When the local chapter of the Recording Academy hosts Grammy GPS: A Roadmap for Today's Music Biz this week, the daylong "mini-conference," as Memphis chapter executive director Jon Hornyak calls it, won't exactly be a new event.
Grammy GPS is instead a reconfigured version of the Recording Academy's previous "Indie Impact" seminar.
"We wanted to rebrand this so it sounded a little broader-based," Hornyak says. "We felt like 'indie' had been a little overused as a word. So we came up with what we think is our clever 'Grammy GPS' name, navigating the new music business. It's not SXSW, but there are performance opportunities. There are panels and workshops. Networking opportunities."
The event, which is bringing a variety of significant music-industry insiders to town, kicks off Thursday, April 15th, with a registrant-only party at The Warehouse downtown that will feature live music from Ryan Peel, Yung Kee, Star and Micey, and The Summers. The conference itself will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Friday at the new Playhouse on the Square in Midtown and will be followed by an open-to-the-public showcase at the Hi-Tone Café.
"We thought it would be interesting to make this a Midtown event," Hornyak says. "In recent years, we've focused on downtown. With Playhouse putting this swell new building together and with the Hi-Tone so close by, it would be easy for out-of-towners to navigate. Maybe people can grab some dinner at a Midtown restaurant [after the conference] and then head to the Hi-Tone."
The event, which is free for Recording Academy members and $40 for non-members, is envisioned as a professional development conference that allows attendees to hear from and mingle with established songwriters, producers, label reps, and other music-industry insiders. (Hornyak says he expects anywhere from one third to one half of the attendees to be regional college students involved in the organization's GRAMMY U program.) Among the seminar topics are demo critiques for both rock and "urban" artists, "Direct-to-Fan and Internet Marketing," and "Supply and Demand: The Basics of Distribution."
"Things are changing so much now," Hornyak says of the event's emphasis on artist control. "CDs don't sell the way they used to. It's harder to get a major record deal, and even if you get one, it might not really be a good deal. So artists are getting more control of their careers, because they have to. It's about where the industry is today."
Along those lines, the keynote speaker will be Mark Montgomery, an "entrepreneur in residence" at Nashville's Claritas Capital who is said to be a pioneer in e-commerce and direct-to-fan marketing.
"I think Mark is someone who looks to the future in this business," Hornyak says. "He's one of the people who was involved early on in the 'direct-to-fan' idea. He's worked for labels, and he's worked for artists. His clients have included Kanye West, Keith Urban, Bon Jovi, and Pearl Jam."
Hornyak says he expects most of the out-of-town attendees to stick around for the showcase concert at the Hi-Tone, which will present a diverse mix of local and regional artists.
On the rock side, the showcase artists are emerging classic-style rockers The Dirty Streets, who recently toured with Lucero, longtime local punk fixtures Pezz, heavy modern-rockers Sore Eyes, indie/metal band Tanks, and singer/songwriter Jeremy Stanfill. On the urban side is Louisiana rapper DEE-1 and the highly promising young local hip-hop artist Skewby, who recently was featured in the "Unsigned Hype" column of venerable hip-hop magazine The Source.
Registration for Grammy GPS is open through the day of the event. You can register on-site or in advance via Grammy365.com/events/Memphis-grammy-gps-roadmap-todays-music-biz. The showcase concert at the Hi-Tone is free for conference attendees and $10 for the general public. Showtime is 8 p.m.