|Photo courtesy theypmc.com.|
Succeeding in the music business, much like any form of entertainment, is all about who you know. Whether it’s having an “in” at the Cactus Club or Pabst to get those prime national act opening slots, knowing a guy who knows a girl who has a cousin who books for Summerfest, or having a solid relationship with other bands that are willing to hook you up, networking and learning from experienced people are essential parts of the band experience.
And while the chances of Mr. Big rolling by in his limo and signing your band to a multi-million-dollar record deal after picking up your satellite feed are exactly zero (except, of course, in the mega happy ending), there are ample opportunities out there for the savvy band to capitalize on and make a name for itself. Enter the first-annual Yellow Phone Music Conference, a three-day industry conference featuring panel discussions, performances by some of the Midwest’s best bands and plenty of chances for schmoozing.
Cut from the same cloth as large-scale events such as South by Southwest and CMJ Music Marathon, Yellow Phone seeks to balance out the business of music with actual music. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday at the Intercontinental Hotel will be a slew of panels, group discussions and mentor sessions covering topics ranging from the need for a manager to the art of music licensing to the ins and outs of international touring. The panelists are solid and include entertainment lawyers, touring musicians, indie label execs and, of course, music writers.
|Canopies. Photo courtesy canopies.bandcamp.com.|
The live music portion of Yellow Phone is not to be missed. Friday night will see incredible acts such as Juniper Tar, Canopies, Elusive Parallelograms, Cedar Avenue (Minneapolis) and Honor By August (Los Angeles) taking to the stages of the Milwaukee Ale House, MOCT and The Irish Pub. Saturday night gets even better with local favorites Fever Marlene, The Wildbirds, and The Ragadors joined by out-of-towners Fools For Rowan (Nashville), My My My (Chicago) and Lynhurst (Minneapolis). Saturday’s venues also expand to include Turner Hall and Red Rock Saloon.
Ticket prices for the live music portion are very reasonable at $5 at the door of each venue or $20 for a wristband that gets you into every show all weekend. Access to the panels, discussions and cocktail receptions gets a bit pricier at $99, but in my humble opinion it is well worth it.
In my former life as a musician, I attended a ton of events like this, from MOBfest in Chicago to Midwest Music Summit in Indianapolis and on down the line. What truly sets Yellow Phone apart is its size. For an event that relies so heavily on participant interaction and access to panelists, being small enough where people can actually get together and make connections is, ironically, huge. With all of the panels being held at the same hotel and all of the live music venues within walking distance, the chances that an artist could actually hold a meaningful, fruitful discussion with another human being are actually fairly solid.
Nobody should go into the weekend with the expectation that your band will be signed to one of the panelists’ booking agency and magically whisked away on a three-month Japanese tour, but there are some legitimately interesting and helpful topics being covered by qualified people. The fact that an event like this is happening right in your backyard should be motivation enough to put down the guitar for a weekend, shake a few hands and learn a thing or two about the business.