Americana Conference Day #2 Friday Sept. 18

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One of the very pleasant surprises of the conference for me was the opening session today. Songs From A Dutch Tour featured Chip Taylor talking a little about his book of the same name but relating his life story in music. He was helped by hot young fiddle player Kendall Carson and guitarist John Platania, who has worked with Van Morrison on and off for nearly 40 years. Bryan Owens, who was in the house band last night at the Awards, sat in as a makeshift percussionist, using one of the program booklets! I was able to do a brief interview with John after the session which was nice.

The Artist Producer Relationship panel featured Mark Moffatt as moderator along with RS Field and Allison Moorer (currently making a new abum), Clif Norrell and Roger Clyne and Neilson Hubbard and Shannon Whitworth.

Turns out that what most of the producers are now doing is the job that A&R people in major labels used to do – find and develop talent. Of course, this has distinct advantages for both producer and artist but one might ask why labels are spending millions on short-term artists who will never sell anything?

I had a chat to Mark after the panel and he was encouraging Australian acts to come here but to think about getting a publishing deal in Nashville.

Mark cited the case of Kylie Sackley who has just signed a new deal with Sony. her song ‘Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense’ was recorded by LeAnn Rimes and BMI just gave her an award because the songs has reached its one millionth play! 

Mark reckons you can get a house here for about US$700 a month and Nashville could act as a really good base for a band or solo musician to go touring from. I reckon it is a great suggestion. 

Frankly, I am amazed that there ae no Australian acts playing here, apart from Anne McCue on the opening night Sounds Australia function. Half the industry here seems to be made up of Australians. 

The Outlaws & Gunslingers luncheon at The Second Fiddle on Broadway featured the Canadian contingent of talent including Luke Doucet, Oh Susanna and Kendall Carson. This is something that next year could easily be sponsored by some Australian music industry organisation. I met Dobe there but we both arrived too late for the roast beef sandwiches. I won’t make that mistake again. 

The SESAC Pro Showcase featured the ever affable Jim Lauderdale, Keiran Kane and Peter Cooper, who I discovered at the next panel is also a journalist for the local daily. This hardly surprised me after hearing his songs, which are nice but maybe overwritten a bit (lyrically).

The Future of Music Writers and Publications was the panel I was really looking forward to and depending on whom you listened to could have been depressing or optimistic. The panel was chaired by Ken Paulson of USA Today and featured Grant Aden and Kim Ruehl of No Depression and Peter Cooper (The Tennessean). 

Alden, former co-editor of No Depression, seems a little chastened by the whole experience and I am not sure what the situation was when the magazine folded its print issue and migrated to the web. It is now an online community rather than a magazine, which is disappointing but seems a function of not having a budget to pay writers. 

I must say that I am still in shock at the closure of the print version of No Depression. Maybe the Americana community is just too small to sustain it but I wouldn’t have thought so. Alden seemed to think that the niche was just too small. I don’t necessarily agree. 

I cannot say that I got out of publishing Rhythms in print because I saw the writing on the wall for print magazines. It just got to the point where Rhythms had to change to adapt to the market and I was the wrong person to be at the helm financially and editorially.

Rhythms needed to get outside the niche and become a little broader and it has done that. The niche could have been a ditch. Anyway, I am still writing 5-7,500 words a month for it so it is not like I have disappeared. 

I think Marty Jones and Verity Bee have done a fantastic job in improving the magazine over the past two years. I also reckon that the other strength is the relationship with the music festivals – especially Blues Fest and Great Southern – and at least I set that up when I was there. So that is one good legacy.

A few people have ‘complained’ to me that Rhythms is not the same as it once was. Hello, that is exactly why it has survived! Look at all the overseas magazines that have fallen over recently. Now that I think about it, it is a mighty achievement to keep something going for over 17 years! Even Paste Magazine, voted amongst the best magazines in America, has had to ask for donations from readers to stay afloat. A pat on the back to us.

The next day I met Alden in the street and congratulated him on what he had achieved with No Depression. I told him that his magazine had set the editorial bar so high that when I finally realised I could not possibly  reach the same level I decided it was time for me to do something else. (Later, I met published Kyla Fairchild and said the same to her). 

Actually, I am not sure that I would have given up so soon on No Depression if I was involved in it. But we will never know, will we? I think there were some revenue streams and strategic partnerships that might have been explored. 

Other writers at the panel, such as Barry Mazor, were much more upbeat. ‘Who decided that people would not read long articles on the web?’ he asked when this was put as a downside of the closures of many print publications. 

I think Mazor has a point. Something is happening and we don’t know what it is, do we Mr Jones? (To quote Bob). The media is changing and we have to adapt or get out of the way.

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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