These days, it seems like everyone is doing a conference
and/or awards show in Hip-Hop. What is
up with that? I guess people see one or
two people do it, and they think they have the proper connections, knowledge,
and opinions to do it their damn self.
The problem is, most fail. Its
also not a money maker and most people seem to think its a quick come up. Its really not. Ask anyone who has done a real conference or
I believe strongly in knowledge, so in the past three years,
I have attended every seminar, conference, and summit that seemed worthy, and
that fit into my schedule. This kept me
on the road, speaking live, for at least 10 days a month in the past few
years. I now have enough frequent flyer
flight miles to go to Hong Kong in the Summer. Thats a lot of conventions and seminars, and
yet only a handful were worthwhile. I
have attended so many bullsh*t events, that I am now officially burned out on
seminars, award shows, and conferences.
Most of the events lacked the proper funding to advertise
and promote the event properly, so numerous times I ended up with other high
profile panelists, speaking to rooms with less than 50 people. Almost all of the events were done in
nightclubs, which confused the attendees when they were told to shut up and
listen to the folks on stage speaking. As
you can guess, most didnt shut up, so we ended up speaking to ourselves and
the first 10 feet
of attendees with the dull hum of voices in the background to thoroughly
distract and insult us.
And at almost every conference, I ended up speaking along
side of people who were more interested in self-promoting their company or
crew, or who gave wrong information to the attendees. My favorite was a local lawyer who told the
crowd that artists didnt need to copyright their music. Idiot!!
Ive sat next to managers and label owners with artists Ive never
heard of before or since, and who werent qualified to flip burgers at
McDonalds, let alone speak to folks about creating success in this industry.
Somebody, somewhere, must be telling folks in our industry
that they can put on a conference or award show with no upfront money (wrong!),
without advertising or promoting it, and without having panelists that people
would be willing to pay $100 or more to hear speak. Seems more than a few of the conventions
trick folks into coming by offering showcase spots (for $500 to $2,000 a spot),
telling the artists that they will get to perform in front of industry folks
(yeah, folks like me who wouldnt stay for a showcase even with a gun to my
head) who could sign them and make all of their dreams come true. Very often the people advertised dont even
These suckers who pay for showcase spots are obviously the
people who are talking through the panels in the back of the room because the
majority of panelists actually tell artists exactly how to get signed to a record
deal (if you were listening, youd know too).
Hell, I spoke over 60 times in the past 2 years, and at every event I
talked about how to get a deal and how ineffective it is to hand out demos. At the end of every panel, I was bombarded
with demos. I also skipped every
showcase (while its important for artists to practice their craft and perform,
doing so in front of the industry with the intention of getting signed to a
major label is a wastedoing so in front of consumers who will buy a CD is a
better move; more strategic, and the sales are more likely to attract a label
to sign you).
The importance of a local seminar in smaller towns and
cities that dont have access to a music industry, is its ability to bring together
like-minded people. A seminar brings
together local radio people, DJs, retailers, artists, etc, into one place so
they can network and interact with each other.
Its a great way for new people to get to know who is who, and an even
better way to plan to work together on projects and build relationships. This is a who-you-know, relationship
business. In a perfect world, these
events may even bring in national or regional folks from the music industry who
are proven successful and willing to share their secrets of success. At least share them with the folks who arent
standing around rudely talking to each other in the back of the room.
I built my career at conferences and seminars that matterthats
how I learned much of what I know about this business. I met folks, kept in touch, and learned from
their experiences. Im fortunate that I
came up in this industry when there were a handful of conventions each year
that mattered, that everyone attended. That
no longer exists. We seem to have split
into sub-regions, and the South seems to have taken the focus. Plus the major labels no longer spend money
to sponsor or attend conventionsprobably because theyd have to actually leave
Instead, we now have hundreds of little seminars that no one
attends, with panelists who dont really matter, and with attendees who didnt
come to learn. When I am the most
powerful person in a room, something is horribly, horribly wrong. This means the seminar organizers fu**ed
up. Hell, folks can come to the SEAs
(Southern Entertainment Awards weekend) every year (March 19-22) and hear me
speakeven spend time with me over the weekend.
And the SEAs are free and have far more important and powerful folks
than me in attendance.
So, if you are planning a conference or seminar in your area,
please make sure you find the perfect venue (nightclubs are for showcases, not
panel discussions), and sponsors who are willing to invest in your vision. Make sure your panelists are a nice mix of
successful people who genuinely want to share useful information (as opposed to
airing out others or pumping up their own businesses). Your panelists should consist of local
successful people, regionally established industry people, and nationally
significant peopleall with proven track records of success. The panelists should be people willing to
give back, not people coming into your marketplace to rape the local artists.
Plan out the panels so the panelists can speak to your
market. If you have an abundance of indie
labels in your area, make certain you have panelists who can share knowledge on
putting out an indie record and maybe a LEGITIMATE distributor on the panel. If your market has no great producers but a
ton of rappers, make sure you have some regional and national producers on the
panel to help both the artists and the up and coming producers learn. Fill the void! Whatever your community is missing is what
you should be offering access to. You
will most likely need to fly key people in and put them up in a hotel. That is standard unless you have the
connections and power to ask people to come at their own expense (for the SEAs,
I ask the panelists to pay their own way so the conference can remain free and
open to everyone).
Panel discussions should last longer than 45 minutes. You need at least an hour to get a real
discussion going, and almost as long for the audience to ask their
questions. Make sure you post a schedule
on a website so people know where to go and whats going on. Its a good idea to print that schedule and
hand it to your attendees as they come to your event. Make sure the panelists receive it ahead of
time so they can attend more than just their panelI spoke on a panel recently
and missed a panelist dinner because no one told me there was one. I was sitting in my hotel room with nothing
Have a moderator who can control the crowd and keep the
discussion moving along in a lively fashion.
Have a strong moderator no matter what.
Last Spring in Houston, at
the Go DJs/OG Ron C event, Mannie Fresh and I did a one on one conversation for
90 minutes (in a nightclub). This event
was historical because I shopped and negotiated the Cash Money deal 11 years
ago, based on Mannies excellent hit-making production (as well as the
outstanding rappers and the owners vision for the label). Mannie and I had not seen each other or
spoken for those eleven years. Also, in
that time, we both had done some amazing things in our careers. Youd think the 70 people in attendance would
have wanted to learn from us (especially the producers, artists, and DJs in
attendance) but the talking and murmuring from the audience was distracting
Finally, one of my friends (Rick Edwards, who used to run
Suave House back in the day) decided to moderate the conversation, grabbed my
mic, and told the audience to shut the fuck up.
He pointed out that between Mannie and I, we had earned (not necessarily
made, but earned) millions and millions of dollars in this industry. Mannies production has sold over 30 million
CDs and singles, and my deals have sold over 100 million CDs worldwide, netting
a larger share to the artists than ever in the history of rap music. The crowd let Mannie and I continue without
any more distractions after Rick broke it down for them. I would have NEVER imagined that someone
would want to talk through Mannie sharing secrets of his success, but that day
proved me wrong, and proved the necessity of having a strong moderator.
Make sure you spread the word about your event. Just using free MySpace and FaceBook blasts
are not enough. Radio ads, flyers and
posters, and advertising to the urban music community at least two months ahead
is key for a small event. Six months
ahead if you are trying to attract attendance from a larger area like your
entire region. The SEAs begin
advertising the next years event the week after the SEAs end. You dont have to be that thorough, but maybe
thats why the attendance there always breaks a couple thousand. If your event wasnt worthy of people
attending this year, there wont be a next year. I know I wont be back.
And lastly, if theres already a successful event in your
area or region, find another avenue. Why
try to copy or compete with something that already works and works well? TJsDJs springs to mind. Every Quarter, his event attracts 3,000+
people to Tallahassee, mostly key
artists and industry people. If you are
in that region, why would you want to compete with that? Youd end up looking bad, unable to attract
the volume and the key people that his events attract. Dont follow, lead. Find whats missing in your region and supply
that. And then be sure to do it well.
And if you advertise that someone is coming to speak or
judge your ineffective showcase, they damn well better be there. You cant ever repair your damaged
Events that Ill be attending this year, if anyone cares:
Southern Entertainment Awards
Weekend (Tunica, MS March 19-22)
The Core DJs Event (Atlanta,
GA April 24-27)
One Stop Shop Producers
Conference (Phoenix May
Tampa Music Conference (first week
TJsDJs/Ozone Award Weekend
(usually the second weekend in August)
TJsDJs Record Pool (usually in late
The Diamond Awards (Jacksonville,
FL usually the second week of December)
And of course, I moderate the In The Know Seminars (dot com)
that are on-line monthly (the third Saturday of the month on the internet), so
Im always there.
I do not attend any of the traveling minstrel shows that
move from city to city charging exorbitant rates for artists to perform. If it smells like a scam, it probably
is. Find the cities that any event has
already been to, and ask artists on MySpace in that city if it was worth
it. I find that when folks get burned
out of money, they are more than happy to tell others about it. Dont be fooled by recognizable logosand if
you attend an event that is bullshit, write to those sponsoring companies
whose logos are plastered all over everything and tell them it was bullsh*t!!!