In November, Richard Florida, editor of The Atlantic Magazine, published an article, found at www.theatlanticcities.com, ranking U.S. metro areas by the total number of bands, the number of bands per capita and the popularity of the music scenes in those areas.
Albany didn’t break the top 20 for any of the charts ranking gross total number of bands, or popularity indexes with audiences. But the story was different for the number of bands per capita — Albany ranked in ninth place, with 154 musical acts per 10,000 people.
For Bernie Walters, president of local independent record label Indian Ledge Music Group and founder of the MOVE Music Festival, the ranking is significant, especially when weighed against the venue closings such as Savannah’s and The Dublin Underground that hit the city’s music scene last year. He’s hoping that the MOVE festival, which returns to Albany for its second go-round Saturday, will help to build awareness for the talent that’s continuing to grow on the local scene.
MOVE Music Festival
Where: More than 10 venues in downtown Albany
When: Noon, Saturday
How Much: $15
More Info: movemusicfest.com
“That’s saying something for the whole United States,” Walters said. “The talent’s out here. There were a couple of venue closings [last year], but I think other people have picked up the slack and started hosting more music, like Pauly’s Hotel for example. They were pretty quiet last year, and now three or four nights a week they have live music — same thing for Justin’s and Lark Tavern. I think an event like this will help, I believe, downtown Albany stay vital with the music community and hopefully show people that there is the need for live music venues, that there is a legitimate, growing industry within our area.”
About 100 bands
Albany indie folk rockers The Lucky Jukebox Brigade, who performed at the inaugural MOVE last April, are returning to the street festival this year as one of the roughly 100 bands spread across multiple venues in downtown Albany. The band will kick off the show upstairs at Valentine’s, taking the stage at 4 p.m. Lead vocalist and ukulele player Deanna DeLuke likewise hopes that the festival can bring more attention to a music scene that at times can seem insular.
“I’d really like to see things like that more often,” DeLuke said. “Everyone who plays music, I feel like knows how great [the music scene in Albany] is, but people who are not connected don’t know it exists.”
Pop and rock singer-songwriter Chris Dukes, whose eponymous band plays the Barrel Saloon at 11 p.m., is a newcomer to the festival. He has noticed the same thing DeLuke and Walters have, and is also hoping the festival will draw more people to local music.
“I think that it helps people in the Capital District realize that there really are good local bands around here that are worth checking out,” Dukes said. “It’s not like a bunch of bands that don’t know what they’re doing and can’t write music — there’s really fantastic bands here, and hopefully this forum helps people realize that that is the case around here.”
More spread out
This year, the venues involved are Justin’s, 74 State, Blue 82, the Bayou Cafe, the Fuze Box, Lark Tavern, Red Square, McGeary’s, Valentine’s, the Barrel Saloon, Franklin’s Tower and Pauly’s Hotel. Among the artists featured are the main headliners — Black Light Dinner Party from New York City, Young London from Boston, and local singer-songwriter Sean Rowe — along with other groups both local and regional, including Stellar Young, Titanics, Wild Adriatic, The Ameros and last year’s headliners, Paranoid Social Club. (Visit movemusicfest.com for a full list of venues and performers.)
“It’s a little bit more spread out this year only because of the situation in downtown Albany, the closing of a few music venues,” Walters said. “What we tried to do is organize areas of music and genres of music in specific clubs and areas, so that if you were into more Americana or straight rock, you would go out to the Barrel Saloon — that kind of thing. If you’re more into straight indie rock, you can hang out around the Red Square area, McGeary’s and the Bayou Cafe.”
Beyond giving exposure to the musicians, the festival also provides musicians opportunities to network with industry professionals via round-table discussions. This year, 17 music industry professionals in marketing, publishing and law will split into rotating panels to speak with registered artists and bands. Bob Tulipan, who has produced shows for CBGB, presidential inaugurations and other major festivals worldwide and has managed Public Image Ltd and The Psychedelic Furs, is this year’s keynote speaker.
“We basically, literally set up big round tables, and divide them three or four to a table,” Walters said. “We let each band or artist send one representative to the table at a time, and the VIPs introduce themselves, tell them what part of the business they’re into, and then it’s open for discussion. They’ll do that for 45 minutes, and we’ll do about four of them in the afternoon after the festival starts.”
Always a learning curve
Nadine Gelineau, CEO and founder of Musebox marketing agency, which has done all of the marketing for MOVE, was last year’s keynote speaker. She will return as a panelist this year.
“Instead of having a bunch of talking heads, talking to people in a room, it’s interactive,” Gelineau said of the round-table discussions. “An artist will come in and basically meet all the industry people and present a case study that everyone pitches in to help find a solution for.”
Over the course of 25-plus years, Gelineau has worked in radio, concert promotion and marketing. With the rapid shift in the music industry away from major record labels and toward independent artists, she has seen Musebox’s role as an artist development agency change quite a bit in recent years. The questions she gets from musicians at events such as MOVE have changed, as well.
“Even somebody who has been doing this a long time is still on a learning curve, because the industry is changing so much. It’s interesting to hear what questions people have and what goals they have at this point, versus even say five years ago,” Gelineau said.
“Five years ago, it would have been, ‘How do you get me on to a major label?’ That barely comes up anymore. It’s more like, ‘How can I make a living doing this?’ and so that’s where a lot of people will jump in and talk about social networking and e-commerce. There’s so many ways for people to get started on their own, and slowly build up to a point where they can afford a team around them.”
Another panelist, Michele Clark, has run the Sunset Sessions — an industry event where unsigned artists perform for radio programmers and music supervisors for film, TV and video games — for the past 16 years. She also has 20 years of experience in radio promotion, and has helped to break bands such as Matchbox Twenty, Hootie and the Blowfish, Coldplay and Maroon 5 into the mainstream.
“The music supervisors and radio programmers — everyone’s looking for something different,” Clark said. “Often it’s very specific — they may need an artist that sounds like Melissa Etheridge, or they may need a very specific song for a scene in a movie — so they may need a song that talks about love and coffee, because of a scene for that TV show.”
These song placements have become more and more commonplace among independent artists seeking to make a name for themselves in the industry. “The Sunset Sessions have been alive for 16 years, and it used to be probably 80 percent of the artists that played were from the majors and 20 percent were independent,” Clark said. “Now I would say that it’s reversed.”
Dave Parker, bassist for Stellar Young, is looking forward to checking out the panel discussions this year. Although his band played MOVE last year when they were known as The City Never Sleeps, none of the band’s members were able to check out the panels.
“I’d love to say, hopefully this turns the city’s opinion around of some of the things that have been going on, between the Cabaret Law, and between . . . Savannah’s closing,” Parker said. “I would hope, if this goes well, it can maybe kind of change opinions — ‘Oh, this can help make money for the city somehow,’ or whatever.”