The third annual California Music Industry Summit took place at Laney College on June 8-9th. I couldn’t speak for how many people showed up on the first day, but when I made the trek to Oakland on its second day, I found myself pretty damn amazed by the turn out upon arrival. However, it was not surprising to see so many people attending such an event. The aim of CMIS is to introduce everyone to the world of the music industry by setting up a series of panels that covered just about every position in the industry that you could think of. The panels were hosted by actual professionals whom were well learned in their topics, which truly did show with each panel. The people attending event ranged from artists and band managers to reporters and unsigned musicians who just wanted to learn a little bit more about the industry. It was evident that everyone here was very serious about their pursuit of getting their foot in the door, but spirits were also very high at the same time. But when you bring together hundreds of music lovers within the same conference, it’s damn near impossible to agitate tension. Frankly, it was the exact opposite, standing in the middle of that campus with all of these people I didn’t know. We were all just eager to learn what CMIS had to offer.
And what CMIS had to offer was much more than what I anticipated. This was my first time getting the chance to attend one of these conferences, so I wasn’t completely sure what to expect as I walked through the campus, following the arrows posted on the walls which directed us to the heart of the show. When I first arrived, I waited in the courtyard for the panel to start and watched as three people in the distance crowded around each other and sang. One fellow was playing the acoustic guitar as the lady standing before him sang lead, her friend harmonizing alongside her. It really was a lovely thing to witness, these three musicians sharing together a brief moment of creativity before it all began. As I walked away from the courtyard and began headed towards the first panel, I was greeted by several others who walked by with a genuine sense of amiability behind their smiles. It made me feel completely at ease and extremely ecstatic to be apart of such an event. The positive vibrations flowing throughout the event would continue to do so the entire time I was there.
When I attended the first panel, I took the time to check out the schedule that I would be following throughout the day. Each panel was no longer than forty-five minutes and they usually had about three to four going on at a time. I remembered trying to organize a way to attend all of them in the short time that each was given, but it was a bit difficult to do so. So I ended up going through the list and picking which panels catered more towards my interests in the music industry, which in itself was merely a tool to help all of these amateur musicians such as myself get their foot in the door. When you’re faced with the act of choosing what you truly want to learn about in the industry, it gives you a sense of identity with where and who you are in this huge puzzle. I didn’t truly think about the panels that I chose until all the information was swimming in my head by the end of the day and the pieces began to come together. Each panel was entirely unique to the last. I attended a panel that taught you about what publishing truly is in the music industry. The panel was hosted by a lawyer name Heather Beverley and a man who has done just about everything in the industry name Claytoven Richardson. They were both extremely easy going and answered everything we needed to know about the act of publishing in the industry. I left that panel knowing much more about publishing than I even wondered. This rich feeling of gained knowledge would continue to follow me after every other panel I attended.
Throughout the day, I attended panels that gave you tips on how to survive the stressful life of touring, the benefits of digital marketing, and how to use the media as a tool to getting your music out there. There were plenty of others that one could check out and I’m sure they were just as informational as the last. In between each panel, different artists were given the chance to perform in the student center. I made my way over to the center just in time to see this rather lovely artist name Valerie Troutt and her band playing a rather soulful set. I was particularly impressed with her keyboardist and bassist who shared an amazing chemistry with each other. I was also given the chance to watch a band called Boys Without Toys that perked up the spirits in the room with some honest rock n roll. Apparently, artist performances were happening all day and even leading up to the after party. I only had the time to check out a couple of the performances, but they definitely stuck with me.
Out of everything, I would have to say that the interview with 70s soul singer Betty Wright was the most memorable thing for me. She was interviewed by radio host Sandy Stec from Star 101.3 in a room filled to the brim with adoring fans. Wright was truly an inspirational woman. She was promoting her album Betty Wright: The Movie which features The Roots and also talked about her life as a singer, vocal teacher and her work in the church. She had an exuberant personality and listening to her speak inspired me to think about my own passions. She stressed to never cease following your dream. And everything she said was spoken with such clarity and warmth that you couldn’t help but leaving that room hanging on to every single thing she said.
I ended up sticking around for one more panel and artist performance before making my way back home. CMIS ended up being an experience that provoked an undiscovered interest in several aspects of the industry that I never considered before. From the people I spoke with at the event, there seemed to be a mutual feeling of joy lofting between us. There was so much to learn and so many moments of modest brilliance that really represented what this event was all about. If you ever get the chance to join in on one of these conferences, I recommend you jump on it without hesitation. You may come back after the long, festive weekend feeling just as inspired as I did!