I don’t even know where to start when it comes to the APAP conference, there’s so much going on! If your work falls within the world of performing arts, this is a conference you should attend at least once. First of all (as per to NYC fashion), there are 3 important music events that are intersecting at this time of year: APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals), Winter Jazzfest, and GlobalFest.
The Basics of the APAP conference
There are 3 floors of expo hall full of booths — it’s pretty crazy and can be overwhelming so it’s best to attack it in segments! Exhibitors range from management companies and booking agencies to touring groups and performing arts venues. My suggestion is to know who you are looking for — know the type of people you are looking to meet. The best way to maximize an expo is to search the list of exhibitors (ahead of time if possible) and see which booths you definitely want to visit. Next, there are professional development workshops on a variety of topics in breakout rooms on the lower level of the hotel (Hilton New York in Midtown). On the printed schedules, you may not see the actual breakdown of workshop locations so it’s best to go down to the lower level and check the signs near each room and decide if you want to sit in for the presentation. I didn’t find too many workshops that piqued my interest or applied to me, but I pretty much check out anything that has to do with fundraising. So once you figure out the workshop times, you will know what time you have to spend at the expo hall and showcases. Speaking of which, that’s where the real magic happens, in the rooms dedicated to performances by APAP member groups like independent bands and dance companies. Landing a showcase at APAP is great exposure for up and coming artists who are hoping to catch the attention of venues and talent agencies for booking opportunities.
The Important Stuff
Networking can make or break your career in any industry, especially entertainment and performing arts. You can end up meeting a booking agent, record label, or potential manager. You could even run into an artist that you’ve wanted to collaborate with. I met some interesting people at APAP, like representatives of organizations that support independent artists. The Center for Traditional Music and Dance, for example, provides resources and technical support for artists who work within their communities and traditional culture. I also spoke to some booking agents and received the inside scoop on what they look for when taking on a new client: the keyword was “authenticity” especially for agents who work in music like Chris Mees, President of talent agency B Natural Inc. “I like to see that the artist has done their homework on the history of the music they play, and who isn’t trying to be like an artist we already know. I also like a level of mystique to an artist, I need to be intrigued. Having a great work ethic and being a good human being are important too.”
The for real for real important stuff – the music and art!
Okay, so, in my mind, the performances I saw are a whole separate article (who knows if that will actually happen but we’ll start with this). The showcases I went to were mostly jazz and international artists, like my Haitian brotha, Wesli! ( @wesli2 ✊🏾🇭🇹🙅🏾♀️ Yea, I’m extra)! I saw him perform 2 years ago at AfroJam (by @afromondoproductions), and he is still touring the world and bringing energetic Afro-Caribbean fusion music to the stage. I was able to catch a quick interview with him and ask about how he got started and how he’s been able to continue. Wesli got his first major break by winning a contest by Radio Canada that led to him winning a prize to fund his participation in a major showcase in France where he connected to international talent agents and managers. He even took classes at the School for Show Business in Montreal, and he suggests that other artists do the same: “I recommend artists take charge of every aspect of their business. There’s plenty of talent out there, the person who doesn’t wait for others to handle their business gets further.” I’m always happy to see an indie artist who is always leveling up his/her grind.
I was invited to attend some shows for the Winter Jazz Festival after APAPing all day (sidebar: I can’t hang with musicians noooo more), and I heard some great music from impressive artists. First stop was to see vibraphonist Joel Ross at Subculture with his jazz ensemble. It was a mix of traditional jazz elements with the modern sound of the vibraphone, I dug it. Next stop was at LPR (Le Poisson Rouge) to see the legendary Richard Bona. The textures of the instruments and vocals carried you to a different place, a whole romantical mood even. There was even a flamenco dancer to amp up the vibe. I wanted to hear and see more, but alas the show was over. I finally took my arse home after that.
On the second day of the APAP conference, my wannabe-dancer spirit was blessed with a performance by the Hiplet Ballerinas! I didn’t check all of the performance schedules in advance (again, there was too much going on) but I had gone into that showcase room to see the Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats, which was a treat too! Both groups were blackity black black, super talented, and beautiful! The performance by Zuma Zuma incorporated African dance, musical instruments, and balance tricks. And Hiplet is by far some of the coolest dancing I’ve seen in a long time. the costumes were beautiful, the movement was a mixture of classical and in-the-club. They created a visual experience and had dancers working in different shifts so when one group went off stage the other group came right on so there was a continuous performance. Homer Bryant, the creator of hiplet, has done an excellent job with these dancers and I hope to see hiplet become a staple dance style.
That was a lot to read.. I know. it was a lot to write 😏 and experience but again attending this conference is totally worth it if you’re a performing artist, a manager, booking agent, or aspire to be any of the above. Here are some links to the people and organizations mentioned in this article. Shout out to the APAP media coordinator for having me out. Stay tuned for my next adventure, peace!
APAP Conference: https://www.apap365.org/Conference
Center for Traditional Culture and Dance: https://ctmd.org
Joel Ross: http://bnatural.nyc/project/joel-ross
Richard Bona: http://bnatural.nyc/project/richard-bona
Hiplet Ballerinas: http://hipletballerinas.com
Cirque Zuma Zuma African Acrobats: www.ecetouring.com