Having spent a few years focusing on, growing and building relationships online through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reverbnation, I am crazy fascinated about the intersection of music and tech! I was privileged to attend SF MusicTech Summit’s twelfth conference in San Francisco on February 19th! We all know how overwhelming, stimulating and completely packed full of information music conferences are. We also know the kind of amazing opportunities there are to listen to movers and shakers, to contribute and interact with visionaries, to strike up fruitful discussions, shift your perspectives, and of course to engage: network, network, and network. As an Indie Artist, I attended sessions where panels focused on tools for artists, how musicians are making money, digital marketing and marketing album releases, as these were most relevant to my own career goals and trajectory. Here are my 7 Ahas and Take-Aways from my first SF MusicTech Summit (but can also apply to music conferences in general!):

(1)  NETWORKING: Take advantage of all networking opportunities! Even before the conference, if a list of attendees is available, there may be opportunities to reach out and start building relationships, or to identify key people you might want to meet while there! If there are mixers the night before, where you can attend and connect with attendees, GO!

(2)  PEOPLE AROUND YOU: Realize that the people in the room are just as valuable to talk to as the panel speakers! Before and after the sessions and during breaks, make time to get to know others around you. I find I learn so much from other attendees as well as panel speakers. You never know when that initial contact turns into a relationship down the line!

(3)  FAN ENGAGEMENT: Re: social networking, here’s a cool idea for engaging with people on Facebook that has worked well for Pomplamoose: after posting on Facebook, make yourself available for a time and note on your post you will be there for a short time to connect with folks!

(4)  MOBILE SITES & APPS: Re: mobile apps, so much of our daily lives increasingly is take place via a mobile device such as online activity and social networking. Mobile apps are another marketing platform for artists and a great way to build community and have direct connection with fans. If you have an artist website, make sure your site is mobile optimized. You can start with a free mobile app (check out MobBase) and add analytics to see how your fans use it. Consider different, exclusive content for all of your marketing platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Mobile Apps) to make each experience unique for your fans!

(5)  YOUR BUSINESS CARD: Re: Digital Marketing, as much as possible should be done by the artist! You must rely on yourself to establish your brand as people want organic, authentic and believable messages and communication, coming directly from the artist. An “aha” for me? For an artist, your music is your “business card” that gets you in; it is just one facet of you! People want to get to know and interact with different aspects of you besides the music! As an example, as Aoede, I post daily quotes and trivia questions on facebook and wordplay, fun facts, cool stuff on twitter to create community and inspire interactions!

(6) OUTSIDE THE BOX: When it comes to releasing albums (and marketing too!) think outside the box! We can learn a lot from Nataly Dawn from Pomplamoose and her Kickstarter campaign to fund, market and release her new album. For example, she offered clothes and glasses she had worn in videos and original oil paintings as rewards to backers. As a marketing strategy, Michael Franti made videos of himself cooking and invited his fans to “come cook with me online!” Nataly also stressed that asking for help when you need something even if it feels needy, can pay off! For her, asking her fans for help funding her album enabled her to make the album of her dreams! Another outside the box idea? Let fans participate in the creative process more, e.g., have them help write or choose the songs that end up on your album!

(7)  THE ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE: I would have liked to see more panels and sessions offer the “Artist perspective!” There are some amazing indie artists locally and nationally that could be included in sessions to contribute and learn from these discussions! If this is not already being done, I think it would be great to have artists (as well as music fans and other industries) inform some of the current or future technical needs. Pairing up artists and start-up tech companies in a panel for example might fill some gaps and encourage development or new products and services with artists’ needs in mind. This is a phenomenal, cutting-edge conference, and perhaps in the future there can be special rates for indie artists or other discounts or incentives to encourage more indie artist participation!