Here are five key takeaways from a first time A3C attendee that will help you make the most out of your next festival experience.

Attending a major hip-hop conference/festival like A3C for the first time can be a bit intimating. Despite all of the social media posts and coverage from previous years, you never really know what to expect. The last thing any aspiring artist/creative wants is to spend money and time on a trip that isn’t worth the investment, so it is of the utmost importance to arrive in Atlanta with a purpose.
With an organized schedule of panels to sit in on, shows to attend and access to influential artists/industry experts, A3C provides promising opportunities that simply don’t come around every day. After reflecting on my own first go-around at A3C, here are five key takeaways that will help you make the most out of your next experience and have you feeling like a seasoned veteran come A3C17!

1. Research before networking

One of the best parts about A3C is the fact it offers the chance to network with accomplished music business professionals. However, networking loses all of its effectiveness if you don’t know who you’re talking to and, as a result, may have very little to discuss. Once you decide which panels and shows are best aligned with your interests (via the A3C app!), be sure to research the background/resume of every speaker and artist! Try to find a common denominator to serve as a starting point of the conversation (ex. fellow collaboration with a particular artist) and comment on how you enjoyed their latest piece of work. Once you develop a natural rapport with them, it will be much easier to share your own goals/ambitions.
The last thing you want to be at A3C is unaware of your surroundings, so put in the work ahead of time to ensure you know who you’re in the same room with because a natural, unforced conversation with the right person can lead to great things.

2. Come prepared with questions, not requests

When attending a music conference/festival like A3C, wanting to do everything in your power to expose your work to the most people possible is understandable. However, there is a big difference between proposing relevant questions and requesting (or pleading) strangers to give you a chance. You can spend five days on Edgewood Ave attempting to hand out flyers/your CD to thousands of people, but that isn’t going to give you the big break you’re looking for.
The best way to get the most value out of A3C is by treating it as a learning experience. Come prepared with questions geared toward your journey as an artist/creative and also be equipped to discuss issues that are relevant to the music industry as a whole. Ultimately, panel speakers/high profile artists will respect you more if they recognize you’re following the mantra of offering more (via thoughtful questions/discussion) and asking for less.

3. Don’t underestimate the smaller panels and shows

Star-studded line-ups and showcases with performances from the likes of Master P and Rick Ross prove just how far A3C as grown over the years. As a fan of hip-hop, it can be extremely enticing to stay parked at the main stage to watch your idols in the flesh. But as an independent artist, it is important not to ignore the smaller-scaled shows and panels because they provide the most realistic chance for you to build connections with people who are accessible and can relate to your position.
If you are an artist looking to meet bloggers/writers, you should make it a priority to attend showcases such as DJ Booth’s #TopProspects and Pigeons & Planes No Ceilings. If you are looking to collaborate with companies who involve hip-hop in their marketing efforts, don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet them at a panel such as ‘Brands Break Artists’. All of the parties and celebrity sightings are tempting, but don’t forget why you are at A3C! You may not feel cool being at a show with 20/30 people, but in a few years, the little guys will be the ones under the spotlight, so don’t underestimate them!

4. Turn Internet conversations into real-life relationships

You probably have multiple conversations with your artistic peers/writers/managers on a daily basis via e-mail and social media platforms such as Twitter. However, having these conversations in real-life is very different than doing so behind the screen, especially when you are outside the confines of your local comfort zone. A relationship solely existing on the Internet can only go so far, but A3C gives you a prime opportunity to actually meet the people you digitally engage with.
In the days leading up to A3C, do some investigative work and find out who is planning to attend the conference. Don’t be shy in respectfully reaching out to your social media acquaintances and try to meet up with them while you’re both in the same city. It can be hard to align schedules in order to make this happen, but putting in the effort to do so is worth your time. A casual lunch and a few drinks with an Internet connection at Checkers can result in a real-life relationship and in an industry where everyone is constantly striving for attention, genuine relationships with like-minded creatives are precious.

5. Take what you’ve learned and implement it!

After A3C comes to a close, it is common to see a flood of social media posts with messages of excitement and inspiration. But perhaps the biggest takeaway of A3C is centered around what you do once it’s over. All of the action takes place during the festival, but the following weeks and months are the most vital because this is when you sustain and strengthen the relationships you worked hard to build. And furthermore, being present for all of the advice and insights shared by conference panelists means nothing if you don’t actually implement what you learned.
A3C is fast paced and it can take a bit of time for everything to register, especially if it is your first time attending. But once you get back home, reflect on the experience and take note of the most important takeaways. Once you execute upon on these takeaways and see the positive results from your time at A3C, you will be in a great spot to continue your progression and when A3C17 arrives next year, you’ll have the perfect game-plan to take with you!