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Live...From Memphis

An extraordinary new Web site promotes Memphis' most famous resource -- its music.

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Let's be honest and adult about all this and say you're 30. No, 30-something. Who cares? The point is that you are a music nut. You positively adore staying out all night and shaking it 'til you (being old and all) are at grave risk of breaking it. Anyway, that used to be your life -- before you scored that sexy "eight-to-five" and birthed that style-cramping baby. Friggin' baby! What you're obviously in need of is a little dose of LiveFromMemphis.com.

Now let's presume you are much younger. Legal, anyway. So you have a valid-looking ID and a big ol' date with a known audiophile who is completely hot, and since you don't want to take a music-loving hottie like this to see some crappy band that, like, totally blows, you may also want to check out LiveFromMemphis.com.

Let's imagine a final scenario, shall we? You live in Montana. No, Hong Kong. Wherever. Anyway, you want to keep up with that crazy Memphis sound, and you've been dying to buy some cool Memphis merchandise to show your man Toshi that you are, without a doubt, West Tokyo's reigning rock boy.

Well, cats, kitties, and folks in their Fitties, regardless of your station, location, or general situation, thanks to the modern miracle of Internet access, you can enjoy live Memphis music in the privacy of your own home any time. You can have what you want, when you want it, and you can have it all for free courtesy of Ninjacat Studio's multimedia guru Christopher Reyes and his steadfast helpmate Sam Lee.

Their easy-access brainchild, LiveFromMemphis, is a Web site that allows Webites the opportunity to view and listen to live performances by an ever-expanding array of local bands. Styles range from country and blues to jazz, punk, and something called "toe-sucking geek rock." LiveFromMemphis hopes to be as comprehensive as possible, and many, if not all, of the fantastic groups you'll read about in this issue are already on its playlist. Music nerds can read band bios, check out discographies, and sign up to be on their favorite digit-sucking group's mailing list. And all of this is only the beginning. It is the first stage in Reyes' plan to go Napster one better, reinventing the industry standard while helping to create national interest in both Memphis and the amazing music our River City continues to produce.

"We've got at least 20 more shows to post," Reyes says, admitting that his project is becoming almost too large for only two people to handle. "We'll eventually have every kind of music. Gospel. Everything. We just haven't made the right connections yet. I would be totally into [adding Al Green] and lots of others. But, right now, we are taking baby steps." Reyes and Lee have personally recorded, edited, and posted each of the 70-plus bands currently on the site, and Reyes admits that working all day and recording all night have taken a toll.

"Sometimes, there is a band we really want to go out and record, but we just can't do it because we are exhausted," Reyes says. Interns have been added to help with some of the work, but until the group can find funding, LiveFromMemphis will remain a labor of love.

"What pays the bills is Ninjacat," Reyes says. "Doing graphics and Web sites for Oden Marketing and Conaway Brown. Small stuff for a lot of the agencies. We'd love to quit our day jobs and do LiveFromMemphis full-time, but we need money."

Reyes believes that his product does more than promote Memphis bands. It is, in his opinion, a fantastic PR tool for the city, and he hopes the city will help fund the site.

"The [Memphis and Shelby County] Music Commission gets $350,000 a year," Reyes says. "And what do they do?" In terms of increasing exposure and working hand-in-hand with the greater music community, the five-month-old LiveFromMemphis has already created a more visible legacy than the three-year-old commission.

"If we want to attract young, hip people to Memphis," Reyes says, "or keep those people from leaving -- if we want new companies, knowledge-workers, whatever -- then we have to show that Memphis is a place with lots to do. A lot of entertainment to choose from: professional sports, outdoor recreation, all of that. And we really have a lot of that now, and we want LiveFromMemphis to be the source for music."

Reyes hopes to create additional revenue earmarked for artist development by selling sponsorships.

"Imagine [a roots] band sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon," he says. For what amounts to a pittance in advertising terms, Reyes believes a company could fund studio time and CD production. In return, the company would be promoted every time anyone chose to view the sponsored band. Any CDs produced by LiveFromMemphis would likewise be enhanced, featuring pictures, artist information, and, of course, advertising. "Groups could give these CDs away at shows," Reyes says, claiming that freebies create lasting, unlimited exposure for both artist and sponsor.

"We are planning to change the LiveFromMemphis [format]," Reyes says. "Instead of just one playlist, there will be a live list, then an album list, and then an artist list. If you go to the live list, it's a live recording like what you see now. On the album list, there will be online albums. The artist list is where bands can post bios and MP3s."

So what about LiveFromMemphis music festivals? Or maybe a combination LiveFromMemphis nightclub/recording studio? Reyes has plans for all of these things. But, right now, it's all about baby steps.

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