Live music isn’t just an art, it’s a business. Rocking out onstage is one thing. Sitting down at a computer and crunching the numbers is another. That in-between space is where MixMaster steps in. The two-day conference, now in its third year in Lawrence, helps local musicians who may lack a little business sense. Basically, if you want to play music in this town and thrive off of it, this is the conference for you.
Nick Carswell has been the head honcho of this event, and he understands the struggle all too well. The career musician has been playing in bands since he was a teen, but soon realized he needed to tackle more in order to make the career work. So he founded the conference in hopes of sharing the knowledge he’s picked up along the way. “MixMaster came out of a need for a shared conversation amongst musicians, songwriters and bands about how to move our music careers to the next level,” says Carswell, who spent years working in arts non-profits before noticing a trend in arts entrepreneurship. “Programs that empower artists through business training, marketing and networking have had huge impact on the quality and sustainability of independent art-making. MixMaster is designed to do something similar, with a focus on the unique set of challenges facing musicians and the constantly evolving music industry.”
Carswell knows all too well how tricky it can be to get a musician to buy into a conference toting the business side of music, but assures there are reasons to attend. “It is a great way to get to know the local music community here in Lawrence and in Kansas City. These are the people you’ll need to work with if you want to pursue music further. Bands that you’ll end up sharing bills with, radio stations you’ll want to be sending your music too, bookers, promoters and venues you’ll need to know in order to play bigger and better gigs,” he notes. “As well as knowing who these people are, at MixMaster, they share some of their best advice as to how they work with artists, what successful artists have done to build audiences, and a wealth of other tips and tricks. We hear feedback from the artist’s point of view also, as to what works and what doesn’t.”
The conference helps musicians with anything from copyright and legal issues to how to get your music played on the air. Anyone who attends this conference gets a lesson on what happens behind the scenes and off the stages. “We will also touch on the wider aspects of the music industry with a discussion of the various opportunities, revenue streams and realistic goals that could be available to artists,” says Carswell, who hopes that musicians will walk away from this feeling a little stronger in their craft. “The aim is to empower artists and musicians not just in the short-term, but also in taking a long-term look at the industry and their role in it.”
You can check out the conference this Saturday, April 16th, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium. Entry is free, but it’s recommended you register online here. You can RSVP to the event on Facebook here.
Editor’s note: I Heart Local Music has participated as a panelist at the conference for the last two years, and will once again be featured as a panelist this year.
Words and photos by Fally Afani