The New Music Seminar kicked off its latest conference at Webster Hall in New York City on July 19, with an opening night party featuring performances by comedian-turned-songstress Margaret Cho, singer/songwriter Matt White, R&B recording artist Kat De Luna, and even the likes of old school rappers Naughty by Nature. Geared towards the unsigned and signed alike, the NMS conference continued for two full days to educate new musicians on the future of the business, with lectures and networking opportunities to help guide their budding careers.
Instead of dwelling in the impending doom and gloom that is the fast-diminishing record industry of tomorrow, NMS was optimistic; shedding light on potential opportunity that can be seized today for Creatives to build their own brand. Finalists from across the country competed in an “Artist on the Verge” showcase at a sold-out Santo’s Party House. The winner that night was Hotspur, a band recently named “New Artist of the Year” by the Washington Area Music Association of D.C., and is currently featured on MTV.com and MtvU. Hotspur took home the grand prize of $25,000 in musical equipment, and professional music industry consultations.
The conference also featured several “18 Minute Incentives”, where speakers discussed how musicians at any point in their career are capable of reaching some level of success. Lecturers included Brian Meece, a co-founder of the crowdfunding website Rockethub, who reminded attendees of the origins of how artists got paid. “In Beethoven’s day, it was commonplace to receive private commissions for various works,” he said, “in today’s world, instead of relying on a handful of wealthy patrons, an artist can leverage their network for many contributions via social media for “micro-patronage” in exchange for goods, services and experiences.” Meece described crowdfunding as the “foundation for the new creative economy” and explained how social networking is quickly abridging the gap between the artist and fan.
Is this a direct result of the recession? It’s possible. As our obsession with celebrity culture has diminished since unemployment has been on the rise, there seems to be a growing number of working-class-heroes who balance their work with art. It’s true that many of those who were laid off from their jobs looked to DIY culture and started their own businesses. Even the millions of musicians who now have MySpace pages are likely have some sort of “day job”. Social networking and crowdfunding might just be the means by which many of these aspiring artists are able to juggle both.
Since its initial inception in 1980, The New Music Seminar’s mission was to help bridge the divide between artists and celebrities. During its initial 15 year run, NMS played a crucial role for spawning many noteworthy new music showcases including SXSW, the Winter Music Conference and Canadian Music Week. NMS relaunched last year by two of its original organizers, Tom Silverman and Dave Lory, to continue on its mission to get new artists heard.