Atlantis User’s Guide
The Atlantis Music Conference can be a lot like playing the lottery — you’ve got to buy a ticket, there’s a certain amount of luck involved, and the payoff can be huge.
Not just luck, though — if you want to be successful, there’s some work involved, too. Bands: it’s not enough just to get a slot at the conference, you need to promote yourself before, during and after the event. And Music Lovers: you might get lucky, but unless you do a little homework before the event, chances are you’ll wander around aimlessly and not see any bands, or spend the weekend at your usual hangout seeing the same people you’ve always seen there. So what should you do instead?
Bands — once you’ve been accepted, start letting people know. Send out a press release. Send e-mail to the fans on your mailing list. Call or write label reps that you’ve had dealings with. Have your manager or accountant tell his golf buddies. Plan a wacky media event like biting the head of a live bat (or something like that).
Once the conference starts, you’ve got to keep promoting yourselves. Some bands made sure that you couldn’t swing a dead rat without seeing a flyer for their showcase — at best, I went to see them; at worst, I remembered their name. Go to the panels and introduce yourselves to the panelists, IF it’s appropriate. If you make a pest of yourself, they’ll remember you, but not the way you want them to. And when you get home, follow up right away with anyone that expressed an interest in your music.
If this stuff seems a little bit like “work,” you’re right. If you just want to party all night and sleep all day, that’s cool — just don’t expect to find yourself at the MTV Music Awards presenting Bono with his Lifetime Achievement statuette. If you want to get signed, doing this crap will help your chances of rising above the clamoring hordes of would-be Becks, Bonos and Billy Rays.
If you’re not in a band, all of the above still applies, your goals are just a little different. Do a little research to figure out who you might like to see, then plan your schedule. Most of the bands have Web sites themselves, and you can probably figure out if you’d like them or not. Bouncing around randomly can be fun, too; just boldly go where you’ve never been before.
Some of the high points from this year’s conference:
• An amazing set by Atlanta’s X-Impossibles at the Echo Lounge — but in front of a criminally near-empty club.
• Ultrababyfat and Smithwick Machine playing likewise incredible sets at the same venue the next night, but this time to a packed house. Why did everyone wait until Saturday night to check out the East Atlanta venues?
• The organization of the conference — things seemed to run smoothly for the most part, even with two Atlantis venues closing shortly before the conference.
• Great shows by bands I had never seen: Jeffrey Butts, Drive-By Truckers, Urban Grind, Dave Berg — for me, the best thing about the weekend is finding a cool band I might not have run across otherwise.
Some people might complain about the commercial aspect of the conference, but for a lot of bands, that’s what it’s all about. Getting popular doesn’t necessarily mean “selling out,” and if worked properly, Atlantis is one tool to help get you further along whichever road you choose. So work it, because you never know.