The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

This post is a contribution from Christy Reid, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. She will be reporting on her experiences at IBMA as a member of Lou Reid & Carolina.

This was my first experience being a part of the Trade Show. We participated in a few events that I felt were worthy of comment.

Let’s start with the good one, Gig Fair. The premise here was to introduce artists to promoters from well known festivals. It was a speed date kind of thing, where the moderator gave you five minutes with each promoter, then the bell rang and you move on to the next table. I thought it was interesting to see who was there and what they brought with them to present to these festival folk. One look around and I could tell these were newer bands, so I wondered how the promoters felt about hiring someone they may have never heard of or seen before. One very enthusiastic promoter said she loved meeting new bands, she just wished IBMA would have this event early on the very first day, so she could make it to all the showcases and hear some of these groups live. Good idea.

Some of the bands went the traditional way with packets full of their material. One promoter said if it didn’t include a live DVD performance, he didn’t even consider it. I guess his thought pattern was that anyone can sound good on a CD nowadays. True. So I found one very innovative group, Sweet Potato Pie, that had two members working the Gig Fair armed with laptops, earphones, and a full media presentation of everything they offer. The Pie girls also sent the promoters home with a hard copy to enjoy on their own computers. Smart.

I would say that they have made Gig Fair as user-friendly as they could..which brings me to the next event…The DJ Taping Sessions.  Not that it is a bad event, it was just in a bad location. Imagine putting a few dozen DJ’s and their digital recorders, computers and sensitive microphones in the middle of a high school cafeteria, complete with the loud speaker going off every 5 minutes.

They held the event this year in the Main Exhibit Hall, instead of one of the smaller rooms. One highly irate DJ said that he bought brand new recording equipment just for this event, and when he saw where they planned on having it, he almost got sick. His new equipment never left the box. There are many factors here, other than sound, that made this event difficult. There are no time limits with each DJ, so some artists are completely monopolizing one DJ…sometimes for as long as 30 minutes.

There are many different levels of musicians here, some new bands trying to get their CD on the air, and more well known folks, such as Doyle, Lou, Cherryholmes, and Rodney Dillard. All the musicians I spoke with expressed feeling like “stalkers” trying to get into the chair to speak to the DJ ahead of the others. This is especially true of the bands who don’t have representation there with them. Label executives, media personnel, and other bandmates make it easier for the well known to get in the chair. The folks who are putting out their own music are at a disadvantage.

I propose they either lengthen this event, perhaps to “Open” registration for anyone at one time, and “Label” registration for another time. Then limit the time spent with each DJ, kind of like they did for Gig Fair. And then definitely put this in a more sound friendly setting.

The last event I would like to mention is the Song Demo Listening Sessions. This is the ugly event. Not that it is a bad event, in fact, it is probably a very good idea to let songwriters bring their songs to a professional review panel. It is just hard for me to sit and listen to five different people give five different opinions of why a song “doesn’t work.” Brutal.

This was the gist of the event…a songwriter brings in a CD, lyric sheet, and puts them in a box on the front table. The panel then plays the CD for everyone to listen to the song together, and then each panelist gives their “opinion” on the tune. Panel members included, Lou Reid-artist, Dan Keen-Belmont University, Joan Kornblith-Voice of America, Courtney Crist-Frank Rogers Productions, and Mark Simos-Songwriter/Assistant Professor Berklee.

It was American Idol for songwriters. They put themselves on the chopping block in the hopes of becoming better writers, and the panel gave them honest feedback. I happen to be of the opinion that a song is like a painting, and it’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or listener). A few times the panel gave very different opinions on the same tune…but I suppose the writer could listen to one or a few of their ideas and come away from the event with a better song. The panel many times wanted to make sure they understood what the writer was trying to say, but I thought a song was about what the listener takes away from it. A good song may mean something different to me than it does you, and it totally may be different that what the songwriter was trying to say in the first place.

I don’t know, I found the entire event to be uncomfortable. But I spoke with one songwriter who was very encouraged by the constructive criticism she received, and was fired up about making her tune better. So I guess this event was a success, even if I wanted to be Paula and tell the songwriters they were all awesome.