red carpet event. And that’s worth something, right?
In Part 2 of The Essential Guide to Music Industry Parties, we’ll tackle the different types of people you meet at these events.