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Millennium Music Conference Recap, Day Two

February 21, 2008 - Jim Price

(This is the fourth of a series of blog recaps from the 12th annual Millennium Music Conference, which happened last weekend, Feb. 14-17, in the Harrisburg area.) 

The second day of business at the 12th annual Millennium Music Conference saw more attendees arriving at the trade show, more panels and seminars, another keynote speaker, and more acoustic performances on the trade show stage.

The Pennsylvania Musician Magazine-sponsored acoustic stage saw plenty of activity, both from bands and artists promoting their upcoming showcase performances later in the day and weekend, as well as some performers who already showcased, looking for another opportunity to perform before an audience and win new fans.  Some of the performers who graced the trade show stage this day included Poconos-based female-fronted rockers Stasis, Baltimore area-based modern rockers Count Your Blessings, Philadelphia-based modern funk/blues band Old Man Cactus, New York-based modern funk rockers Stealing Jane, Harrisburg hip-hop/hardcore group 7th Layer, Harrisburg’s Edwin Tichenor, Altoona’s Spirit Lost, Buffalo-based reggae rockers Juxtaposse, and Reading singer/songwriter Valerie Nicole.

I took in one panel this day, entitled “Maximizing Your Song’s Potential.”  Hosted by producer Blake Althen, this panel presented an eye-opening demonstration of how modern-day hit singles are created.  Althen showed the audience interesting examples of how musicians’ raw songs, through the use of modern recording and digital technology, can be converted into a variety of styles totally different from the original song.  By adding digital effects, fills, vocal reverb, differing rhythm tracks and more – as Althen said, "making your song 'pop'" - a single basic song can be transformed into several completely different mixes, each targeting a different pop sub-genre.  Althen also demonstrated how instrumental tracks can be transformed and adapted for use in television and film soundtracks; and also showed how instrumental themes can be altered for use in different television commercial settings.  This seminar showed the audience that modern technology can give their songs and compositions multiple uses in the music industry if their tune has what music buyers want.  There is a price tag, though, as a producer gets a chunk of your royalties if he or she does the work of transforming your composition into something the music industry eventually uses.  This presentation also was an exposé on how today’s pop hits can be manufactured, and that the pop song creation you hear on a radio can actually be as much or more the brainchild of a clever producer’s arrangement of digital sound clips as it is a musician’s original inspiration.

The daytime portion of the conference again concluded with another keynote address, this time from Ken Carson, program director of Harrisburg-based modern rock station WQXA, “105.7 The X.”  Ken discussed the current state of commercial broadcast rock radio; explaining how the 1996 Telecom act (which enabled corporate radio company conglomerates like Clearchannel to rise into power) and the record companies’ evolution into money-hungry corporate giants has made it much more difficult for bands and musicians to make it big in the music industry.  The record companies painted themselves into a corner by ignoring and fighting evolving alternate technologies that made music accessible to consumers.  And with CD sales on the decline in recent years, record companies are now signing only a minimal number of new artists, and even then only artists with an already-established track record of sales.  Ken did offer light at the end of the tunnel, though, predicting that with the advent and rise of high-definition (HD) radio in the next few years, that there will be new possibilities for musicians – particularly independent artists – to receive airplay.

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The Saturday keynote speaker at the Millennium Music Conference, Ken Carson of Citadel Broadcasting and WQXA 105.7 "the X."


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