Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chicago Music Summit 2013

"...Chicago is a global music powerhouse - activated by musicians working across multiple genres at the highest level of artistry..."

Blogspot readers, on September 20, the City of Chicago's Commission of Cultural Affairs & Special Events held a unique one-day music conference at the historic Cultural Center. Chicago Music Summit 2013 was designed to spotlight on this city's vibrant and thriving local scene. It attracted not only SouthSide but many other likeminded individuals within the vast musical aspects of the music industry ...producers, engineers, managers, vocalists, musicians, bloggers,  publicists, venue owners, talent buyers, et al to attend. All converging under one roof to network and to share ideas as well as learn new tricks of the trade or how to improve their chosen craft. Sponsored by Google, this was a conference like no other, blogspot readers, where attendees could meet and get professional advice from panelists/speakers such as Casey Meehan and Eddie Seslowsky (of Chicago Mixtape), Kenneth Olsen, Cellist of CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Martin Atkins (author of Welcome to the Music Industry: You're F***ed), Kevin Browning (Umphrey's McGee Management, Strategy & Development), Joe Shanahan (owner of Metro/Double Door), Malik Yusef Jones "The Wordsmyth" (Grammy-winning songwriter, actor, poet, film producer, spoken word artist and philanthropist), Nan Warshaw (co-owner and co-founder of Bloodshot Records), Mark Messing (band leader of Mucca Pazza) - just to name a few.

Before attending the sessions, there was a special appearance and opening remarks by Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. aka Common, hip hop artist and actor to welcome everyone to this music conference, blogspot readers. He stated that he's proud to be from Chicago ...being from a town that has a rich culture in the arts, civil rights, and more. According to Common, it was an honor to open this conference because this musician could tell there was greatness in the room and talent to be achieved as well. "...when you want to achieve greatness, you have to find your path ...your voice..." says Common. Believe it or not, music wasn't his first choice. Guess what he wanted to be, blogspot readers NBA star. Yet after penning his first rap song, he suddenly found his voice. It was a path which took him to many places around the world. "...and when you find your voice, it's not work's your love ...your passion which becomes your work..." he told us before adding, " may have to work another job until your dream is able to support you ...[but] only you know your voice..." And that's the first step towards the path of reaching your greatness, blogspot readers - finding your voice. The second step is wearing your greatness ...or embracing who you are. When you believe in yourself, then others will believe in you. The third step is living your path which also means living through the challenges you're going to face while on the road to greatness. According to Common, these challenges can be turned into possibles. "...there will be dark days ...whether the obstacles are social, economic, health, etc ...[just] know there's a mountain top to reach..." He told us we should appreciate how far we've come as well as how far we have yet to reach that top. "...the right situation will be there for you matter where you're headed towards the destination, your eyes are on the prize..." Common appreciates his team of supporters because without them, blogspot readers, he wouldn't be where he's at today to which he also advised "...always surround yourself with great people..." He ended his opening remarks by reminding everyone that "...greatness is in each and every one..." of us and "...don't play small big ...believe your path is within you..." Wonderful words of wisdom to bestow upon the conference attendees before heading to their desired day-long sessions.

SouthSide began her day with The Science of Networking Strategies for Leveraging Opportunities, a session that featured Brian Zisk (executive producer of San Francisco MusicTech Summit), Michael Dorf (entrepreneur, producer, philanthropist, City Winery NY/Chicago), Jen Richards (managing director of eighth blackbird ensemble) and Alex Fruchter (of Closed Sessions) with Scott Fetters (oc serving as moderator. During this session, blogspot readers, attendees were given solid pieces of advice of how to improve their networking skills within the music industry from basic networking tips to standing out from crowd and social media do's and don'ts. Tips on how one should  do their research before the person you want to network with and know what they want to get out of that networking relationship ...the best networkers are those who want to help not who are "what can I get from you" or "what I can get for myself" types of people ...and show respect towards people you want to network with. The panelist advised that if you want to be successful with your networking skills you have to stand out from the rest, blogspot readers. And the way to do that is perhaps - think outside of the box like being creative or having something that will distinguishes you from someone else. Other advice on this subject included being persistent but knowing the lines between persistence and annoyance, finding a way of having a polite and interesting persistence and not being too over eager or overwhelming but having a real positive influence.

Now that you've started a networking dialogue, how do you maintain it? Well, blogspot readers, you follow up and follow through (at least 2 to 3 days after meeting) and be contact sensitive by being direct, productive and brief - always leave them wanting more. Even though you don't want to swing with a big pitch on the person you're networking with, you should open with a brief dialogue first. Also flattery does work too. Remember - never ever assume Facebook is the primary source of communication since there are so many other platforms on the net like myspace, soundcloud, reverbnation, et al. Definitely engage people on Twitter but don't spam. Lastly, take your time patient and find your common ground with others in your field. The session with tips on where to look for networking opportunities before taking questions, blogspot readers. The panelists advised that we should be a connector ourselves by going out the shows and being seen as well as owning our failures because there will be a lot of failures. Yet don't get discouraged. Failure is a good thing means you're trying, blogspot readers.

After a mini break, it was time to head outside and across the street to the Storefront Theater to visit an old friend Martin Atkins and learn how to realistically survive within the music business as a band. As a musician for such bands like Nine Inch Nails, Public Image, Ltd. and Ministry, this speaker has a unique yet fun approach to his lectures that featured sound advice on what to do as well as not to do, blogspot readers, with his powerpoint slide show. He advised attendees on certain things like using social media with Japanese table manners, don't use the "I have a penis" approach as a pick-up line to introduce your band and YouTube rule but you only have 13 seconds to make that impression. It's always a great time Martin especially when he telling his stories about life on the road or about what other bands did to survive (as well as thrive) in this business especially on how to tour smart. He used phrases like "small is the new huge!" or asks thought-provoking questions like "why do band always pick the 500 people room?" to which he said "...if you have to play the phone booth, then play the phone booth..." He also advised being nice to everyone " the nicest to the people with the least reason for you to be nice to them..." because you never know what opportunity it lead you to. Always " the opposite ...gets better results..." and " consistent with your font size..." Before ending his lecture, he told us a couple more don'ts such as "...don't forget the power of music...", "...don't be a douche when trying to be everything to everyone..." and "...don't be afraid to throw blueberry muffins..." Yes, Martin did actually toss a few blueberry muffins into the audience at the beginning of his session. SouthSide highly recommends all bands/artists snagging a couple of his book Welcome to the Music Business: You're F***ed! as a handy yet helpful guide while navigating your way around and through the industry.

Concluding her day-long attendance at the Chicago Music Summit, SouthSide attended Breaking Out Regional: National and International Touring Opportunities that featured panelists Robert Singerman (of LyricFind, Brasil Music Exchange,, Michael Yeke (president of House of Blues at Live Nation), Howard Greynolds (owner of Overcoat Management), Bill Bragin (Director of Programs, Lincoln Center) and Miss Alex White (of White Mystery) with Martin Atkins serving as moderator. Though mainly tailored for bands/artists and managers and/or publicists wishing to get their artists touring beyond the local scene, there were engineers and press (SouthSide) as well as interested parties learning firsthand knowledge on what to do and not to do. Before planning that worldwide tour across the pond or somewhere exotic, blogspot readers, you first have to know what it takes to succeed in the local market. Well, it takes great music, hard work and getting a fanbase ...but you already knew that, didn't you? But didn't you know it also takes being part of a band team, the ability to connect with other people, knowing your audience and know which venue you want to play. Despite not ever being a part of a band, blogspot readers, SouthSide already knows that once a show is booked, it takes a lot to get butts through the doors. This is where your networking skills come in handy as well as knowing who is the talent buyer. Within the band, delegate positions (i.e. merch, social media, booking shows, et al) to whom does what so it isn't just one person handling everything because working as a team is very important especially if you want to branch out beyond your local scene. And while at the venue, again - be nice to everyone (i.e. the bar staff, manager, sound guy) since no one likes a band that's an asshole, blogspot readers.

The panelists offered some advice in how to make your tour successful such as "...sometimes YouTube sensations doesn't translate to ticket sales...", " ...make the tour manageable ...make it enjoyable then profitable...", "...sometimes you have to take risks to find your fanbase..." and "...find opportunities that are out there to fund your tour..." in which that's how White Mystery funded their European tour. They found sponsors to fund their airfare to car rental.  Also, perform at different events i.e. charity functions to house parties and/or private clubs. But there's a downside to touring too, blogspot readers, in which it can be a pain in the ass. Be sure to have a strong team to handle crisis as they arise and remember, the foreign justice system is different than the US system. Miss Alex White (of White Mystery) advised in getting equipment protection to get covered for loss, stolen and/or replacement to be covered wherever you are and having plenty of band merch to sell. She also stated that if traveling outside the US to be prepared to pay taxes and border crossing and have your work permits in order (especially if touring the UK) because incomplete work permits will have you missing your tour. Lastly, be advised on the type of music that dominates your foreign market. For example, in Germany it's EDM while Brazil it's heavy metal and Japan is known for international acts. One more thing from Miss Alex White "...when overseas, have everything in writing ...a contract stating when, where, the date, band lineup, etc ...[just] in case they cancel on you..." before adding "...share equipment for quick band change over and soundcheck..." Oh yeah, know your foreign currency too, blogspot readers.

After a day of sessions, blogspot readers, it was time to relax, socialize and network with other attendees over delicious hor d'oeuvres and drinks (provided by City Winery) amidst lively DJ music. Then there were free music showcases featuring rock to contemporary/classical and hip hop as well as Jazz and Blues by local acts The Claudettes, Suns, Psalm One and more throughout the Cultural Center. Chicago Music Summit attendees were also invited to visit one of the many sponsoring neighborhood venues like Double Door, Reggie's Dragonfly, Martyrs' and Mayne Stage to sample more live local music as a part of World Music Festival Chicago. In SouthSide's opinion, this type of conference was a success and hopes everyone who did learned something new and/or better for their musical craft. She can't wait to attend next year's summit...

Until next time, support your local scene,

1 comment:

  1. Good evening SouthSide,

    In reading this blog, which is eye opening, how one can "stand out" from the crowd can be a matter of them asking what makes them unique and "them?" I mean we are all different and have likewise different strengths and weaknesses. Maybe hard questions have to be asked as to why they do what they do.

    Networking is community building in a sense. If people participating are helping each other for the benefit of the community, they are all the better for it. Our culture stresses too much the individual axiom of success. No, I say. That's why we have selfish louts, in my humble opinion.

    This conference is almost like a con, think Comic Con for the music industry. People go and meet and sit in participation at panels and buy merchandise. It is good that the people behind the studio glass are given consideration too. Other things like paying taxes and purchasing insurance did not come to mind and am glad you brought it up. Murphy's law.

    Glad this event happened. Wished I'd known about it sooner. ;-)



Thank you for your feedback - SouthSide