Goner Message Board
 | Forums | Register | Reply | Search | Statistics | Manual |
Goner Message Board / Memphis / Hey, thanks, Sherman.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 7:31 am
For all that stuff you wrote on smartcitymemphis, or whatever.

Thanks, man.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 11:47 am
Sherman should go for the opening at the music commission.....that other guy left to work with Timberlake on the Stax thing.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 3:30 pm
For all that stuff you wrote on smartcitymemphis, or whatever.

Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:37 pm
Sherman should go for the opening at the music commission.....

Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:44 pm
I'll just post it.....it's freakin' long but the solution outlined is well thought out and reasoned.
He gave Rachelinthecity permission to post it
So I'm taking a great leap of faith to paste it here.

Making Memphis Music Work

I meant to link to this post that Sherman Wilmott wrote for Smart City Memphis a few weeks back. With his permission, I am reposting it in its entirety. It's a long read, but there are some really great suggestions with a lot of insight!

These are my ideas on how to improve (and increase the revenue of) the Memphis music industry. For the past 17 years, I have worked in music retail; wholesale; distribution; promotion; booking; music tourism; running one of the most prolific record labels in Memphis since the days of Stax & Hi (40th release coming out this fall!) as well as publishing. I have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of my own money into a Memphis record label and the Memphis music business. I have seen a lot of ridiculous ideas fail and a few good ones thrive in Memphis. The following opinions are not ones that have been tossed out idly without any basis. They are deeply rooted in my observations for the whole of my adult life of the Memphis market as it relates to itself as well as the world music industry. They have been shared in written form several times with the Memphis Music Commission. I have never seen any of these ideas implemented by the various commissions in their 7 or 8 year existence. My company has seen no benefit from--nor does it expect to-- Memphis Music Commission/Foundation activity.

How to Make the Memphis Music Pie Bigger

The music business has changed quite a bit since the day when Memphis was on top of the music world in the 1950's, 1960's, and early 1970's. Historically, sales of 78's, 45's, and lp's by artists or bands from Memphis on small, independent labels based in Memphis constituted the basis for the Memphis music industry, making Memphis internationally renowned in the world of music. Record sales did two things: 1) made Memphis known worldwide for its studio output, and 2) allowed the artists with the biggest sales to become national and international recording and touring stars. All of this history is fine and good, but the Memphis music "industry" no longer works that way. What Memphis needs to understand is how to grow its current music business as it has been crawling back from its deep malaise in the late 70's and early 80's since 1990.

Understanding exactly what comprises the current state of the Memphis music business helps to envision where scarce financial resources should or could be implemented. The Memphis music business is about live music and the people who consume it--along with beer, alcohol, meals in restaurants, hotel rooms, rental cars, and shopping. Once one understands and acknowledges this premise, then one can understand why Memphis should concentrate on improving its live music infrastructure and amenities in order to continue to build and grow the Memphis music industry. The wrong and often tried paradigm - especially in the last 20 years in Memphis - of trying to get major labels or "hot" producers to move to Memphis or trying to get Memphis acts signed to major labels--is mere fool's gold for anyone trying to build a long-lasting business model in Memphis music.

The Memphis Music "industry" should recognize these changes and adapt a program accordingly. Currently, the money in the national music industry is spent on a relatively small number of acts that are hand-picked by the major labels, which are owned by huge multi-national corporations. These labels move their promotional machines behind their artist's cd/mp3 and do expensive marketing and crossover promotions with their young artists with whom they have signed the lowest royalty rates. The "industry" has very little to do, proportionally dollarwise, with recording music any more, and everything to do with expensive cross-promotions by these major corporations: "If you put our band on your fast food cup, we'll pay advertising for your burger chain..." etc. Studios are not where the money is made in the national industry anymore.

Where is the money made in the Memphis music industry? Hotels, restaurants, bars, instrument shops, record stores, beer distributors, and radio stations, as well as other media outlets that sell advertising for the Memphis music heard in the clubs, theaters, and concert halls. Far more money is made in Memphis in the live music industry than in the studio or record label industry. Studios have become commoditized. Currently there are probably over 500 recording studios in Memphis - around 30 or so commercially available - and none of them are booked full-time. Most of the commercial studios are available at steeply discounted rates whenever an artist or label needs the service.

One busy night at a Memphis nightclub can contribute far more dollars to the Memphis music business than a two-week session at a Memphis recording studio. The upcoming Tom Waits show is a perfect example of this. Expect at least 20 percent of the concert-goers to be driving (or flying) in to Memphis for the weekend. 600 people will be paying for hotel rooms for at least one night, possibly two or three. 600 people will be buying drinks all weekend. 600 people will be buying two or three meals a day. 600 people will be shopping in Memphis stores for the weekend. 600 people will be buying gas or renting cars here. 600 people will be spending money in Memphis who otherwise would be spending their money in another city except for the fact that the Orpheum booked the concert in Memphis.

Do the math. How much money do you think those 600 people will spend in Memphis that weekend? Far more than the impact of a $100,000 studio recording budget, which would be a pretty damn rare event these days anyway. Once one understands the vastly greater potential for live music dollars than making money through traditional music business paradigms, then one can understand how to improve the music business in Memphis.

How does this business work? Music fans come to Memphis to see and hear live music. They fly or drive in (plane tickets/cab fare or gas in town), book a room at a Memphis hotel, buy meals at Memphis restaurants, buy cover charges and drinks from the club, buy a t-shirt or cd from the band at the show, buy records at Memphis record stores, visit Sun Studio/Graceland/Stax/Gibson/RocknSoul/Civil Rights/Brooks/etc. That in a nutshell is the Memphis music business. The studio and record label business pales in comparison to the beer sales and cover charges clubs make. D. Canale and Jack Daniels are making far more money off the Memphis music industry than Young Ave. Sound.

This music business theory is no different than the premise that hosting large soccer tournaments for youth teams creates far more business than having a professional soccer team in Memphis. Enhancing the music scene costs a whole lot less than trying to convince or incentivize major labels to move to Memphis. Memphis already has the infrastructure of the clubs, hotels, and great musicians/bands in place.

In order to take advantage and improve this growing business, Memphis should do a few things to enhance the market.

1) Build (and Maintain!) a Great Website for Memphis Music events. Update it and keep it accurate. The closest example in Memphis is www.memphismojo.com or www.livefrommemphis.com, but these are privately-owned resources that need investment to improve the offerings and keep them current. Live from Memphis has the added bonus of promoting live footage of Memphis music as well as maintaining as complete a database of Memphis musicians and production resources as there is - a unique website for sure. This is the cheapest, most economical way to promote Memphis music, and it has been unbelievable to watch the Music Commission not work with this established organization.

2) Create a Satellite Radio Station Broadcasting Memphis Music/Events and
Incorporate Blues Caravan. Broadcast from either Stax Museum, S. Main, Chisca Hotel, Sun Studio, or some other major Memphis music icon (Worst case scenario, have it on Beale St, where original Memphis music used to be heard and was made popular throughout the world in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's). Play all genres of Memphis music 24 hours a day, continuously promoting and broadcasting Memphis music & cultural events to the world. Hire Memphis icons like Sam the Sham, Wayne Jackson, Sid Selvidge, Cody Dickinson, Al Kapone, Buck Wilders, etc., to d.j. (This idea could work with less impact as a Web Radio Station broadcasting Memphis Music/Events). This is the #1 initiative to promote Memphis music worldwide. Memphis does not need an "oldies" station; it needs the best of the past, present, and future.

3) Create a Nationally Distributed Memphis Soul Stew Television Show a la Austin City Limits—with Blues Caravan, possibly at Orpheum, Beale St., Cannon Center, etc. Live performances as well as feature pieces a la Behind the Music or Biography. Possibly work with WKNO or Library Channel studio (Cost estimated: weekly show--$750,000 (30 shows x $25,000); monthly show $480,000 (12 shows x $40,000)) Syndicate nationally/internationally with BBC. Broadcast from website. Not a valentine to the good ole days featuring past icons, but a hip show that presents the best of the past, present, and future.

4) Increase the Number of Live Music Options. Improve the budgets of current music events.

a) Boost current live music events/festivals to new levels by increasing budgets. Amounts as small as $5,000-10,000 would increase the quality of virtually every event already on the Memphis music events calendar.
Current Events/Festivals on the Memphis Music Calendar:
Blues Foundation Talent Competition—January
Naras Event or Awards Festival—March/early April
Memphis in May BBQ Fest—May
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:45 pm
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:46 pm

4) Increase the Number of Live Music Options. Improve the budgets of current music events.

a) Boost current live music events/festivals to new levels by increasing budgets. Amounts as small as $5,000-10,000 would increase the quality of virtually every event already on the Memphis music events calendar.
Current Events/Festivals on the Memphis Music Calendar:
Blues Foundation Talent Competition—January
Naras Event or Awards Festival—March/early April
Memphis in May BBQ Fest—May
Memphis in May Music Festival—April/May Adding a second weekend (or 3rd or 4th) would be much better
Handy Awards—May
Dixon Garden Concert Series—Summer
WEVL Blues on the Bluff—July/August
WLOK Stone Soul Picnic—July
4th of July—Tom Lee Park & Shelby Farms
The Edgefest/Art Farm—August
Cooper-Young Festival—September
Center for Southern Folklore Festival—September
A Taste of Mid-Town—October
Arts in the Park—October
Indie Memphis Film Festival—October
New Year's Eve—December
Elvis week (August)
Elvis birthday (January)

Give the above events more resources to book more local bands, better regional bands, and the occasional national acts to complement the overall event. By building up the smaller events, Memphis will continue to create stronger, more consistent (at least once a month, and ideally, far more often) reasons for people to come to Memphis and spend money on a more regular basis. Do this once or twice a month and the tourism market will see an incredible boost. Memphis becomes a "happening" music town when people can count on some sort of music event every weekend in which they come to Memphis. During the day, visitors will go to Sun Studio, Graceland, Rock 'N Soul Museum, and the Stax Museum (as well as other retail shops, art galleries, museums, zoo, etc.). At night they will go hear music in the clubs or concert halls. Remember, Memphis is competing with Disney World, the NFL, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, and museum attractions in other cities for visitor's attention and dollars. Memphis needs to offer the best music package possible to compete with other cities. There should be at least one strong, quality music event every month to attract visitors—many more if possible.

With the exception of Memphis in May Music Festival and the BBQ Festival, these are small events which could become much bigger. There are other smaller events, not listed here, which could become bigger as well. Other events could and should be created in off-season months (January, February, July, August, and November/December need more music events) to enhance the slower seasons. This work would take the drive of an aggressive music promoter, but the rewards would be visitors who could always count on music happenings in Memphis—all year round.

The Folk Music Alliance gathering in Memphis in February, 1996, was a huge, much-needed boost to the usually slow February visitor season. This music convention will return in February, 2007, for what should be another banner music-related event for Memphis, Memphis clubs, and Memphis retailers, restaurants, and hotels. This event is an example of the type of event that a strong Music Commission could help recruit to permanently host in Memphis. Hosting events like these in slow seasons like February increases the value of the event to Memphis since business is normally down then.

For all of these events, spend resources communicating with and attracting the vast numbers of media music and travel writers and reporters who will readily come to Memphis given a musical opportunity or excuse. The publicity Memphis generates through embracing the media becomes a massive payoff in national/international tourist awareness of Memphis thus creating new visitors to Memphis.

b) Create new music events/festivals for off-season activity in January, February, March, August

c) Create world-class Memphis Hip/Hop, Gospel, Blues, Rockabilly, and Soul/R&B Festivals (or tie in more intensely with Helena, Arkansas, or even Clarksdale, MS. Blues festivals) All of these genres emanated, thrived, or are known to be heavily based in Memphis. Why are there no major festivals featuring these genres here? Each of these genres has its own distinct, different fan base. Bringing diverse groups of music fans to Memphis for each different festival increases the income for the city. Book music symposiums, book signings, special tours and events around each music festival--as the Ponderosa Stomp did in May and South x Southwest has done with its new music festival in Austin.

d) Add a 2nd weekend to Memphis in May Music Festival a la New Orleans Jazz Festival. The current Memphis in May music festival is broken. Instead of enhancing Memphis in May, Memphis as a music destination, or the Memphis in May music festival itself, the bookers have been aiming for the lowest common denominator music fan for several years. The bookers have been more concerned with not losing money than with taking chances and making the festival an international destination like Jazzfest is in New Orleans. Their idea seems to be, "If it rains, folks from Arkansas will still drive up for the day, drink beer in the rain, and watch Styx or .38 Special and then go home." If the festival were booked with a better quality of music in mind, the fans would come from all over the world (and have!) and be here rain or shine. This selling of Memphis short hurts the long-term viability of the festival.

A major overhaul is necessary. I would recommend, at the very least, making the festival two weekends in a row to give people two great weekends to choose to come (or stay the whole week in between, which is normally down time for hotels). Ideally, the festival would spread the budget (and the music) out over four or five weekends beginning in late April, booking a better quality of reggae, world, blues, folk, alternative, jazz, Afro-Cuban, etc., mixed in with the best of Memphis' talent.

Memphis' downtown would be better served having the music spread out over the month rather than this one-and-done, wham-bam, let's-fill-up-the-park-and-destroy-it-with-drunks-one-weekend-thank you ma'am approach. The risk of one wet weekend ruining the festival would be diminished. The ruination of most of downtown for Memphis residents for one whole weekend would no longer be an issue. Overall, Memphis would increase its income if the music were to be spread out over 4 weekends of quality, smaller concerts. (Make one weekend Memphis hip-hop, the next Memphis gospel, the next Memphis blues, the next Memphis Soul/R&B, then Memphis rockabilly...that's just one idea. You get four or five different music fans coming to town). If the festival is taken to the next level, people will come from all over the world to visit Memphis and spend money. If it stays as it is, they will drive home to Osceola after getting drunk in the mud and spend zero dollars in Memphis. Memphis in May is not enhancing the Memphis music industry.

5) Create an environment where "local" music is not a bad word. Memphis bands need radio play to be successful. The almost complete dearth of Memphis music heard on commercial radio has been a stranglehold on a potentially major business that could be thriving in the Memphis market. Blame it on Clear Channel radio station consolidation; payola; poor understanding of the market; or whatever scapegoat you want, but the lack of radio play for current Memphis music has held the Memphis music industry back. Memphis radio has not understood nor caught up with the revitalized new legion of Memphis music that is currently thriving on independent labels and in Memphis clubs—as well as on satellite radio stations and clubs and stages all over the world (Has one Memphis commercial radio station played the new Cat Power record, which was recorded at Ardent Records in Memphis last summer with some of the hottest Memphis musicians? The band is one of the hottest tickets in alternative rock 'n roll these days. Cat Power & the Memphis Rhythm Band features some of the best Memphis musicians going and has been on David Letterman, headlined Coachella and Bonaroo Festivals, played on the BBC-TV as well as theaters in N.Y. and London and is receiving critical acclaim from stages all over the world, but they are not even heard on Memphis radio!)

A major awareness campaign must be undertaken immediately to convince skeptical radio programmers why it is great business to promote Memphis music on the Memphis airwaves. This needs to be done publicly in a grassroots/billboard/bumper sticker campaign and privately behind the scenes by taking program directors and key advertisers to lunches and educating the often from-out-of-town programmers who do not understand the market here and why playing Memphis music on air is good business. If bands can sell enough cds from Memphis radio play to help build a bigger base, then they can start touring regionally and nationally with the sales from the Memphis market aiding their tours.

A corollary to all of this is that the Memphis Arts Council, a major funder of the arts and one which has ignored non-classical Memphis music funding for my entire life, needs to understand that Memphis music is an art. Memphis music needs to be incorporated into their long-term budgeting as well as their live art displays, openings, and events. Much like the controversial UrbanArt budget, which has allowed art projects to be incorporated into new public architectural projects, live music needs to be budgeted into the fabric of Memphis lifestyle if Memphis is to grow its music industry.

There should be live music at the airport greeting visitors every day. There should be live music outdoors in the South Main arts district every Friday evening. There should be live music in the Pepsi Pavilion (formerly W.C. Handy Park) every day. The Overton Park Shell should have live music three or more nights a week. There should be live music at the proposed Beale Street Landing every weekend. The Arts Council needs to step up to the plate on Memphis music, if only to engage its wealthy patrons to hire more Memphis bands for their private parties. Memphis musicians need
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:47 pm
Thanks Robin.....I couldn't find it on the Smartcity site.....
By the way, Carol Coletta's radio show (Smart City) on WKNO 91.1 FM on Sunday mornings is really really good
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:49 pm
I've heard it a few times; it is good.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:53 pm
and to continue...

Memphis musicians need more opportunities to ply their trade. This is not charity work for musicians; having Memphis music permeate the culture makes Memphis a greater destination internationally and pays off when competing for tourist dollars. For the corporate folks who don't get it, having Memphis music played live everywhere helps to "brand" Memphis as the music capital of the world.

Finally, the Memphis Convention and Visitor's Bureau needs to catch up to the 21st century and begin ardently promoting current Memphis music and musicians. The MCVB has made a nice living for the past 15 years promoting Memphis' incredible heritage of the 20th century. It is time for them to change gears and begin promoting what is happening now with the untouchable coffers they receive from the hotel tax. A great example of how the MCVB could step up would be by financially supporting the company that has done more to promote Memphis' current arts scene worldwide in the last five years than any other group: the Live from Memphis people. Not only have they been promoting live music and arts events, but they also made the best promotional tool Memphis has seen in years: the My Memphis tv show, paid out of the pockets of the company, but benefiting tourism, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown stakeholders, etc.

These two organizations, Memphis Arts Council and MCVB, have large honey pots of money and are not supporting and promoting the current Memphis music renaissance as they should be. If Memphis is to increase its music business, then these two organizations, with all of their taxpayer funding, need to step up and get with the times.

All of these ideas and events would emphasize (and benefit) Memphis music and Memphis musicians—past, present, and future—but would also build more toward the future musicians than the past. Also, hosting the events with quality promotion by the various entities putting on the festivals will greatly enhance Memphis' reputation to the music world. The increased amount of live music will enhance the likelihood of visitation for future festivals as well as focusing Memphis on potential visitor's itineraries for the occasional weekend visit. The more gigs the current Memphis musicians have, the more incentive there is for the best musicians to live in Memphis. If the musicians can make a decent living playing in Memphis, they will stay in Memphis--or move here if they don't already live in Memphis. Once located here, the amount of recording opportunities for the musicians/bands will naturally increase by demand/supply.

A couple of minor tweaks to the system...

6) Fix the Musician's Health Care ProgramThe health care plan designed for Memphis musicians is a great pro-musician incentive the music commission created to get bands to be able to live in Memphis with affordable healthcare and is probably the most useful, practical program the Music Commission has ever come up with. However, if a musician cannot make at least half of their income from their music - which is the case with most Memphis musicians currently - the health care plan means nothing as the musician does not qualify for the program. To be useful, this program needs to be more amenable to the reality of working Memphis musicians.

7) Fix the public transportation situationThere is no reliable way for visitors to get around town or to mid-town clubs esp. in late night hours. Trolleys don't get to mid-town clubs and shut down too early to be effective for late-night tourism in the downtown area. Memphis cabs don't exist when you need them. Solving this situation for tourists would also benefit Memphians who have a mutual interest in safe, reliable late night public transportation.

So, where and how does the infrastructure of Memphis Music industry benefit from these new music platforms and programs?

The bands take their gig money and use it to (in addition to paying rent) buy new instruments and equipment, spend more money promoting their band (print shops, web sites, poster designers, etc.). When visitors from out of town hear bands they like, they buy cd's, records, dvd's, and t-shirts from the bands. Visitors go into record stores and spend money on their cd's or download them from a site like I-tunes. If the band has nothing to sell, as they build up a following, the band goes into a (Memphis) studio, cuts a record, and releases the record - either with their own gig money or money from a small, independent record label. The record label spends money on design, printing, advertising, a web site and pressing the record. All of a sudden, you have a small music industry. This small, cottage industry has been growing for over 15 years and the number of independent releases from Memphis bands and labels has increased every year. With each additional strong record release, interest in Memphis music grows. As interest in Memphis music grows, major labels and major "hot" producers come scouring for talent. It is a demand driven industry. If there is interest in Memphis music, the money will come in the form of labels/producers/recording budgets etc, but the demand has to be built. It starts with the music and musicians, not by bringing in producers first.

The ripple effect of these expenditures is extraordinarily strong. Soon you have people who can actually make a living in peripheral businesses to music: printing, design, promotion, distribution, etc. This organic growth makes a big impression quickly in a city as small and insular as Memphis. The energy becomes infectious, and other people get involved when they see success of others (look at the growth of the indie film/video scene in Memphis since the success of Craig Brewer's P&H as well as the interest in Memphis as a filming location). Other musicians see the success of Memphis musicians and bands and want to move to Memphis to become part of the creative atmosphere.

Eventually, when the "local bands" have built large followings thanks to their increased exposure at larger Memphis events, they begin touring to other cities to promote their new record they have released. They buy vans, hire a manager, and the whole band effort moves to the next level. As more bands from Memphis hit the road and spread the Memphis Sound, other musicians and creative people want to venture to Memphis to capture that feeling and become a part of something successful. More people hear these Memphis bands on the road and become curious about the Memphis Sound. They then want to visit Memphis to hear the happening music live. The cycle continues and grows. Success begets success.

As the success and national/international reach of the Memphis bands increases, more media and eventually bigger record labels will come to town to cherry-pick the vast quantities of talent. The record business can be demand driven, but that demand has to be created by hard work. The best recent example of building up demand is what the North Mississippi All-stars have done. By playing all over the country before they even released their record, they built up a demand for their music. The promotion of the band and record had been done before the record even came out. Memphis currently has a track record of several successful bands, and the media has become aware that there is a "buzz" in Memphis due to the tremendous exposure given the Memphis hip-hop/rap/blues world in recent documentaries by Martin Scorsese as well as Hustle and Flow. Memphis is a great place to visit, drink, eat, party, and see bands. After visiting Memphis, music and travel writers go home and write about how Memphis has an amazing history as well as current music scene and is a fun place to visit. Memphis receives great free publicity to bring more people to town. The cycle continues and grows. It all starts on the grassroots level by making an atmosphere that is pro-musician.

It is important to note in this formula that in addition to being a catalyst for the musicians, the Music Commission needs to be a liaison with national media (travel writers as well as music writers). When music events are created or enhanced, a strong Music Commission should work with the MCVB and the hotel industry to make sure that writers are invited, feel welcome, and receive v.i.p. treatment. The hotels should get involved for obvious reasons. When these music writers have a great visit to Memphis, see great music, and sample some great local cuisine, they will write about their experiences in Memphis nationally and internationally with major payoffs for Memphis. Currently, writers come on their own volition, but they need constant urging by the Commission to visit here more regularly. They have expense accounts for these junkets; they just need to be informed and encouraged to visit.

What Not to Do

Getting Memphis acts signed to major label deals should not be a priority for Memphis. Why? Because, outside of a few Nashville lawyers and maybe one studio and a producer from L.A., no one in Memphis really benefits long-term from a major label band signing. Once the advance from the record company is split four or five ways by the band (not much left after the fees the lawyers and managers take), the record comes out, sells nothing, and then the band is dropped by the label. Then it's back to working at the used guitar shop for the band once that $30,000 advance is gone. Couldn't even buy a house for such little money. With these deals, the long-term effect on the Memphis industry is nil. If bands build up their following as Lucero and North Mississippi All-Stars have—as well as others—creating a fan base with demand for recordings, there will be no shortage of record labels - both big and small - wanting to put out their records, as seen with the recent interest in Memphis rap.

Following up on that idea: is it the charge of the Music Commission to try to get Memphis bands signed to a major label (or any label)? I ask, does the Film Commission exist to sell Memphis films made in Memphis to major film companies? I do not think we should have the music commission "brokering" record deals with taxpayer money. It would be great for the Music Commission to set up
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:54 pm
a platform in Memphis for bands from Memphis to get better exposure (satellite radio, festivals, local radio play, etc., as listed above), and let the marketplace handle the rest. By setting up record deals, the commission involves itself in a situation where the music commission is using tax dollars to "play favorites," and that type of activity does not give it much credibility from every other band the commission is not pushing to get signed (and is supposedly helping).

Trying to convince major name producers to move to Memphis or have "showcases" in Memphis is equally as ill-advised. Don't bother trying to bring in "producers" from out of town to sign bands to contracts. The only ones making the money are the producers who will "legitimize" the already incredible Memphis music scene. This has happened time again in the last 20 years in Memphis music. Exhibit A: Chips Moman. What did the Memphis music industry get from that boondoggle? 2.5 mediocre records, much embarrassment, and an embittered business community! Memphis has held dozens of showcases over the last 15 years, with the only real result being thousands of bands have paid someone a $15 entrance fee.


Because of the nature of the size, scope, and financials of all of the above ideas, one Memphis music business on its own cannot undertake the proposed programs. All of the above recommendations could or should be undertaken by an organization like the Memphis Music Commission, an organization created to increase Memphis music business. As of today, the commission/foundation has been in business for over seven years and has spent well over a million dollars in public money, not to mention untold private funding Memphis Tomorrow has contributed. In seven years of the commission, I have seen no real change or improvement in the Memphis music industry affected by the commission despite the quantity of money it has had access to. (Mis)understanding the marketplace has been the key factor in this lack of change.

A recent concrete example of the lack of understanding for the Memphis market the Music Commission is its new website, which took over three years to create. When it came on-line last month, it featured (and still prominently features) one of the bands the Commission helped to get signed and only 3 other acts out of all of the other hundreds of currently working Memphis bands. One of those other acts featured currently lives in New York. Needless to say, this type of self-dealing, half-ass effort does not endear the Commission with the Memphis music community.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 5:55 pm
Anyway, thanks, Sherman.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 6:18 pm
That's a great piece. I see a lot of similarities to the music business situation here in Austin. We have capitalized on the "Live music capitol of the world" marketing program. We have sxsw and now the ACL festival which are just friggin huge. We have a few decent sized labels working out of here, New West is a good example. But there is still one small problem.

In the end, the musicians are more exploited than ever. The trickle down for all of this never trickles all the way down. There is absolutely no money to be made playing music in Austin. I've been playing music here for twenty years. The money peaked around 93-94 and has been steadily declining ever since. There are simply more bands and venues than the audience can support. We have some of the best country and roots players in the world here. I can hire one the best guitartists is the world here for $100 a night.

Of course, I don't play for a living. I play music because I want to. Ocasionally I'll make some decent $, but usually it's a some beers and $25-40 a man.

The beer distibutors and the hotels seem to be doing allright. They can't build hotels fast enough downtown.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 10:39 pm
Sherman should go for the opening at the music commission

Please don't ...
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 10:47 pm
The beer distibutors and the hotels seem to be doing allright. They can't build hotels fast enough downtown.
That's why you get them involved. Without the music, they don't do all right.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 10:49 pm
Create a Nationally Distributed Memphis Soul Stew Television Show a la Austin City Limits—

This will be coming soon, by the way. ... The facilities are in the works as we speak.
Posted: Sep 7, 2006 10:56 pm
...work with Timberlake on the Stax thing.

So does that mean he got the rights?
Great! No need to start his own label, let's just fuck up something that should be left alone.

And yeah...thanks Sherman! You should stage a coup at the music commission.
Posted: Sep 8, 2006 3:53 am
Dude totally put down on paper -- well, pixel -- exactly what i've been thinking the past 15 years I've been involved in music in this town.

Callin' out the self-dealers ... Amen!
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 8:13 am
I like everything Sherman has expressed here. While reading it, you imediately think how frustrating it is that these things don't happen. This is a picture of functional capitolism. Markets helping to grow other markets. I don't beleive it exists anymore. Not at this level. Least of all in Memphis. It's what America has become sadly. Sorry to zoom the lens out to such a drastic vantage, but capitalism is broken on every level in this country and it makes me sick. Hope some of yer ideas stick with somebody.
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 8:30 am | Edited by: Jack Stands
I can say that some has improved. Sherman wrote this months ago, and three "major" stations have devoted more time to local artists. I was amazed, frankly, at the time slot they allow on 103 on a Sunday night. Of course, some of it is complete crap, but it's objective in the sense that as long as anyone submits, they'll play it. I was hoping for more out of one of the "separatist" stations, but they haven't opened up as much as I'd like.

Anyway, I'll agree with Mark. This has (almost all; Sherman goes deeper than I would hve thought) been on my mind for YEARS.
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 3:45 pm
but as sherman will tell you, segregating the local music onto a local show does not do any help to it at all hardly. i do appreciate what dennis and rick are trying to do within the bounds of a clear channel station. they are doing all that they can and more, but the whole philosophy of the stations has to change. they have to see that they could do much better if they used the local music alongside other national acts. people would get much more interested in radio again, instead of just using it as background music that they have to listen to in the car or office.
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 6:12 pm | Edited by: fierydrunk
Not trying to shut down the importance of local radio/local artists, but just wanna wonder aloud:

Portland is in worse straits in many ways than Memphis in terms of local radio doing shit about local artists. We have one community radio station as well which will be blaring Celtic jams or Democracy Now! over any local stuff at many hours. The college station is AM only and you can barely hear it outside of the SW area of Downtown. But this city's local music scene--good or bad--is huge and in the last year, has taken on dimensions that I honestly cannot believe. There is literally something going on every single night in just about every style of music possible all over town.

All this with local radio basically ignoring it all. Even the one show on commercial radio, hosted by a local arrogant record label owner, plays old Talk Talk before he'd play a local band.
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Sherman should by a radio station!
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 6:27 pm
Sherman should by a radio station!

I almost read this as "Sherman should drive by a radio station."
Interesting concept.
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 8:15 pm
He should try that first, if it doesn't work he should threaten to BUY!Sherman should hot-air balloon around the world!
Posted: Sep 11, 2006 8:16 pm
Sorry, now I'm just being silly.
Posted: Sep 13, 2006 10:14 pm
SHERMO JACKSTA N ED I love being alive and in MEMFO
and dont think 4 amin that you aint got alot ta do with it
oh yea yuo 2 luke w
if we all keep pushin it will keep turnin
thanx and too much love
Posted: Sep 13, 2006 10:27 pm
I think Memphis should combine the fine art of female strippers with rock shows. Then you'd get some attention!
Posted: Sep 13, 2006 10:36 pm
We tried that with no luck so far. Nashville does it.
Posted: Sep 16, 2006 12:07 am
this coming from a guy who lives in a city who passed an ordinance making it nearly impossible to open a venue for live music (me), i want to bang my head through a concrete wall. i think this is the same thing happening in memphis, but on a much larger scale. the city doesn't really care. as much lip service as they pay to fostering an industry they still fail to give a damn about the community element. look at the examples cited in shermans essay, sun, stax, hi, and others... there were communities created around those studios and everyone was in it together. the memphis music commision is a political entity and as such cannot be a part of that community. its a power structure. power cares about reifying its own power. if a local music scene threatens the commisions power, it will take measures to subvert the music scenes efforts (regardless if the scene is intent on taking its power) and effectively dismantle the music scene. working with the commision won't work. something new has to be tried. something that can take the power out of the commision and put it in the hands of the music community at large.
sorry for the foucaultian lecture.
Posted: Sep 17, 2006 1:29 am | Edited by: fierydrunk
This article really made me think I was reading some bizarre combination of Entertainment Tonight meets The Wire (and also, I'd like to comment that Justin T. only became a "hometown boy" when HE started trying to give himself cred saying he was from Memphis...which he is not; Millington may as well be fucking Dyersburg or Brownsville):

Justin does Beale early, with Future Stax to come

By Michael Lollar
September 16, 2006

Justin Timberlake, the hometown boy whose new record aims to bring "sexy back," says he's also trying to bring new soul back to Memphis through the record label that turned the city into a music Mecca of the '70s.

Timberlake, acquiring the Stax Records name in a revival of the city's legendary soul label, performed Friday at the city's celebrated music setting, Beale Street, for a live broadcast on "Good Morning America."

The 25-year-old artist who graduated from Mickey Mouse Club co-star to gritty pop-R&B superstar said after his ABC-TV appearance that creating a contemporary version of Stax is a labor of love. "There's no driving force here, no one to pick up the pieces," he said of a Memphis music legacy in need of a booster shot.

"I don't want it to be a factory. I want it to be like part of a creative process," Timberlake said of his vision for the Stax project. He deflected questions about the exact status of the acquisition, saying the "business details" are being handled by his father, his attorney and other members of a team. "I'm in charge of the creative end," he said.

It was his creative side that drew more than 1,500 people to a stage at King's Palace Cafe early Friday. Some were in line by 3 a.m. to watch Timberlake perform two songs from his new CD, Future Sex/Love Sounds, including the No. 1 Billboard single "SexyBack," and a reprise of "Rock Your Body" from his previous album, Justified.

The audience screamed and held banners, hoping to draw the ABC-TV cameras for live shots on the 7 to 9 a.m. show with co-host Robin Roberts and weatherman Sam Champion introducing Timberlake.

The Friday segment was planned over the course of four weeks, said John Elkington, Performa Entertainment real estate president. The only surprise was when Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton presented Timberlake with a key to the city and a city-county proclamation declaring Friday Justin R. Timberlake Day. As Herenton walked across the stage, a sustained "Booooo" erupted from the crowd. It quickly dissolved into applause when Herenton presented the key to the city to Timberlake.

Later, Herenton, preparing for a charity boxing match with former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, said he doesn't plan to invite Timberlake into the ring. "All of Memphis should be proud of this young man. He has a musical gift, but I don't know about him pugilistically."

Timberlake is "one of the biggest" performers in the world, said his producer, Timbaland (Tim Moseley), who collaborated with Timberlake on the new album. Timbaland, who also performs onstage with Timberlake, is a songwriting partner-producer with artists including Nelly Furtado, Ludacris and Jay-Z. He said Timberlake's style is not the classic soul sound of Otis Redding or other Stax artists, nor is it a standard R&B approach.

"It's from the '80s -- in the vein of Pat Benatar, Queen and Rod Stewart," he said.

Timberlake said his first musical influences were gospel and the blues before he left the Memphis area at 14 to become part of the Mickey Mouse Club and later the boy-band phenomenon 'N Sync.

He described his sound as "a hybrid," a synthesis of everything he has absorbed through the years.

Even though he is only 25, Timberlake said he has been in the music business for 15 years. "Maybe I'm in a midlife crisis now."

He has met and performed with several former Stax artists through the years and described them "as a community of musicians who cared about each other." He said he has a similar collaboration with Timbaland: "We have fun. That's what it's all about."

In rekindling Stax, he said, he wants the kind of teamwork that would move a great guitarist or singer to play roles on other artists' albums. Timberlake, who shared billing with Oscar-winning Memphis rappers Three 6 Mafia on one song on his new CD, is planning to sing on Timbaland's next album.

He said some of the work that will be produced on the Stax label he envisions will remind people of the label's '70s heyday. "There are going to be records that sound like odes to Otis (Redding) or like Booker T & the MGs." Other new products may not sound like Stax at all, or may be a synthesis of soul and other music forms.

Timberlake said his songs usually begin with a melody. "They are not autobiographical, but they come from personal experience. It's like playing a role."

Some of his fans appreciated the end result enough to play hooky Friday. Emily Williams, 14, skipped algebra class at White Station High School. Her sister, Ivy, 10, skipped science class at Grahamwood Elementary to attend the live show. Their father, Pat Williams, an auto-repair business owner, came with them and planned to serve as their alibi when he checked them in later in the day.

One audience member, Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission executive director David Bennett of Nashville, said he is currently talking to several film production companies exploring Memphis and Middle Tennessee as possible location sites. One company is Village Roadshow Pictures, the movie company co-owned by TV producer Norman Lear, who also is co-owner of Concord Music Group. Concord is part of a partnership involved in the Stax acquisition with Timberlake.

Bennett said there is no agreement with any parties. "It's not imminent. It's going to take more negotiations. We are talking to several companies. The governor is very interested in building the infrastructure of the (film) industry in Tennessee."

Tennessee has set aside a $10 million fund as part of a package of incentives to lure film production to Tennessee.
Posted: Sep 18, 2006 3:44 pm
Pat Benatar??
Think Timberlake has listened to much Stax besides the obligatory Otis Redding song? Just wondering.
Posted: Sep 18, 2006 9:37 pm
i feel sick to my stomach thinking that this fuck will ever have anyhting to do with stax.

p.s. i know some kids who grew up with him who say they have pictures of him in a bikini and that their moms won't let them sell it on ebay.
Posted: Sep 19, 2006 5:26 pm
"the memphis music commision is a political entity and as such cannot be a part of that community. its a power structure. power cares about reifying its own power. if a local music scene threatens the commisions power, it will take measures to subvert the music scenes efforts (regardless if the scene is intent on taking its power) and effectively dismantle the music scene. working with the commision won't work. something new has to be tried. something that can take the power out of the commision and put it in the hands of the music community at large."

This can happen if the "community" aka Sherman takes over the music commision!
Posted: Sep 19, 2006 5:39 pm
sherman isn't the "community" though. if anything this board serves as a community. or a hub for the community. the community can dictate what happens within the industry without the commission. the problem is, and this is essentially a marxian take on things, if the commision sees a way to exploit the community it will, for either capital gain or political gain - both are kind of tied together in memphis to the city government. and both are ways for the commision to reify its own power over the city's musicians and studios etc. things have to be done without the commision. new ways of avoiding the commision if you will. house shows (although not always a viable means for everyone) are what we do here to get around city entertainment ordinances. the people's temple was an excellent idea as was 1297 madison (DIY memphis).
Posted: Sep 19, 2006 7:30 pm
if sherman (or any of you) REALLY knew what was up he'd BRING SEXY BACK! (cue soaking wet dancers)
Posted: Sep 19, 2006 9:45 pm
I don't want to sound like the Wall Street Journal editorial page here, but things like producing records, putting on festivals, marketing products, etc. should be handled by the private sectors, not cronies and time servers. Can I get a "hell yeah"?
Posted: Sep 19, 2006 10:24 pm
private sectors

exactly. i wish i could say it without being all verbose and shit
Posted: Sep 22, 2006 12:43 am
But the local powers-that-be -- who are now supposedly so "aware" of the music scene -- would rather do business with music the way they do business with roads, arenas or anything else in this town: by glad-handling with politicians and functionaries. That's why Memphis will never have a real music industry like Nashville or Atlanta or Miami.

btw, so far the "Stax" stable is a rap-metal band and a dude who writes schmaltzy songs for "American Idol" winners. Not exactly Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding ...
Posted: Sep 22, 2006 3:44 am
That's why Memphis will never have a real music industry like Nashville or Atlanta or Miami.
you're probably right, its very sad when you think about the quality and quantity of good ideas/art coming out of memphis. i wish the city fathers could look past their own dollar signs and take a peek under the curtain to see whats really going on in the city.
Posted: Sep 22, 2006 8:58 pm
That's why Memphis will never have a real music industry like Nashville or Atlanta or Miami.

Thank God! I know there's some middle ground somewhere -a place where Memphis musicians can make a living, and contribute to the betterment of Memphis as a whole, but being like Nashville is not the answer. That would be what I consider failure for the Memphis music scene. The beautiful thing about Memphis music has always been that it isn't Nashville. Nashville provides an atmosphere that stifles the creativity that's all over the place in Memphis. That's why there's so much good music coming from Memphis and almost none coming from Nashville. Nashville has a handle on business and money making, but it's at the expense of your soul. The day Memphis turns into that, I'm out of here.
Posted: Sep 22, 2006 10:09 pm
Yeah, I feel ya. But what I meant by that is there would be an actual music economy besides bands splitting $200 four ways after a show. As in, some well-paying jobs that don't involve QUANGOs like the music commission.
Posted: Sep 23, 2006 7:28 pm
the gigs in nashville pay just as little as the do here. it's the session work and publishing industries that make the money. the local live music scene is as unsupported as it is here if not more so.
Posted: Sep 25, 2006 12:43 am
Don't get me wrong, I agree with Sherman pretty much across the board, and I also know you were just casually mentioning Nashville as a city were the music business is a sucessful business. The thing is I think whatever happens here it should be done specifically thinking about Nashville as what we don't want.
Posted: Sep 26, 2006 9:30 pm
if the city is going nuts trying to mimic the business plans and schemes of nashville it puts memphis musicians in a precarious position, that of the exploited and the marginalized. the city says, ok, here's how we're going to do things and the musicians that follow the citys plan make money and the ones who don't, who want to actually create get left behind and what they create gets left behind and ignored until more people like goners come around and find it and say wow what the fuck happened here? how come no one knows about this? then they make lots of money on ebay and the musicians who made the music have nothing.
Your Reply Click this icon to move up to the quoted message

Only registered users are allowed to post here. Please, enter your username/password details upon posting a message, or register first.

  Goner Message Board Powered by PHP Forum Software miniBB ®