Perth duo The Money War formed during a road trip in the US when Dylan Ollivierre and Carmen Pepper were deciding what to do following the breakup of their respective bands Rainy Day Women and The Morning Birds. It seems fitting then, that the band is headed to SXSW in Austin, Texas next month to showcase their skilful blend of dreamy pop-rock.
The band’s ties to America are getting stronger by the month; a slew of college radio stations in the US – including SiriusXM, KEXP, CJAM FM, and KCSS Turlock – have spun the track ‘Recall’, and back on home soil, the song was the fifth most played track on triple j last year.
The juggernaut that is SXSW is unchartered territory for many local acts, so we asked Carmen to offer up a few tips.
Read Carmen’s full opinion piece below where she offers advice for local bands looking to break the US market with a SXSW showcase and airtime on US radio.
SXSW has been a long-time goal for my band The Money War and we’re stoked to be invited to showcase this year. Our band was inspired by a trip to the US, and we wrote a lot of the tracks on our EP over there so it means a lot to be heading back to play.
The application process for SXSW is pretty lengthy so if you want to apply, get it done as early as possible. They start sorting through them as they’re received and you don’t want to be application number 7,000 – and yes, that’s roughly how many applications they get each year!
You need to be proactive about how you approach the application process so here’s some tips:
Make sure your socials and other online platforms are all up to date
Things like your bio, images, show dates and contact information need to be current. I know this sounds pretty simple but it can really make a difference. You’re in with a much better chance if you’re an active artist and can show that you have an engaged online audience. If you’ve been playing cool shows or recording new music make sure you post about it. Photos of cute dogs can get the likes but it might not show that you’re serious about making music.
Stream The Money War’s clip for ‘Recall’ below:
Your music should be relevant and easy to find
Provide links to the tracks that best represent what you are doing now. Spotify pretty much sorts everything for you by getting the most popular tracks up the top, along with your most recent release – but other places like SoundCloud and BandCamp can be easily forgotten and you’ll end up with that old track you uploaded years ago still laying about and that might not be the best representation of the music you’re making. Clean it all up and make sure you’re showing off your best assets.
Stream Money War’s self-titled EP below:
Our song ‘Recall’ had a lot of radio play and streams online so we put a focus on that track, while also linking to other tracks that highlighted the two different vocalists in our band (male and female).
You need to have a strategy when it comes to your application
The application form will ask you to explain how/why SXSW is going to fit in with your long-term plan. How will showcasing at SXSW help your band? Are you planning to service your music to college radio leading up to SXSW? (You definitely should do this and I’ll explain how in a minute). Also, what do you want to gain from SXSW? There’s going to be a tonne of opportunities to network with industry professionals like labels, booking agents, managers and publishers so make it clear what kind of connections you’re looking for.
Servicing your music to College radio and other non-commercial stations
It’s a great way to get your music to the States, regardless of whether you get invited to play SXSW or not.
Servicing tracks yourself is pretty hard to do so our management has been working in conjunction with a promotional company; which can cost quite a bit but they really do a lot of work.
Basically, they’ll post out hard copies of your EP/album to every station, along with a ‘one-sheet’ that has a bunch of information about your band. Then they’ll send follow up emails and report back to you.
Unlike commercial stations, College radios stations are usually very open to different genres so if your music is good it’ll likely get played.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be be invited to showcase at SXSW, start planning your trip as soon as possible. Getting to SXSW can be super expensive, especially if you’re taking a band.
Look into government grants in your state because showcasing at SXSW puts you in good stead to get an arts grant. Again, the grant application is another lengthy process and it can take a long time to get a response so keep that in mind. Good luck!