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Millennium Music Conference Recap, Day One 2/19

February 20, 2010 - Jim Price

The business portion of the Millennium Music Conference got under way on Friday, with music business panels, mentoring sessions, the trade show, and a musical keynote address and performance.

I spent most of the day watching, photographing, and sometimes coordinating the parade of musicians performing on Pennsylvania Musician Magazine's acoustic stage.  Bands and musicians could bring instruments and perform 2-4 song sets to show trade show participants what they musically had to offer, plus promote their upcoming showcase performances later in the weekend.  Some of the performers who made the biggest impressions on me this day were singer/songwriter Brian Xander, New Jersey singer/songwriter Jill Cagney, New York's Finespun, Lancaster singer/songwriter Adam Blessing, Ithaca, New York folk/blues artist Marc Berger, Reading's Valerie Nicole & Jon Rossi, and Saskatchewan-based singer/songwriter J.J. Voss.  I also got to see two performers I had witnessed the night before at the Appalachian Brewing Company showcase, Jennings and Karen Zimmer.

I attended one of the seminars.  "The New Music Industry Paradigm," presented by Drexel University's Marcy Rauer Wagman, Esq., provided insight into just how much the music industry has changed in the past 10-15 years, and is still changing.  The old music industry business model of performers getting signed to record labels, selling albums and making their income with royalty checks from their music has largely become obsolete.  People aren't buying albums and CD's any more with the advent of downloadable music, iPhones, YouTube and other technologies that have rendered record companies almost obsolete.  As Wagman bluntly put it, "The music industry has become technology's bitch."

Wagman discussed these changes, and offered thoughts on how musicians need to adapt to the changes.  Musicians and their music have changed from being the product to being the "brand," according to Wagman, and that musicians should concentrate on avenues for marketing that brand and selling it, via merchandise and other innovations.  Even more, musicians have to treat their careers as a business if they wish to make a living at it, and devise angles to market their business to convert their fan bases to income.

The business portion of the day closed with a musical keynote address and performance by Harrisburg's Rich Clare Pentagon.  Clare has been active in music for over 40 years, and tasted some success in the late '60s when he joined the group The Soul Brothers and was signed by Soulville Records.  The band became the Soulville Allstars and had two single releases, the second which charted and became cult hits overseas.  In the early '70s, Clare formed Rich Clare Pentagon, and has since enjoyed a performance career that has taken him across the country on the casino circuit; and even earned him an appearance on a Steve Allen special on Showtime.

Clare gave a brief address to the audience, recapping his career and offering this advice to hopeful musicians: "If it's in here, if it's in your heart, you've got to go for it."

Clare and Pentagon performed a 30-minute set of classic rock including medleys from two of their favorite groups, the Doobie Brothers and the Beatles.

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From Neffs, PA, singer/songwriter Brian Xander performs at the Millennium Music Conference trade show.


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