We are approaching the 12th annual Millennium Music Conference, which will take place from Thursday through Sunday, February 14 through 17, at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Conference Center in Camp Hill (near Harrisburg). During that weekend, the music industry will converge on Harrisburg for three days of informative panels, seminars, keynote speakers and networking, plus a trade show, and four nights of showcase performances from 300 different bands and artists on stages throughout the Harrisburg area.
I have attended this conference for eleven of its twelve years (I missed the first one in 1997), and have found each one a rewarding and educational experience. Millennium always gets me caught up and on the same page with the current state of the regional, national and international music industry. I learn about new trends and how the business is changing. I also come away with a better understanding of my own role within the ever-changing music climate. I touch base with old friends, and meet new friends and industry contacts. And of course, live music junkie that I am, I gorge myself on seeing as many of the showcasing bands and performers as I can cram into three days and four nights.
The conference itself and its various panel discussions cover many different aspects of the music business, from the most basic aspects of running a band for beginners, to strategies for advancing music careers, to chasing the grail of a major record deal to increasing fan bases or selling more CD's and merchandise. There will be discussions on the major music industry and whether a major recording deal is still worth pursuing in this day and age. Independent record labels will also be discussed, as well as strategies for independent bands and musicians to get their music to the masses. The ever-increasing role of the internet in music promotion has become a more talked-about topic in recent years. There will also be music law discussions, as well as copyrights, royalties, and other legal matters relating to music.
The keynote speakers for this year's conference represent different aspects of the radio industry, and will likely discuss the roles of independent and commercial radio in exposing and promoting independent bands and artists. Friday's speaker will be Jim McGuinn, the program director for Philadelphia-based public radio station WXPN, a big supporter of independent music; and Saturday's speaker will be Ken Carson of Citadel Broadcasting and Harrisburg area modern rock station 105.7 The X.
The trade show at Millennium features a variety of music-related businesses and organizations showcasing their goods and services. Represented will be instrument manufacturers and dealers, recording studios, promotion agencies, music publications, internet businesses and endeavors, and other music industry businesses and resources. A small performance stage will be set up at the trade show, where showcasing bands and artists can perform mini-sets and promote their upcoming showcase performances during conference weekend.
As mentioned earlier, some 300 different bands and artists will be showcasing their music during Millennium weekend on some 25 different venues and stages throughout the Harrisburg area. There will be many artists from throughout Pennsylvania performing, including two entries from the Altoona area - modern rockers Spirit Lost, and local country favorite Ricky Lee. There will also be performers from throughout the northeast and across the country, and even a few international artists from such faraway places as Senegal and Japan.
With so many bands and artists showcasing over four nights, I expect to run into my usual dilemma of deciding who to go see during the course of the weekend. While I have a few names on the list that I want to see at this year's conference, I like to keep my options as open as possible, and let the conference process help decide which bands and artists I end up seeing. Who can catch my attention or pique my interest during the trade show? Who can network their way into seeing my face at their showcase gig? Rest assure, every year there are at least one or two bands and artists not currently on my radar that will not only attract me to their showcases, but win me as a diehard fan as well.
A popular misconception among bands and musicians is that a music conference such as Millennium is all about showcasing, and the possibility of the "record label fairy" showing up at a showcase and inking a band to an immediate record deal and stardom. This rarely, if ever, happens. The true value of attending a music conference like Millennium is learning and networking; shaking hands and meeting music industry people, swapping business cards, and for musicians, passing out CD's and recordings of their work. In the best scenario, contacts will be made that can help advance a band's or performer's career; perhaps even to an eventual national level. That is what happened for the band Halestorm, whose journey to a major recording deal began at Millennium. After attending the conference for a few years, the group met Grammy-nominated producer David Ivory (whose resume includes work with Erykah Badu and Patti Labelle), who took Halestorm under his wing and helped Elizabeth ("Lzzy") Hale hone her songwriting talents. That association eventually led to the group's management deal with Bill McGathy of In De Goot Entertainment (the catalyst who helped Puddle Of Mudd, Chevelle, 3 Doors Down and Shinedown over the hump to superstardom), and their signing with Atlantic Records.
For any musician who is serious about making a career out of music, the Millennium Music Conference is well worth checking out.