No matter where you are in your career, you may want to attend a music conference. These conventions and festivals offer a lot of stuff in one place.
Whether you’re still in college or have a full career, consider why you should go to a conference. Read on to learn about the pros and cons and how to make the most of your time.
Why Attend a Music Conference
Going to a music conference can be an excellent option for professional musicians and pre-professionals. Consider some of the benefits of going to convention or event.
Network With Others
Whether it’s the National Flute Association (NFA) Convention or a smaller event, you can network with others in the industry. You can meet other teachers, performers, and composers all in one place.
If you want to network with music business owners, you can also do that. Of course, we can network online, and I’ve met a lot of great people that way.
But it’s a whole different ballgame to meet and network with people in person. You can build good relationships that could lead to business or project partnerships in the future.
Learn About Industry Changes
Another great reason to go to a music conference is to stay up-to-date on changes in the field. For example, if you’re a flute teacher, you could look into new method books and solos for your students.
You can also learn about new gadgets that may hep your playing. The exhibit hall is a great place for this, but you can also check the schedule for events.
Check on Your Competitors
The music industry is interesting because it can involve a lot of collaboration. But other musicians are still technically your competitors.
Attending a music conference is a great way to learn what your competitors are up to. You can learn about new projects or products and services that they have.
That’s a great way to do market research and brainstorm ideas for your own business. Of course, you can also connect with your ideal customers to learn what they want, even if you don’t have booth in the exhibit hall.
Visit the Surrounding Area
If you have a bit of extra time that you can take off and money you can spend, you can visit the city. You can head to the convention location early or stay late.
This is a great option for conferences like the NFA Convention or the ICA ClarinetFest. Both events rotate to different cities each year, so they’re a great excuse for you to travel.
You can also explore the area between events you want to attend during the convention. But I like shorter days, so that would be a lot for me.
Why Not Attend a Music Conference
As much as I’ve learned from and enjoyed the NFA Convention in the past, attending a music conference isn’t always the best. Consider some of the drawbacks of going to an event.
They Can Get Expensive
I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, attending a conference isn’t cheap. You have to pay for travel and accommodations, such as driving, a flight, and a hotel.
Then, there’s food, the convention registration fee, and the cost of anything you want to buy in the exhibit hall. All of it can add up quickly, and you may not have a ton of extra cash.
Depending on the convention, you may be able to save money with scholarships. You could even volunteer or work a few shifts at the event to make some money.
They Take Up Time
You also have to put aside enough time for the conference. Some events only last a day or two, such as smaller regional festivals.
But others last four days, and with travel days, you’re out a week. And unless your career includes a full-time job with paid days off, that also means you can lose out on income.
If you can’t afford to lose that money or time, you can attend a single day. Or you may decide to sit out of the convention.
Networking Might Not Do Anything
A music conference is a great place to build your network. But depending on the services you offer or who your target client is, networking might not be that successful.
You have to consider who will be at the conference. Then, you can make sure you can network with the right people to help further your career.
You’ll Have Some Long Days
Another thing to keep in mind is how long the days can last. Using the NFA Convention as an example, events start as early as 8am and go as late as midnight.
If you want to attend everything, you’re going to have a few long days ahead of you. Personally, I attend a few events each day so that I have plenty of downtime.
You have to decide whether you want to miss out on events or sleep.
How to Make the Most of a Music Conference
If you decide to attend a music conference, here are my best tips to make the most of your time there.
Check the Schedule Ahead of Time
As soon as the conference schedule comes out, take a look at it. Make a list of the events you want to attend and their days and times.
If you want to attend two conflicting events or if you want to attend events for hours on end, you may have to cut some things.
That way, you can still eat and sleep and have downtime. Planning your schedule ahead of time means you can go to the events you want without missing anything unintentionally.
Find Nearby Accommodations
If you can swing it, I highly recommend staying in the official convention hotel or a nearby hotel. The closer you are to the action, the less time you’ll have to spend at the beginning and end of your days.
You can also more easily go up to your hotel room if you need some alone time for a lunch break. And you don’t have to carry a full backpack of stuff all day.
Yes, the official hotel may be more expensive. But you might have to spend that money anyway, it would just otherwise be on taxis or a rental car and gas.
Odds are, you’ll still need to buy some food at the event. But if you pack snacks, you can save a lot of money on your overall food bill.
You can put a snack bar or something in your bag as well. That way, if you only have a few minute between events but get hungry, you can eat something.
Just make sure you pack them carefully so that they don’t get crushed in your bag.
Make Time for the Exhibit Hall
The events can be fun, but my favorite part of a music conference is the exhibit hall. You can see what vendors are selling, try instruments, and buy some new sheet music.
If possible, make time in your personal convention schedule to check out the exhibits. The NFA is great about setting aside an hour of no events during exhibit hall hours each day.
That means you have a bit of time to visit different booths without missing any event you might want to attend.
Set a Shopping Budget
As I mentioned, the convention can get quite costly, especially if you’re on the lookout for a new instrument. I’d recommend setting a budget for your new instrument or shopping in general.
You can then keep an eye on your spending during the conference so that you don’t go overboard. If possible, bring a bit of cash to help with this.
Even if you still use a card for some things, cash is nice. You can still use it if your bank blocks your card due to you traveling.
Get Enough Sleep
A lot of things happen during a music conference, and you may not want to miss anything. But as someone who does NOT function well when sleep deprived, I have to say you need to get enough sleep.
You can drink some caffeine to help, but nothing beats actual sleep. Consider how many hours you need to feel well-rested, and do your best to get that.
The last thing you want is to attend an event where you can’t even focus because you’re too tired.
If you’re a music major or professional musician, you should attend at least one music conference in your life. You can learn a lot and meet new people to help grow your career.
And if you’re a flutist who will be at NFA, let’s connect. I’d love to help you make the most of your time this August!