CD Baby has provided an online platform for independent artists to distribute music since 1998. The company has built a vibrant community of over 300,000 musicians who use its services. Next month, these people will finally have a chance to come together at CD Baby’s first-ever DIY Musicians Conference, to be held on October 23-25 at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago.
“It’s something that we’ve been wanting to do for years, actually,” said Kevin Breuner, CD Baby’s VP of Marketing. “And this year it just felt right with what we had going on internally with development and things we were working on, and also this renewed interest in artists learning and attending conferences.”
This renewed interest in artist conferences has manifested itself in CD Baby’s success in selling tickets to the event. One month ahead of the conference, according to Breuner, nearly one thousand artists from Chicago, the Midwest, and all over the world have signed up to attend. The company will soon declare the conference sold out, in the interest of maintaining a manageable size.
Two major factors contributing to the DIY Musicians Conference’s popularity have been its affordability and its Chicago location. The early bird price of a ticket was $49, and the cost has since been bumped up to $79—still a far cry from the hundreds of dollars other conferences charge for admission. Additionally, by locating the event in Chicago instead of CD Baby’s Pacific Northwest home, the company was able to ensure that many artists would be able to keep travel costs down. “We really wanted to make sure it was affordable and that a lot of artists could attend without having to buy plane tickets or even a hotel room,” said Breuner.
One of the goals of the DIY Musicians Conference is to teach independent musicians the marketing, distribution, publishing, licensing, and performance skills necessary to stand out among the throngs of their brethren. Even though accessible recording technology and the Internet have democratized the music industry, DIY musicians still face the challenge of not having a label’s help to handle the business aspects of their careers. To that end, the CD Baby conference will feature thirty-five speakers in various keynote addresses, panels, and workshops that address all of an independent artist’s needs.
“Looking at the schedule, it looks really meaty,” said Breuner. “There’s a lot of great stuff on there, and value that’s there for the price as far as what you’re going to get.”
Breuner expressed particular excitement for producer Tom Jackson’s live band makeover, a keynote session to be held on the afternoon of October 24th. “Artists don’t spend time working on their live show…it’s like, ‘Don’t tell me what to do onstage,’” Breuner remarked. “And Tom break through a lot of that, he shows why that’s such a ridiculous viewpoint for their career. This is a way for you to directly influence and reach people who are standing right in front of you, to either make them fans or turn them off. And Tom really takes it and shows them…it’s mindblowing.”
Some of the other highlights of the conference will include an open mic night at the Bottom Lounge the evening of the 23rd, the SoundExchange Session DIY Musician Showcase the next night, and the extensive time offered for networking—Breuner hopes the attendees will use the opportunity to set up gig swaps or other collaborations. And although they’ll have to pick and choose between simultaneous sessions for much of the event, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase a video of every panel, workshop, and speaker for $9 at the conference’s conclusion.
More than anything, though, Breuner is hoping that the DIY Musicians Conference will send the message that diligence and small steps are the key to independent artists’ success.
“As an artist it can seem very overwhelming, no matter where you are in your career you’re always looking ahead and thinking, ‘I’ll never get to where U2 is or any of those other superstars,’” he said. “[Artists] need to understand what they can do now, and each individual thing might not be this monstrous, monumental moment, but when you combine them you’re actually quite a bit ahead of where you were last year.”
– Contributed by Zach Blumenfeld