Once the Fall hits, we’ll be gearing up for the 2011 events season. And one of the events we’re looking forward to the most is definitely the A3C Hip Hop Festival. This year we’re offering a travel stipend of $300 for one selected act, and even if you aren’t selected all those that submit will get a free 3-day festival pass. We recently chatted with the Founder of A3C Hip Hop Festival, Brian Knott, to get his perspective on this unique event.
Tell us about the event you book: Why should artists be interested in submitting?
We book the A3C Hip Hop Festival that takes place in Atlanta, GA the first weekend in October each year. Over the last 7 years we have grown to become one of the largest events of our kind in the world. We have hosted legends of hip hop like The Juice Crew, Rakim, DJ Premier, Murs, Buckshot, Jean Grae, Killer Mike, and more and we have been a launching pad for new hip hop artists like B.o.B, Wale, Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs, Laws, etc. A3C is a gathering place for hip hop heads and artists alike. A3C brings together the many different sounds that make up hip hop music as well as the additional elements of hip hop for one weekend annually. There is no better place for a hip hop artist looking to connect with other like-minded people than A3C. We try to put on an event where the importance lies in just being here even more than getting on stage and rocking a set. It’s with that in mind that every A3C submission gets one free 3-day pass for the event. We want you here with us even if we can’t get you on stage this year.
Do you lean toward any specific genres more than others when booking?
We are a hip hop festival that looks at “hip hop” through the widest possible lens.
What do you look for when selecting an artist?
We look for artists that we think can put on a live show that would resonate with our audience. We are looking for artists that sound to us like they are on the verge of doing bigger things and just need the extra push that being involved with an event like A3C can help provide. We are not specifically concerned with a specific type of hip hop, the genre is so broadly defined that we try to encompass as many different styles of hip hop music as possible.
Which presentation elements of an artist are the most important?
At the end of the day we are a music festival so the way an artist translates live is the absolute most important thing for us when deciding who will be involved with A3C. The second most important thing is that they are actively out there engaging with fans through live shows and social media. We have to see that you are doing the types of things that are making fans care about you. If you are reaching people on your own then A3C can serve as a good springboard to help expand what you’re already doing.
Give an example of a recent artist you selected, and why you selected them?
We have selected two artists from this year’s crop of Sonicbids submissions for the 2011 event and announced them to the public already. Danny! (from Columbia, SC) and Goines (from Pine Bluff, AR). Both artists just immediately jumped out at us when we opened their profiles and started to look at what they have been doing recently. They are artists that we had seen things on but were not immediately top of mind. Beyond the fact that both are creating great music they are also starting to create the kind of ground level recognition that makes them exciting artists for us to put on stage here. They represent the type of artist that we feel like could make fans that are seeing them for the first time walk away with a new favorite artist.
When you’re reviewing an EPK, what’s the first thing you look at, the second, etc?
If there is video we look at that immediately, again, this is a live show, if we can see what you do on stage that best translates to what we do here at A3C. Next, we listen to tracks and read the bio section. If we are interested by that point we start to do serious due diligence looking at websites, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace to get a better idea of how people are responding to the artist and what type of work they are putting in. Sonicbids is our system for identifying you but we’re going to dig to learn more once the interest is there.
What was the most memorable EPK you’ve ever opened?
In 2009 Black Sheep (yes, that Black Sheep, famous for “The Choice is Yours”) submitted to A3C through Sonicbids. Dres was an artist that we did not have a relationship with at the time but is absolutely one of the legends in hip hop. To wake up one morning and see an artist whose records I have listened to for 20 years reaching out to us through Sonicbids was a rush. The performance in 2009 is one of the highlights in my 7 years of A3C.
What are some common mistakes you see artists making when they’re submitting to you?
A lot of artists don’t take the time to tell their story very well. Using the space in the “Artist Information” section to tell us that you fell in love with music when you were 9 years old, and listing your influences doesn’t do us as much good as giving us a strong history of what you are actively doing as an artist today, what shows you are playing, what releases you have put out, what media outlets have covered you, etc. Those are the things that get us excited and make us feel like we should learn more about you. This should be more about your resume than your life story.
What’s the one thing you wished bands didn’t cut corners on?
Video. The ability to see what an artists live performance looks like and how a live audience responds is such a great thing for us as event producers to see. If we see an up and coming artist in the live environment that gives us the best basis for guessing how the A3C audience will respond to them. We try and create the most mind blowing experience for the people who come to A3C, if we can see a video of an artist turning a crowd on we know that person has what it takes to become someone at A3C’s new favorite artist and all things being equal that is what we want from A3C is to turn people on to the newest of the new while giving them a steady diet of artists they already love and are familiar with.
When someone mails a physical kit to your office, how likely are you to look at it/how long does it sit?
I have physical kits in the office that are 7 years old. If you send me one today it will NEVER get opened. We use Sonicbids specifically because it gives us a standardized way of looking at and evaluating artists. I spend 10-12 hours a day in front of my laptop already so this format makes perfect sense. Using Sonicbids makes it possible for our office to look at a lot of artists quickly, separate the ones that are not a good fit right away and start digging into the ones that make an impression on us. It also allows us to quickly share artists with one another from anywhere and to make sure that each and every artist that wants to perform here gets the same good look.
What do you wish artists understood about the time and effort that goes into your selection process?
We look at and review artists constantly throughout the submission process. We have at least two people review each kit and we move them into one of three categories: 1) Perfect, let’s put them on, no brainers. (These are artists that we may have known about and had on our radar before and saw them through Sonicbids) 2) Not right for us at this point (we’re just not feeling what has been presented) 3) If we have room this is an artist that we would like to get on (The majority of the artists that submit end up in this third category). At that point we may review your kit 4-5 more times as we look at showcases and content that could fit one or two artists looking for the best possible fit for those blocks of content at our shows. There are always about 25+ artists that I really wish we had space in a given year to get on but just can’t. That is the reason we started including a free 3-day festival pass for every artist that submits. Even if we can’t get you on stage we want you to be here and be part of the gathering that is A3C.
What method of follow-up do you prefer artists use to reach you, and when’s the best time to catch you live?
The best possible way to get our attention once you submit is to use Twitter (@A3C). We live on Twitter and seeing someone actively out there talking about @A3C on Twitter and seeing their fans and followers engage makes us take notice. The telephone and e-mail have really taken a back seat to Twitter as the medium that gets most of our attention.
What’s your musical/professional background?
I have been in the business for 13 years. I have owned and operated a national distributed independent record label, a public relations company, been the media director for a Music Conference, developed corporate events for Scion, Red Bull and a host of others, as well as put on and promoted hundreds of shows and tours around the country. I founded the A3C 7 years ago with the hope of developing a national destination event for creators and appreciators of hip hop music and culture and have been blessed to see our event organically grow exponentially each and every year of our existence and now invest the majority of my professional time in curating the A3C and consulting on corporate events.
Do you have any other advice you’d like to share with artists reading this?
The value of events like ours lies less in what you do with your time on stage and more in what you do with the rest of the 3 days. There are thousands of other people that are here trying to take the next step in their career as an artist and our goal is to create a comfortable and fun environment where artists can connect. The first step is just making sure you get out the door and come to the event.