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The Relix Music Conference Makes a Lively Return at the Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Things sure have changed since they last held the Relix Music Conference four years ago in New York City where the first three incarnations of the event and seminar on the live music industry have taken place. But, on April 17th and 18th, 2023 leading figures in the field reconvened at the Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee to discuss the state of live music following a global pandemic and a series of other stressors that have forced creativity and ingenuity onto the scene.

At the Relix Music Conference in Nashville.

Dean Butnick, Editor-in-Chief of Relix Magazine took the stage early Tuesday morning to moderate a panel called "Sound Check: The State of the Business (Part 1)" that promised a freewheeling, wide-ranging conversation regarding the state of the live music industry in 2023 with perspectives from a variety of verticals across the business. Featuring speakers Aaron Frank (AMFM), Dayna Frank (First Avenue Productions / National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)), Josh Rowe (Ad.Ventures), Mary Catherine Kinney (Spotify), Tara Moore (PSBM) - this hour long talk set the serious tone and timely theme of the gathering that would be returned to often over the next two days.

"Now we're back, and I think on this panel that's a lot of what we're going to talk about," Budnick said addressing the audience in his opening remarks. "What does that mean, what are the challenges, what are the opportunities, and the like?"

Rock legend Peter Frampton was the guest speaker on opening day.

"We were all going through the exact same thing at the exact same time," stated Frank best known for her concert production work in Minneapolis about the unifying nature of the pandemic as everyone initially found themselves in the same boat. "Now coming out of it, it is more unique and individualized as far as recovery is concerned."

Two of the biggest challenges to the recovery and return of live music that were identified over the course of the two-day conference included the across the board increase of the cost of doing business due to inflation that now rings up near 30 percent higher than the pre-pandemic prices. Also, the actual practice and work related to booking, promoting and producing concerts in the modern era is a much more fluid idea these days where tours and shows can be cancelled or moved on a moment's notice for a variety of factors including health of the artist or the inability to secure adequate staff or proper/affordable insurance coverage.

In Nashville, the first special guest was a true rock music icon who in his time was briefly the largest live act on the planet with an unforgettable album in the 1970's that encapsulated the excitement, power and potential of live music. Thus, "In Conversation: Peter Frampton with Holly Gleason" got underway.

This "nerdy panel" was quite informative.

"To me, I'm just a musician who got lucky," Frampton humbly remarked at the start of a career spanning discussion that touched upon his work with Humble Pie and David Bowie along with the many exhilarating highs and devastating lows he experienced over the decades as a much loved musician and artist. When talking about his follow-up to Frampton Comes Alive and taking a role in the Beatles-related big screen flop that was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Peter confessed, "I stepped out of my comfort zone and fucked up."

Dealing with a loss of livelihood as presented by the Covid-19 lockdowns - or losing your perch as the top rock artist in the world as Frampton did - could challenge anyone's outlook on life so it was fitting that the next panel was titled "Where Is My Mind: Mental Health & The Music Industry" - moderated by Hilary Gleason (Backline) with speakers Andy Frasco (Andy Frasco & The U.N.), Erica Krusen (Gibson Brands), Michele Augis (Neal Casal Music Foundation) and Tatum Hauck Allsep (Music Health Alliance).

"We have seen the music industry shift significantly in the past five years as we talk about mental health. There are more resources than ever. We're lucky enough that conversations like this are happening more and more. How are you experiencing the shift in your own perspective fields and what do you hope to see in the next five," asked host Gleason to her guests.

John Oates played a few songs during his closing interview.

"In our industry, the words mental health/brain health, it's a tale as old as time with the creative brain," Allsep confirmed as the talk got underway. "The pandemic really helped allow us, enable us to talk about mental health more and more vocally. Because, it's something that affected everyone across the nation."

On the topic of subjects that can challenge your brain the Relix Music Conference next pivoted to the realm of how ever changing and advancing technology is impacting the live music industry. "Building Blocks" - moderated by Patrick Workman (Unlock) with speakers Deana Burke (Boys Club), Jarrod Dicker (The Chernin Group) and Vladislav Ginzburg (Blockparty) - dove into the emergence of Web3 space - blockchain, crypto, A.I. (artificial intelligence) and that three-letter acronym, NFTs - along with the practical application of these new, complex and still little understood tools and how their use in the live music space has grown considerably as artists, venues, promoters and ticketing companies look to capitalize on the ever-expanding tech field.

Greg Knight Music's Greg Knight led a conversation called "Brand Aid" that featured Mark Weiss of 237 Global, Brian Schwartz of 75 Management and MAC Presents' Marcie Allen. The three panelists discussed how to make brand partnerships feel authentic, creating relationships with brands, the need for artists to control their own data and more.

Quality interviews and pro panels helped Relix score big in Nashville.

Describing how co-branding with companies can still be a lucrative revenue stream for artists the panel cited the impact of recent change in these traditional relationships. They pointed out that emerging brands are now the ones most likely to back musicians in all capacities and showed how the power of social media to make an artist now can also be their undoing via canceling and the divided political landscape we all now find ourselves working in.

Artists were advised to remain authentic to themselves in order to become attractive to brands and using the example of the recent Bud Light fiasco musicians and companies were reminded to know your demographics by concluding that the Anheuser-Busch/Dylan Mulvaney partnership, "wasn't a good match".

Many other informative panels, live music, catered meals and networking opportunities via free bowling were all part of the experience at Relix publisher Peter Shapiro's world class venue in Music City. Showcasing the craft over the two days were during the afternoon breaks were quality sets by Autumn Nicholas, BOWEN * YOUNG, Goldpine and Wyatt Flores - all presented by the Americana Music Association.

Goldpine made a tour stop to play their hometown Brooklyn Bowl.

In a closing conversation with music journalist Jewly Hight, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Americana artist John Oates discussed his historic career including the impact of the folk revival in the '60s had on his life, how he combined all of his influences in his music, how the art of sampling is keeping classic music alive for a new generation, how "Maneater" evolved from a reggae tune and much more. He also performed a cover of Mississippi John Hurt's "Spike Driver Blues" and an acoustic version of his song "Pushin' A Rock."

John also talked about the importance of his move to Nashville on his own career especially the fact that with so many great players it forced him to up his own game by instituting a more disciplined practice regime. When asked about the future of music - Oates offered that he hopes, "the next generation of musicians will be able to preserve the integrity of organic music. As A.I. begins to rear its very frightening head I am concerned. I am very, very concerned."

"There's an art and a craft especially to songwriting," Oates elaborated. "It's a very magical thing to be able to create something from nothing. (Songwriting) is an amazing beautiful thing that's been a part of humanity from the beginning of time. I'd hate to see that disappear."

Wyatt Flores was hitting the road right after his afternoon set.

Related Links: For more information on the RELIX MUSIC CONFERENCE and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Relix Music Conference | Peter Frampton | John Oates | Brooklyn Bowl Nashville


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