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Millennium Music Conference 15 Recap, Day Two Pt. 1

February 19, 2011 - Jim Price
Again this year, I am attending the 15th annual Millennium Music Conference, taking place from February 17-20 at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center. I’ll try to provide updates as the conference progresses.

Friday was the first day of the actual conference itself, including the music business panels, trade show, and keynote address by Halestorm. As expected, it was busy, and provided quite a few highlights.

I spent most of the day networking in and around the Pennsylvania Musician Magazine table and acoustic stage at the trade show, meeting new friends, touching base with old ones, and watching as some 21 different performers played acoustic mini-sets to visitors and passers-by. One of the visitors was aspiring 12-year-old State College-based singer Riley Roth, in attendance with her mother; Riley will release her debut CD in April. Bedford’s Jackson Monsour, attending his first Millennium Music Conference, was there early and stopped by several times during the day. I touched base with friends I usually only see during this event, such as Harrisburg area percussion dealer Fredrico, Lewisburg-based singer/songwriter Chris Whitmer, and Jim O’Hara, the operator of Harrisburg entertainment website HBGOnline.

Some of the performers on the acoustic stage were obvious eye- and ear-openers. One of the first was named Shane from the York area; he played old-school blues on a cigar-box guitar. Chicago-based Jess Godwin awakened the room with her potent and soulful voice as she tickled the ivories on a pair of jazz-flavored original pop/soul numbers. And a new friend I met and chatted with several times this day was 73-year-old Nova Scotia-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Lloyd MacHardy. A songwriter for over 30 years, Lloyd finally followed a fellow musician’s suggestion and recently began playing his songs in front of audiences. He said he is now “living the dream,” traveling across the continent and playing his songs at festivals, coffeehouses and other events.

I attended one daytime panel, “New Social Media and Independent Artists,” which examined the impact of social networking websites on the music business, and advised musicians on how to utilize these tools to maximum potential to market and sell their music. Panelists Jason Spiewak of Rock Ridge Music, Reverbnation co-founder Lou Plaia, Todd Hurley of Baltimore-based ticket agency Mission Tix and Superbob band publicist Curtis Harrington advised musicians to be proactive with their social networking, and present offers and ideas to attract friends to their pages and build their fan bases, and keep those friends interested with new attractions and offers. The panel also stressed that social networking was only part of the whole networking process, and that performers should also have their own official websites and continue to market through traditional avenues as well.

Closing the first day of business was the keynote address on the Radisson mainstage, featuring Atlantic recording artists Halestorm, whose first contact with the music industry occurred during the third Millennium Music Conference in 1999. Moderator Carson of local Harrisburg area rock station WQXA “105.7 The X” asked singer Lzzy Hale, drummer Arejay Hale, guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith some initial questions, before inviting audience members to step up to the microphone and ask their own questions. Through their answers, Halestorm established several important themes in their own success story. First, they never say “no” to opportunities to maximize their fan base, and always go out of their way to meet and greet fans whenever they can. Second, they explained that to succeed in the music business, each member of the band must sink full heart and soul into being in the band, and be willing to make the sacrifices to achieve their music dream. Josh explained that in his case, that meant being willing to give up a day job and a girlfriend, and the prospect of a weekly paycheck to devote energies to doing whatever he could to help Halestorm succeed and earn paychecks instead. Lzzy emphasized that all band members need to be on the same page and get along like a family; touring involves long hours on the road with the same group of people, and if one member of that group isn’t on the same wavelength and can’t get along, it can quickly unravel. And the group also emphasized that achieving their recording deal with Atlantic wasn’t the be-all end-all, and that achieving that milestone only meant that they had to work even harder and more diligently to be successful on that level. Halestorm encouraged all the musicians in the audience to keep the faith and believe in themselves and their music, play as many shows as they can, and keep working to get their music in front of as many people as possible; because often in the music business, according to Joe, “You create your own luck.”

True to their own advice, Halestorm remained after their keynote discussion to meet and greet everybody who wanted to chat, pose for pictures, and more. I was happy to touch base not only with the band, but Lzzy’s and Arejay’s supportive parents, Roger and Beth Hale, themselves members of Halestorm’s team.

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Performing the Millennium Music Conference trade show stage, Nova Scotia-based singer and songwriter Lloyd MacHardy.


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