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How to Conference with Melanie Brulée Episode 21

How to Conference with Melanie Brulée

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[00:00:00] Rosalyn: It's conference season, friends. Today, we're talking to Melanie Brulée about all things conferencing, the how to's, how not to do's, and, what you can expect when you're expecting to go to a conference this year. Melanie Brulée is an award winning Franco Ontarian artist, community leader, and mental health advocate.

Born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, while her musical journey began busking on the streets of Australia, she now embodies multiple facets of the art sector, taking a step away from the stage to amplify the music industry's underrepresented voice as the new executive director at the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, otherwise known as OMIC.

In addition to years of performing and touring, Melanie has worked as a consultant, mentor, booking and PR agent, and radio promoter for indigenous artists. Her passion for collaboration and advocacy has led her to initiate numerous projects, including founding a women led collective of songwriters, fundraising and speaking on behalf of mental health organizations, and developing youth workshops on songwriting and self confidence.

In her work as a dynamic organizer and facilitator, Melanie's purpose is to connect, unite, and empower the communities around her. Please welcome to the ReFolkus podcast, Melanie Brulée.

Hello, Melanie. Welcome to the show. How are you doing?

[00:01:18] Melanie: I've been doing great. Thanks Roz. How are you?

[00:01:20] Rosalyn: I'm doing very well. It's a busy time over here in, FMO HQ and I'm so glad that you're taking some time to speak with us about how to conference.

You're someone who has lots of experience conferencing. You've been to many of them, in various capacities. I'm wondering if you can, maybe start off today, with what mind frame should we be in? How are we entering into the conference as individuals?

[00:01:46] Melanie: That's a really great start. I think like having a solid foundation and understanding why you're doing the things you do. I only found out pretty late in my career that you should have a why but you know, something that happened the first time, OCFF I went to, which is the first ever music conference I had gone to in 2011.

So pre FMO days, it was OCFF and I didn't know anyone there at all. I was nervous about going and I told myself that I was going to make eye contact with everybody that walked down the hallway. And second of all, I was going to like, go into it in the mindset that whoever I speak to is who I should be speaking to. And that really has stayed with me the whole time I've been conferencing. And there are some years where I'm like, Oh, but I really need to get in a room with this person and that person. And as much as you want to have goals, I think being able to be flexible and finding the joy and finding the beauty and the gratitude for these little connections that you make along the way that maybe aren't on your giant list of things to check off.

But I've made really great connections and friendships and gotten work and learned more about myself through these moments. And so I think that would be like my number one piece of advice going into the conference.

[00:03:06] Rosalyn: Do you usually do a lot of research beforehand? Are you checking out the delegate list? Do you have your own kind of checklist that you do?

[00:03:15] Melanie: Yeah, I'm definitely checking out the delegate list, you know, the lightning talks and the B2Bs and that sort of thing, you know, whether or not you can sign up for them, have always been really helpful and, talking to people in my circle or folks that had been to the conference before and asking, like, who are the players here, you know, so, you know, having gone for a few years, I realized that, you see, a few of the same people, and then you have your wish list of festivals and, and folks that you want to connect with.

So, yeah, I, I do a little bit of research, but I also try to stay open to what's in front of me and, I think it's just a really good way of going about life as well, you know, like you can try to force things as much as you want but really like, are you missing out on being present in what's in front of you?

Cause there might be some great opportunities there too. And funny enough, like some of the shows and gigs and connections that I've made have been through, going to like take a break and, you know, and having a moment outside and getting some fresh air or otherwise. And, stuff kind of happens around that.

So, yes, I've done some research on folks. Yes, there were people that I really wanted to connect with. And I also found that, like, I didn't really hit it off with all of those people all the time. And that's okay, because usually at a festival, there's more than just an artistic director. You know, there are many, many people that make a festival run.

And so, could you connect with someone that you do really have a meaningful connection with, and go down that route? And then if it doesn't happen, it's okay, at least you've made a friendship. But, you know, trying to be something else or please someone that you think is in a position of power to get you something, I feel like that is the antithesis of FMO. It's not at all how we do business there. It's more of a family reunion and connecting on a personal level. And if you get work done then great. And obviously you want to do that because, you know, you're spending a lot of money to get there. But yeah, being really open to the possibilities and finding little gigs along the way that you never even thought would exist. That's the fun part.

[00:05:29] Rosalyn: So, you mentioned a couple times this, like, the notion of building these relationships or family reunion and, and meeting up with people that you've met in, in previous years, seeing old pals. What if you're totally new to the community? Fun fact is that this year we have according to our calculations, 67 percent of the showcasing artists this year have not been to FMO or have not showcased at FMO before.

That's a large percentage that's really exciting. What's a piece of advice that you would have for, for people coming in for the very first time that, maybe aren't, sure if they'll know folks there already.

[00:06:03] Melanie: That's huge. That's awesome. I mean, how fantastic that the family is growing, you know? But yeah, for folks that are going for the first time, I mean, going into it. with the mindset that you're definitely going to come out with a lot of friendships that you didn't have before. And, throw away any sort of idea of corporate selling that you might have in your head, no matter what, FMO has created this culture within the conference that Is felt whether you're a newcomer or you've been there a million times, you know, and It can be intimidating because you go in there and you see a lot of people kind of hugging and chatting and catching up. So my advice for newcomers is just like Get in there.

If you see people having a conversation in a circle, by no means does it mean that you're excluded. Like, just stick your head in the circle and you belong. It's really that easy. And everybody is interested in making new connections and discovering new music as well. So, I mean, 67 percent, that's more than half of the population at FMO are newbies, if you will.

So there are more people in your boat than there are experienced folks. So everybody I'm sure is going to have that wide eyed excitement and thrill for getting to know each other. So I think it's going to be a really exciting year by the sounds of it.

[00:07:35] Rosalyn: Yeah. I'm very, very excited to be welcoming so many newcomers to the conference. There's like a few things I was wondering if you can tell folks a little bit about the wellness suite, which you were really involved in last year. I was thinking about some opportunities that people have to kind of share and get to know some of the other folks that are there.

And I think the wellness suite is one of those opportunities. Can you explain a little bit about it?

[00:07:57] Melanie: Yeah, the Wellness Suite is something that started last year, and it was a collaboration between myself and my organization, the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and facilitated by Cindy Doir, who is a long time attendee of FMO and Jordan O'Connor, and they're both musicians turned psychotherapists, which is awesome and I've been a long time mental health advocate and involved in that world, too, and so, We had a couple of group therapy sessions, essentially and I ended up spending so much of my time at FMO in this wellness suite, and it just felt like such a release.

It was really, really special because you've got this room full of people who, you know, some people are coming in, they can only hang out for 15 minutes. Other people lose track of time and they ended up sitting there for, you know, the entirety of both back to back sessions for like three hours.

But it was so cathartic to be able to sit in a room full of artists and music workers in An environment where we can talk candidly and openly about how difficult it was pre pandemic, let alone during the pandemic, and whatever we call this time now it was so important to be able to have a space to share perspectives on how everything we do affects Our identity and who we are and how we move forward and, like, there's just so many challenges and I mean.

The beauty about working in the arts is that you end up having a lot of friends that are working in the arts. But when do you really get to sit around a room of 25 people being facilitated by therapists? So keeping things on track, being able to move through emotions in a way that, maybe you don't get with your group of friends that are like, you know, some of them are in the industry, some of them aren't.

Some people just don't get us, you know, like, and it's like, Oh, boo, hoo, you have such a tough life. And it's like, well, it's a calling. You know, the reason that you do music is a calling. And sometimes it's against intellectually what you may be thinking you should be doing, but it's So much part of your heart.

And so I just love that we're having these, open mental health conversations right now that we're able to sit in a room with folks. Everybody understands that this is like a tender, safe place. there was nobody in the room that felt unsafe, to speak in front of either or to receive and everybody was really generous with their space holding and attention and I think we all felt really validated and it's okay to feel what you're feeling and here's a group of people that are all, to a certain degree feeling the same thing or can at least understand where you're coming from.

So for me it was a game changer, a total game changer from past conferences that I've been to and I've been to, you know, like the Folk Alliance, the South by Southwest, Americana Fest, all of that stuff. I've never left the conference feeling more peaceful than I did being able to spend time in this wellness room.

And I realized that that's a huge thing that's missing. And you can listen to a panel on mental health. That's great. It's not going to do what The wellness suite did where you are part of your own healing if only for whatever amount of time you can spend in there. I highly recommend everybody at least go and check it out.

And if you feel like it's not for you, that's totally okay. And if you feel like you want to hang out there all weekend. You'll still make connections there. And that's the funny part. You're like, Oh, should I be doing this all weekend? This just feels like a retreat therapy weekend. And I guarantee you'll make connections in there and you'll probably get some work out of it.

Because you're being honest and vulnerable too.

[00:11:59] Rosalyn: Great tip, what about physical wellness then? Let's talk about that for a minute. Like how are you, taking care of yourself physically over the conference weekend?

[00:12:08] melanie: So, I mean, this is huge and it was before the pandemic too, because, you know, there's always an ongoing joke that, like, after a conference, everybody gets sick. And I think we just kind of took that as like, well, that's normal. And that's just what happens. I don't think that's what needs to happen.

You know, I think maybe we weren't taking care of ourselves or each other. And so I'm glad to hear that there are considerations. For that, especially this year at FMO. So I mean, stuff that is like, maybe sounds super basic, but maybe for newcomers, they haven't delved into this, honestly, now's the time to start taking vitamins, like get your vitamin C every day, get your, for me, vitamin D.

I need to make sure I take my iron, like being vigilant about building your immune system because you are going to be around a lot of people. You're going to be talking in close proximity with folks. So what does that look like safety wise for you? And how are you going to feel well?

So what do you need for that? Do you need a mask? Do you need to carry granola bars in your pocket? Do you need to maybe not drink every night? I mean, I know that it's such a bizarre metier that we have where we're Constantly around late nights and alcohol, and I'm glad that conversations are starting around like, do we actually need to do that all the time and like, do it if you want to, but also, you will find folks there that are like, I'm not drinking right now, or I don't drink, period.

And so know that, like, if that's a decision that you want to make. You can be very well supported, like there's gonna be even non alcoholic options and so what do you need to do? And that's about coming back to the first point about knowing yourself, you know? what do you need to make yourself feel comfortable and for you to be well?

And a lot of folks, I mean, like, this is... It's fall, it's touring season so we're all coming to hang out and then spreading hopefully just joy and not viruses amongst the rest of the world. And so, get lots of sleep, I know that sounds ridiculous, but like, are there moments during the day where you can go and have a power nap and can you build that into your schedule?

An interesting tip that Tamara Kater does in order to save time. I hope I'm not outing her, I think she tells everybody this anyway, so. But she makes a list and organizes her outfits so that she doesn't have to spend extra time so that she can use that time to sleep in the morning. So she knows in the morning what it is that she's wearing and so that's going to save time and put time in her sleep bank, which I think is genius.

[00:14:42] Rosalyn: All right. What about post conference then? You're coming out of the conference with, new friends and contacts, with your cup full you know, what are, what are some of the tips that you have for, the weeks after or the months after?

[00:15:00] Melanie: Okay, well there's a few things here in terms of do's and don'ts. do follow up with folks. Do make little notes. What I like to do is just take a little bathroom break during the conference if I'm meeting a lot of new people. And I'll write in the notes on my phone, like, I met Roslyn Dennett, she's the ED for FMO.

We talked about how kids have germs all the time. Some little tidbit that you can remember about the conversation because you're going to meet uh, ton of people. And so if you can have like little one liners about interesting things that you talked about and not always again is like the selling without selling, right?

So not necessarily about your project or their project, but what can you connect with people on that is separate from your work and more about building like human to human connections. Right. And so, you know, I have a dog, so I ended up talking to people who have dogs and like, or, Who did you see this weekend that I need to discover? So start talking about another person's project. And sometimes it just breaks the ice a little bit better. So when you follow up, you can write these little notes and like, Hey, I really enjoyed our conversation about kids and germs. Like how are your kids doing right now?

I just wanted to follow up and, thank you for having me at the conference or thanks for being at my showcase or thanks for taking the time to chat with me. That said, don't add people to your mailing list unless they have signed up or explicitly told you that that's okay. Especially if you don't have one, and this actually is not legal.

So if you're sending out newsletters just from your email, you need to have a way for people to opt out. And so that's why it's easy to do through MailChimp because then there's just like a, an unsubscribe button. Inevitably, after a conference, I end up getting added, and a lot of bookers and presenters have this issue.

Booking agents they end up on people's mailing lists, and you have never signed up for it, and then it becomes awkward because You're getting it via email and you can't opt out and you have to send somebody a message and be like, Hey, I never signed up to your mailing list. So just take care and be protective of other people's privacy and space as much as you would your own, you are much more likely to get work or to build a relationship on a personal level, understanding that rather than opting people in to look at your newsletter. That's one of the best practices. But yeah, and you know, follow up with folks and do like you would with any other relationship, you know, how would you nurture a new friendship?

How would you nurture a new relationship? Are you going to be in the same city as someone? Keep that in mind and make a little list of, you know, Okay. So when I'm in Winnipeg, I need to go and stop by and see this person and then can you follow up by having a coffee with someone?

Because that's usually a really great way of building a relationship without pressure as well.

[00:18:00] Rosalyn: Now, that's fantastic. So would you have some advice for folks Who are maybe showcasing, maybe this is their first showcase or they're new to this model of showcasing just like a little bit about, what should you be performing?

Should you be doing all cover songs? Should you do a new song, your old favorites? What do you suggest when, when people are getting up on the showcase stage?

[00:18:21] Melanie: Yeah. I mean, you're going to want to put your best foot forward, of course, when you're on the showcase stage. So Play for who your ideal audience is. Like, where do you want to get booked? Do you want to get mostly house concerts out of this? That set is going to look a little bit different than if you're trying to get main stage on a festival stage.

So, what can people expect when they see you? And, you know, it's like any sort of business model. Don't try to please everyone. Go with one. audience that's your goal, you know? Like, know what lane you're in. So, for example, if you want main stage festival, and that's realistic for you, Then you're gonna play your bangers, you know, you might want to play like one introspective song halfway through Whereas if you're playing house concerts and you really want people to know more about your songwriting as opposed to getting up and dancing Then go in that direction But like know your why know why you're doing this to the other thing for newcomers is like don't be surprised that people are walking in and out That's normal.

It's not because they don't like you. In fact, it's just because there's a lot of things going on and they might have meetings and other showcases that they need to check out. So a lot of times if folks are in the room, they're either discovering you for the first time and that's great. And they're going to check you out again, especially if people are talking about you.

Or they have done an extensive number of days of research on you and they're just to like, Check that box off and go. Yeah. No, exactly. I I knew this person was going to be super rad on stage So that's why it's really important to like to talk about other artists That you love that you want to support because that helps everybody build buzz for each other So really don't be surprised.

Don't be offended if people are walking out. That's totally totally normal and the other thing is Being able to remember to introduce yourself a couple of times for that reason. If people are coming in and out of the room, you're going to want to make sure that you say, Hey, and I'm so and so.

So say it at the beginning of your set after the first song or at the, you know, at the end of your set. And don't play covers. I mean, maybe, maybe if you really need to play one but this conference and I'm, maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but I'm pretty sure we're all there to see original music and see you at your best self.

So if you are doing this, like, Bonkers cover of, I Was Made For Loving You in some sort of Klezmer format. That is your number one hit and that's what opened the door for you and you can find it everywhere online because ACDC you know, reposted it or something like that. Then maybe there's a good reason for it.

But otherwise, we really want to hear who you are. So, like, what are your best songs? Where's your best songwriting at? I think this is a crowd that especially loves good songwriting, clever lyrics Even better if you can match that with a beat that makes people feel good So, you know keeping that in mind not everybody has a feel good set either, you know Sometimes you're just a sad boy and that's So, knowing your why and being true to yourself, I think is going to help you big time in the long run.

[00:21:42] Rosalyn: Fantastic. So Do you have a couple quick tips that you want to throw out there before people head to FMO?

[00:21:48] Melanie: You know what? Take time, take a minute if you need a breather. Because it can be very overwhelming and it can be very taxing and not everybody is extroverted. And I realized during the pandemic that. Perhaps I'm more introverted than I thought I was so it's important for me to like be able to have a little moment either in my hotel room by myself or to go for a little walk around the block or to do a meditation or to regulate my nervous system with some breathing in the bathroom but remember that your health and your well being is number one out of all of this and we all you can get into the mindset of trying so hard to get something done that we take ourselves out of the equation. And that's what in the long run is going to lead to burnout. And I can tell you that from experience. So yeah, be good to yourself. I think you'll do great.

[00:22:44] Rosalyn: So before we wrap up, Melanie, can you let us know a little bit about where we can find out more about you online as well as what OMIC is up to?

[00:22:52] Melanie: So Melanie Brulée is my name. I was a touring artist for many years, released albums in French and in English. You can find me everywhere online. I actually just recently, took a long time off. I burnt out in 2019 and so I took some time off and didn't enjoy live streaming during the pandemic because I'm really into the crowd connection.

So I just took a total break and only in the past. Like two months I have started playing again and thinking about writing again. So I'm not playing live at the moment, but I am playing a lot of guitar in my living room and rediscovering the joy of music and not just it being a job for me. And that has been.

Really, really cathartic lately. But now I'm running the Ottawa music industry coalition which is a bit of a stand in for a music office in Ottawa. So we're a member based organization, a nonprofit that's partly funded by the city of Ottawa. And then we have other public and private sponsorships.

That we can do professional development and programming. We have a number of concert series that happen throughout the year. Some for touring artists and some for local artists, mainly local artists, but we do support some other stuff coming through. We have an awards ceremony every year, the Capital Music Awards, where we can gather with like all genres and communities of music in Ottawa.

So it's a pretty bonkers busy job, but it's awesome. And www.ottawamic.com is our website and we're doing a revamp on the website. So no judgments and we're all over socials though. So again, @ottawamic is where you can find us and yeah, we're super proud of our members that are showcasing this year.

And there's always a good Ottawa contingent. So, Thanks to FMO for supporting our Ottawa artists.

[00:24:44] Rosalyn: Well, Melanie, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today, and we hope to see you in a couple of weeks.

[00:24:50] Melanie: Thanks so much for having me.

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