I was in Vancouver this week for the Western Arts Alliance (WAA) conference. (It did actually rain!) My music ensemble, The Nouveau Classical Project (NCP), was selected as one of the three artists for WAA's Launchpad, a program for emerging artists and early career agents or managers to make it possible for artists to become visible to, and to connect with, the managers and presenters who will book them. (Enormous thanks to Ichun Yeh of Sozo Artists for the nomination!)
I had never attended an arts conference because they are costly (for instance, "early bird" registration for APAP is $775) and I was never quite sure about what my ensemble would get out of it. From what I gathered, one rents a booth along with a sea of other organizations peddling their wares, and there's also showcasing, pay-to-play opportunities to gain exposure--which seems to mean "why you should perform for free"--to presenters and managers. (However, in the the case of, well, showcasing, it seems to actually mean something. More on that in a later post). I used to fake-DJ a fashion trade show each season, and this was the closest experience I could relate to the conference: the artists and managers are the fashion designers and showrooms, and the presenters are the buyers. In the past I have attempted to reach out to presenters on my own through cold e-mailing with virtually no response, so I was excited when we were selected for Launchpad. I knew this would give us access, and yes, exposure, to both presenters and managers, as well as consulting and mentorship that would guide us in our pursuit of being a self-produced, indie group to being an indie group that gets its concerts presented and produced/co-produced. We were told to keep our expectations low and that we were there just to meet people and start building relationships. Beyond meeting new people and starting productive conversations with managers and presenters, attending WAA was an eye-opening education into the world of the arts outside of both of hometown, New York City, and the new music community.
Before heading to WAA, I spent weeks preparing our printed materials and cold e-mailing presenters and managers. Most of them didn't respond, but I was able to nail down a few meetings. I created both a video and a photo album that would loop on an iPad, the photo album including press quotes superimposed on the photos. I also bought a Vancouver guidebook, even though I knew deep down that we'd have zero time to explore the city. My partner in crime (and croissants...anything pastry-related) Isabel Kim, NCP clarinetist, was coming with me. I knew she'd be perfect because she's been in the ensemble the longest aside from myself and had experience on the presenting end as a staff member of Symphony Space.
I'll blog about each day at WAA in separate posts. Wish I could have blogged immediately, but we were exhausted and asleep by around 10pm each night. I hope the posts are helpful to fellow artists who are trying to take their careers to the next level! DIY and indie are great, and an inherent part of being an artist, but at some point, we need more substantial support...at least I know I do at this moment in my career. I'm hoping taking part in WAA was the beginning of that leap.