The Midwest Music Summit is a time for showcasing over 250 bands, networking with musicians and industry folk and shmoozing at nightly, sponsored parties. Beyond that, the true heart of the summit is to construct a central ground to facilitate the exposure of the immense musical potential of landlocked America. The Midwest Music Summit is a forum that holds a high concentration of possibility for both industry and talent to find what they seek. Musicians frantically try to cover as much ground as humanly possible with press kits hoping to put them into the right hands - or at least as many hands as possible. For A&R reps from all over the country, it's several days of venue hopping to try and get a glimpse of what the Next Big Thing might be.
Lending their perspectives on MMS and the industry are Dawn Debias, director of A&R for Columbia Records; Andy Georgin with Jeff Battaglia Management and A&R for Roadrunner Records; and Shawn Murphy, director of membership, ASCAP Midwest.
NUVO: Why attend the Midwest Music Summit?
Georgin: The Midwest is often overlooked because many people's focus is on either New York or L.A.
Debias: I have a few goals in mind. I've heard demos from some of the artists performing and I'm interested enough to want to see what their live show is like. I'm hoping to be turned onto some great new artist that I'm currently unaware of. I'm sitting on a panel, so I plan to share my knowledge of the music industry, continuing to develop relationships with those on the business side of the music industry in Indianapolis and the Midwest; and most importantly, to show my support for the Midwest Music Summit and its creators.
Murphy: I'm going to MMS as much to inform Indy's songwriters and artists about ASCAP as I do to discover new talent. It is an excellent opportunity to meet up with the local industry people and make contacts, which I can use throughout the rest of the year to keep an eye on that scene.
NUVO: What is your impression of the Midwest and Indy's music scene overall?
Georgin: Great! Bands have time to develop and have great work ethics.
Murphy: Each city has its own thing happening. St. Louis is definitely stronger in rap with Nelly, Da Hol 9 and a bunch of other groups doing fantastically within the city. Detroit is killing with Eminem and the White Stripes. Chicago has been the hardcore capital of the U.S. for the last several years. Indy is definitely on the map and seems poised to capitalize on the new, more pop oriented sound at radio right now.
Debias: I find the Midwest rock scene (of which Indy is becoming a strong part of) to be very indicative of what Middle America wants to hear. The Midwest, with so many major cities within easy touring distance from each other, lends itself to a musical camaraderie among up-and-coming artists.
NUVO: What are you looking to get out of the weekend?
Georgin: I'm looking forward to seeing some bands and some friends.
Murphy: I hope to find one band that is so good that I drive home listening to their CD over and over again at top volume and know all the words to all the songs by the time I get back to Chicago. Besides Rockfour.
Debias: I am hoping to be inspired by some great music, kick-ass live shows and passionate artists. Also, to make some new industry and artist friends. Networking is key in finding the Next Big Thing as well as 'being discovered.'
NUVO: What are the odds of a band getting signed at the conference?
Georgin: No bands get signed at a conference unless they have a buzz going into it.
Murphy: The odds of any band getting signed anywhere are great if the band is phenomenal and has laid the groundwork that will make signing them a total no-brainer for an A&R guy. If musicians want to try to coast on their looks, more power to them, but it's the bands that put in the legwork who win in the end.
Debias: The probability of getting signed can be compared to winning the lottery. Actually having a hit record after being signed is like winning the lottery twice. These odds shouldn't prevent you from seeking a major label record deal; however, you shouldn't base the success of your musical career on it. Hopefully, you would be playing/writing music for the love of it regardless of its commercial success.
NUVO: What should bands know about the protocol of A&R representatives?
Georgin: Leave them alone. Give them what you have and move on.
Debias: Bands should remember that everyone is approachable, including A&R reps.
Murphy: Remember the numbers. The most concrete case a band can make for itself will consist of headcount at the live shows, CDs sold, number of spins on the radio and number of stations who have added it. If you think you have created the greatest CD ever then get out and spread it around. If it's really that good it will be easy to accomplish all of the above.
NUVO: What are you currently looking for?
Debias: Any artist that has the potential to sell 1 million-plus CDs.
NUVO: What do you think the Next Big Thing to hit the industry will be?
Georgin: I think it will be post hardcore with good song structure.
Murphy: I hope the Next Big Thing to hit the industry will be a tidal wave of respect for the people who create music both from all of us who make our living from music and from the public in general.
Debias: Hopefully, a band I'm working with.
Note: Keep press kits and flyers handy because Debias, Georgin and Murphy will all be traversing Indy's pavement and venues for the summit.