The Library: Advice For Artists at SXSW

South By Southwest is in full swing, already. The next few days mark the most important and valuable time in Austin for artists, specifically indie artists. Often large festivals with so many people in attendance can be overwhelming. Hustlegrade spoke with people who represent different facets of the music industry to gain their insight and advice on making the most of your time at SXSW as an artist. 

First, we would like to offer a few general tips. The following list was compiled by Justina Hay, one of our Hustlegrade co-founders.

  • Have your music easily accessible and readily available for plays and/or distribution.
  • If you are having music played, DJs prefer flash drives over CDs/mixtapes. Make sure that you have a couple of your best tracks ready to play at a moment's notice, you never know when the opportunity may come to get your music played - do not miss it!
  • Make sure to introduce yourself. Have your information readily available. Ex: A business card with your social media handles/email/contact information. (Preferably an EPK as it is required for official shows or a site that can serve as a central platform for all information about you.)
  • Be prepared to engage in conversations and be mindful of time and your surroundings - remember your conversations and be prepared to follow up on the promising ones. 
  • Make sure to dress the part. First impressions unfortunately do matter.
  • Network with people from different lanes of the industry such as bloggers, artists, and DJs.
  • Network with fans as much as possible. Building your fan base is one of the most important parts of SXSW.
  • Be active on your social media while at SXSW. If you are performing, give out your social media info CLEARLY while on stage. Repost pics/ RT tweets and make sure to connect. Make people remember you.
  • Fully utilize your time on stage as you have a great opportunity to gain new fans.

Hustlegrade also spoke with DJ Shanté from 93.7 The Beat and she gave us the following advice for indie artists at SXSW:

  • Be prepared for technical issues with sound, bad mics, artists with music unprepared , delayed show schedules.
  • Make sure to network, take pictures with fans and artists, get drops from DJs and artists.
  • When passing out music make sure to put flash drive or mixtape in hand.
  • Make sure that the music you submit is the best quality. Make sure that music is mixed and mastered and both clean and dirty versions are available when getting music to DJs.
  • If you don’t have all access or passes to see official shows, do your research and find out what shows would be most beneficial to attend to distribute music and information
  • Show love to other artists, DJs, bloggers and show support. Give people a reason to get behind you.

    Follow DJ Shante and keep up with the dope things she is doing for artists, especially in Houston. 

We also got tips from Amanda Jakes Miles, CEO of Hip Hop Headquarters, LLC, owner and founder of Hip Hop Puree. Amanda also works as a publicist, web designer, digital marketing specialist and as part of the A&R team at Record Union

This is what Amanda had to say about capitalizing on your time at SXSW:

"The main focus for artists at major festivals such as SXSW is to network. So many artists head to Texas with just a ticket and a cellphone to take pictures to say they were there. In most cases artists who are not performing on any stages invest at least $1,000 on flights, lodging, food, SXSW tickets, drinks, etc. There is absolutely no way you should come home without new contacts in your phone or having expanded the awareness of who you are and your brand. Press-kits are a must, but make it simple and creative; like a fancy cool flash drive that will make sure people can distinctly remember you. People are busy and nobody wants to carry around your huge folder of a press-kit. If you cannot afford a flash, easily create business cards with the link on them or come up with some other cool marketing idea. One year I was in Miami for a convention and artists took water bottles and replaced the wrapping with all of their information. It was GENIUS and especially because it was super hot outside, who doesn't want free water in Miami? That was 7 years ago and I still remember them. 

The other part of networking is actually opening your mouth and speaking to not just major people in the industry but to other artists. Show love! It's how you get love back. If you're in a showcase don't just perform your set and leave. Get there the time that show starts and leave when it ends. Don't hold your ego so high that you can't tell another artist they did a good job. 

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Lastly attend as many panels as you possibly can and don't be afraid to ask questions when allowed to do so. Let those panelists see you're actually serious about what you need to do to make you the best artist there is. When those panels are over introduce yourself to them and make some sort of business connection. And make sure when the event is over and you get back home to follow up with everyone you met there on social media. Find them on twitter/IG and follow them and send a small message reminding them that you met at the event and just wanted to keep in touch."

 -Amanda Miles


BUT WAIT. There's more!

With his experience in radio, social media and writing, Joe Hova of Joe Hova's Mindframe offered his advice to artists as well. 

I would recommend to not hand out mixtapes. It’s a dated technology and people don’t play them anymore. If you want people to listen you have to do or show something that makes you stand out. If someone is putting on a dope show in the middle of 6th street I’m more inclined to talk to them afterwards rather than someone who hands me a flyer or mixtape as I walk by. It’s essentially wining and dining the listener. I call 6th St the Mixtape Graveyard. It’s filled with hopes and dreams of artist’s music that wasn’t marketed in the right way
— Joe Hova

Check out our earlier edition of The Library featuring Joe, here. Follow Joe on Twitter and checkout his website as well. 


Finally, we spoke with Cecilia Smith of "Simply Cecilia". As a writer, Cecilia has featured a number of new and established artists in publications including Sway’s Universe, AllHipHop.com, Houston Press, YouHeardThatNews, Vice and more. She’s also the host of her popular “Conversations With Cecilia” and “Follow the Bandit” columns, currently published via Houston Style Magazine each month. Cecilia has also been responsible for managing the stage for multiple shows during SXSW. 

Here is what Cecilia had to say about being successful during and after SXSW

  • Come prepared. You can't anticipate everything that will happen, especially during SXSW, but you can bring your A game. This includes having your music in hand and ready to go. There's nothing worse than connecting with someone only to discover you don't have a way of actually connecting. Don't miss an opportunity by not having your ducks in a row.
  • SXSW is an amazing experience, but business still has to be handled. If you are performing, find out which format the venue wants your music in. Trust me, you don't want to be scrambling to find a thumb drive an hour before your set.
  • Be timely. I've been forced to skip artists because they disappeared before their set. If there's a larger artist on the bill, they're not going to be pushed back to accommodate you.
  • I'm generally not a fan of paying to be on shows. But to each his own.
  • SXSW is an experience, not a guaranteed deal. But it's a networking opportunity than can be leveraged into more.

Follow Cecilia Smith on Twitter and connect with her via her website. 


Hopefully these tips are helpful during artists' time at South By Southwest this year and in the future. While we considered consolidating some of the similar pieces of advice, the points that were made multiple times may be the ones to take heed to, the most. Everyone who offered advice, Hustlegrade included, believe if you stick to the above, be yourself and always remember to showcase yourself as an artist at all times, you will be successful at making the best of the SXSW experience.