I just returned from Chicago where I attended the CD Baby DIY Musician conference. I have two albums for sale with CD Baby, the 2009 release from The Ever After titled “Oh Dear!” and the electronic album I released in May as The Resident Alien titled “The Only Constant Is Change”.
I figure since I’m having them distribute my music and the conference is reasonably priced ($69usd early-bird pricing), I should check it out and see what I can do to better promote my music.
Over all my experience at the conference was positive. I attended the same conference in 2015 in Chicago (the first time CD Baby held it) and I enjoyed that one as well. I had gone to the ASCAP conference in LA a few years prior and came away feeling it was a bit too massive and somewhat overwhelming. The CD Baby conference in comparison was smaller and felt more manageable, which also fostered a greater sense of community.
Definitely one of the highlights from both years was The Open Mic that CD Baby hosted on Friday night at the Bottom Lounge to kick off the conference. I managed to meet really interesting musicians at this event both years whom I ended up spending a lot of time with attending panels and talking music. Last year it was a fine songwriter from Pennsylvania named Matt Wheeler and this year a really good guitar player from Argentina name Marcelo Berestovoy. In many ways the best aspect of these conferences is the ability to network and learn from people who have been in the music business for a long time and can give you advice and help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
I found a lot of the panels and information being presented this year were similar to last year’s conference. In some cases that was not necessarily a bad thing because a lot of the material is pretty dense (publishing, licensing, etc…) but it did make the conference seem less “fresh” this year.
2016 release by The Resident Alien on CD Baby
One of my favorite presentations was definitely “Breaking Down The Mix” by Mark Hornsby and hosted by Sweetwater. Mark took a song he had recorded and mixed for a band called The Fringe and singled out all the elements to show how it sounded pre-production and then post-mix. He clearly had a lot of experience and came across as super knowledgable. It was cool to see some of the tricks he uses to get a really polished sound. My favorite quote: “Mixing starts when you hit record!”
I also enjoyed Cheryl Engelhardt’s presentation on “Getting in to Writing for Commercials”. She had a lot of good information about how to put together reels, the process of writing specifically for an ad and best practices for targeting agencies. I particularly liked one quote of hers as well (I’m paraphrasing), “Figure out ahead of time what your writing strengths and interests are and search out those opportunities directly, as opposed to taking what is available in order to build up to what you really want to do”.
Finally, the keynote from Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon and founder of Pomplamoose, was excellent. He was funny, inspirational and at times deeply moving. If you had to sum it up in a phrase – “Get back on your horse.”. Bob Boilan’s presentation with the winner of the 2016 Tiny Desk Gayleen Lea was also great. That woman has a haunting voice!
I heard it was already announced that next year’s conference is going to be in Nashville, which sounds all right to me. I would like to see more panels on production techniques like the Sweetwater one. And maybe some gear or product demos or section of the gold room where you can play with stuff. At the risk of turning in to another NAMM, I say let Sweetwater set up a room full of toys and let people have at it. That would be pretty sweet.