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Why This Is the Year to Finally Pay Attention to Music Conferences

Bill Withers and Justin Timberlake at the 2010 ASCAP Expo conference.
Bill Withers and Justin Timberlake at the 2010 ASCAP Experience conference.

*Images in this post of recent editions of the annual ASCAP Experience, shared courtesy of our partner, ASCAP.

The world has changed dramatically since the spring of 2020, when almost every corner of the world was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries have also been affected, some more so than others, with the music industry taking an especially heavy hit.

Countless music events have since been postponed or outright canceled in the wake of global pandemic, and public health mandates have complicated the booking process for organizations, participants, and even ticket-holders alike. Midem, a renowned international music industry conference, has been fully canceled as of 2020, although there are rumors that it may be revived in the distant future.

Meanwhile, somewhat hopefully, the world’s top music conferences are keeping up with the changing times, and battling through these difficulties.

A great example, attendance at last year’s ASCAP Experience, held virtually for only the second time in the event’s history, grew by 39% over the previous year. And in 2022, the ASCAP Experience will even continue this format by hosting monthly sessions with the same mix of A-list songwriters and producers from across the musical spectrum, top industry executives, plus song feedback, networking opportunities and more.

Other major industry conferences have switched to online platforms, or opted to try a hybrid format that incorporates both virtual and in-person events.

Yet no matter their format, 2022 may just be “The Year of the Music Conference,” for a number of reasons — as we’re expecting upcoming events to be even more essential for independent musicians of all kinds. By attending a music conference, you’ll be able to do any or all of the following.

1. Make Valuable and Meaningful Industry Connections

Music conferences allow professionals at every level of the game to make connections, helping you solidify your place in a competitive industry. What’s more, many of us have lost a valuable networking tool in live music events, and conferences can help to bridge the gap.

Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder at the 2017 ASCAP Expo conference.
Janelle Monáe and Stevie Wonder at the 2017 ASCAP Experience conference.

Whether you’re an indie artist looking to increase your fanbase or want to collaborate with other musicians or lifestyle brands, music conferences are often a great place to make and develop those strategic avenues. Interestingly, online events can serve you well in this regard, as digital conferences bring in attendees from around the world.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “How to Network in Today’s (Online) Music Industry.”

2. Expand the Global Reach of Your Music

The shift to virtual conferences may also open more doors for those industry professionals who may lack the funds to travel. Global music is a huge moneymaker right now, and virtual music conferences can help attendees expand their reach and attract a larger audience.

Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice panelling at the 2021 online ASCAP Expo conference.
Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice panelling at the 2021 online ASCAP Experience conference.

Consider how networking, and mutual “showing up” for your peers, can reap numerous benefits: The valuable global connections made throughout a digital conference means that your compositions might be shared with music students in Europe or Africa, or published on a fellow conference attendee’s blog, with their thousands of subscribers.

3. Learn Essential Tools of the Trade

Just before COVID-19 hit the scene, rapid global growth and DIY uploads across the music industry helped fuel a 32% profit increase from the previous year among indie artists, according to Rolling Stone.

In this context, an artist is considered “independent” if they aren’t signed to a major label. And thanks to social distancing mandates and fewer live events, independent musicians are spending more time at home, creating and uploading as often as they’re able.

Billie Eilish and Finneas at the 2018 ASCAP Expo conference.
Billie Eilish and Finneas at the 2018 ASCAP Experience conference.

Self-starters — and artists shooting to become more holistically self-sustainable — can pick up plenty of new tricks at DIY conferences, and may even get the opportunity to check out the latest music tech and software up close.

In 2016, CD Baby’s DIY Musician Conference attendees learned about everything from sync placements in TV and film to ways to stand out from the competition.

4. Find Creative Ways to Adapt

As music conferences are working to adapt to ever-changing times, so can the professional musician, whatever your niche. Topics related to the global pandemic, and the future of music promotion and strategy, are almost definitely going to become music conference staples long into the foreseeable future.

By observing how conferences of all sizes have been able to change their formatting, you may be better equipped to navigate potential bumps in the road.

Pinar Toprak, Marco Beltram, and Garry Schyman at the 2018 ASCAP Experience conference.
Pinar Toprak, Marco Beltrami, and Garry Schyman at the 2018 ASCAP Experience conference.

Speaking of adaptation, those attending in-person conferences should be aware of any relevant travel restrictions, as well as rules put in place by conferences themselves. At Nashville’s Music Biz 2022 Conference, for instance, attendees must show proof of vaccination or a negative viral test in order to receive their badge.

Conversely, attendees of many of this year’s forthcoming conferences can avoid the headaches of travel during a global pandemic and participate in virtual seminars instead.

Key Takeaways

By some predictions, 2022 is poised to be a record year for music conferences. So, if you’re ready to take your career to the next level, maybe it’s time to finally immerse yourself in the music conference experience.

Do your research, taking the time to find the music conference that best suits your unique needs, and book your spot early to help keep costs down.

See you on the road somewhere!

Questlove and Paul Williams at the 2019 ASCAP Experience conference.
Questlove and Paul Williams at the 2019 ASCAP Experience conference.

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Leah D. Nelson

Leah D. Nelson started writing about music in high school, and never stopped. She loves thrift shops, dogs, live music and riding her bike. After spending several memorable years immersed the New Orleans music scene, she is now comfortably settled in Boise, Idaho.