I got to meet, and hobnob with some great independent minds. We had round table brainstorming sessions about various pre-chosen topics. I got to gripe and argue about artist development with my table. Everyone else there was either a label/manager/distributer/web builder.....I kept wondering how they would hold up on the road, 6 gigs in a row, no good coffee, lack of broccoli, shit hotels....and conversely, how I would hold up in an office, taking crap for the records that didn't show up somewhere, or the publicist who screwed up the tour promotion....oh, that's right, I do both.
Other luminaries debated management styles, outsourcing, marketing. Considering the state of the biz, no one seemed too dour at first. Good on us?
Rich Bengloff is the tireless and lovely crusader for all things artist centric and independent and worthy.
His partner, Jim Mahoney is equally tireless.
Kidding aside, I really am honored to be a part of the dialogue, and also a voice for artists - there are rarely working musicians in the mix when it comes to the tough conversations, and Rich and Jim have always sought me out and given me a place at the table.
Then, during the board meeting, we heard briefly from all of the members that have spearheaded the independent movement around the world. Alison Wenham, who also holds the title OBE (she is in the distinguished club of 'most excellent order of the British Empire!)
She actually started AIM in the UK, forming a coalition and source for the European Indies. A2IM was the US partner she needed and kept urging Rich to create in the US.
She's also been absolutely relentless about the pursuit of the royalties that are accruing all over the world but have not been distributed to countless independents for want of agreements that are universal.
Portia Sabin was there from "Kill Rock Stars" and she's spearheading the idea of Independent Music Awards - 'bout time, right?
(Stephanie from PRA, Portia, JB)
She's even trying to integrate other types of artists into the excitement. One of her first cool ideas? Get a hotshit artist to create the statue, so that it in itself is a covetable piece of art. How's about Matthew Barney. I say why the hell not?
Jonathan Satterley from Roadrunner was there. Huge metal fan. Not so much into chick singer songwriters, which makes it even more fun. He was fabulously irreverent about Jeff Buckley. Very refreshing really. I know, Jeff wasn't a chick, but you get the point. We did, however agree about his version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" unless at that point, Jonathan was just messing with me!
Dick Huey, our champion from Tool Shed Marketing
Ira Kessler, from our Ryko days...
Jana, a new revelation, from Motema Records, and one of her staffers Gillian.
I even got a few words in with Tommy Silverman from Tommy Boy records, he's very involved and vocal in A2IM. (Liberty of London shirt dare I say?)
My favorite moment was the most sobering, I hate to say, because as usual we're all flustering and bustling around the future of our world, and talking about the "level playing field" and all the "amazing opportunities afforded by social networking" and the exquisite joys of "licensing and film and television placements." Blah blah blah.
But reality is reality. No one can ever answer my question: "How is a new artist in this 'level playing field' ever going to be found without some kind of marketing, some kind of promotion, someone spending some money somewhere?" As far as I'm concerned the internet is really not doing real artists any favors in the long run. It's just gumming up the works. There's just too much stuff out there. Too little time. Anyone and their little sister can make a record. Therefore everyone and their little sister ARE making records. And I just don't think that's a good thing. Celebrity is far more the goal than making exciting art. And where does that get us? One more reality show closer to.....
And the real point has become, (and I know I'll get an earful for saying this,) even if you are miraculously 'discovered' in the din, how are you going to make a living when music for the bulk of consumers, is free? And don't you dare say t-shirts and coffee mugs!!
Finally, the dour lawyer from Mitchell, Silberberg and Knuff got up to talk about copyright. Man of my own 'glass is half full, YES, but it's leaking! ' mentality.'
"In the words of Woody Allen," he said, "we've come to a crossroads: 'One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction.'"
Back to writing songs.