A small army of musicians and music professionals will invade Indianapolis this week for the second annual Midwest Music Summit. More than 250 bands and DJs and hundreds of industry pros will participate in MMS this year. Building on last year's summit, which featured 150 bands, the MMS this year is not only bigger but more diverse musically and, its organizers hope, more appealing to the average music fan.
Sitting in his Broad Ripple basement office, Benchmark Records head Josh Baker, who, along with Kevin Ahern and Scarab Records, is organizing the MMS, has spent the past few months huddled over a computer screen, hammering out the details on the conference. A total of 16 employees at Benchmark and Scarab have also been working on MMS and 135 volunteers will try and ensure the events at the 25 different venues go off as smoothly as possible.
Unlike last year, however, the MMS has partnered up with the most prominent local concert promoters to put on the shows. PunkRockNight.com, hip-hop promoters Crush Entertainment and Kulture and others are helping put on and publicize individual MMS shows.
'It takes the promotional load off of us so we can promote more on a national level,' Baker says.
One of the biggest and more important changes from last year has occurred within the Indianapolis music scene itself. It's a different landscape than last year, with a higher degree of unity among musicians, something that some attribute to the inaugural MMS.
'It put a lot of people who were complaining and bitching in a few different rooms and made them talk to each other,' Baker says. 'Bands who have been at war with each other have patched things up. Bands have never supported bands as much as they do now. That's how you build a scene.'
Music industry professionals from 25 different states will be represented at MMS, Baker pointed out, a testament to the work organizers have tried to do on a national level. 'It's not just the Midwest Music Summit, it's a national music conference and we're starting to break down the barriers so that in a few years, it will be an international music event,' Baker says.
This year's MMS will be four days instead of three and another addition is a $25 wristband which will give admission to almost all MMS music events, in an attempt to get more non-musicians out to the shows. 'It's an opportunity for someone to go out and see 50 bands in a weekend, which normally doesn't happen,' Baker says. Baker notes that hundreds of bands that applied to play MMS were turned down, but even those groups can still reap rewards from the event. 'Don't be upset that you aren't playing, just take advantage of it,' he says. 'You and your band can be in full force that weekend with flyers and CDs and promotional stuff. In some ways, it's better not to be playing, so you can concentrate on promoting your group.'
Around half of the 250 acts playing are from Indiana, and Baker vows that no matter how successful MMS becomes, the local artists won't be ignored: 'With conferences like this, usually the more successful they get, the more they cut the locals out. I'm in a position where I like all the local bands. I do this because I want somebody from here to break. I want people to see all of the talent we have here. I want somebody to get signed, to have their music on a soundtrack, something. Ten years from now, this conference will still be centered around the local artists.'