The Association for Independent Music convention is gathering this week the "other" music industry: people from labels, distributors and organizations outside the big five, or four, corporate entities known as the major labels.
Attendees at the Wednesday through Sunday event in Cleveland range from representatives of long-established roots music labels such as Red House Records (home of Bill Staines and Lucy Kaplansky) and Canyon Records Productions, home of R. Carlos Nakai and Sharon Burch, to people just starting out with a dream of creating their own label and distributing their own music.
In the day-long introduction-to-the-music-industry crash course, those who've been through the fire share tips and answer questions on financial planning, marketing, the nuts-and-bolts of CD manufacturing, and reaching the media and the consumer with the resulting product.
Thursday (May 4) the focus shifts to panels, including a presentation moderated by Hilary Rosen, of the RIAA, called "Going Digital: Play By the Rules Whatever They Are."
Then there's the Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings, at which artists, label representatives, distributors and other professionals interested in particular genres gather to exchange ideas and discuss issues. A new feature of the conference this year is an exploratory meeting of those interested in Native American music issues, while the Americana SIG will be following up on a project initiated at last year's Atlanta meeting they'll have a promotional CD of American artists to distribute.
The trade show is a hot area for idea exchanges and networking, too, with the rising presence of dot-com companies, first in evidence at last year's convention, expected to continue to grow, their booths sitting side by side with those of labels that record traditional mountain music.
It's not all business, though. Thursday night there's a party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Besides the CDs and tapes that attendees and trade-show exhibitors hand out by the bagful, there'll be plenty of live music for instance, in the nightly Indie Lounge showcases, where performers this year include Nina Storey and Billy Burnette, and the Saturday-night awards show, where bluesman Robert Lockwood Jr., an inductee to the AFIM Hall of Fame this year, will perform.
Each year since 1978, the association hands out the prestigious Indie Awards. Nominations this year cover the indie industry's best in 48 categories ranging from packaging, liner notes and cover design to "Aggressive Alternative," "Seasonal Music" and "Extreme Rock" to such relatively conventional areas of interest as "Jazz, Big Band," "Folk, Contemporary" and "Blues, Acoustic."
Past winners have included Sugar, Burning Spear, Naughty By Nature, Professor Longhair, Kate Wolf, Leon Redbone, Queen Latifah, Richard Thompson, Holly Near,James Cotton, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Alison Krauss, George Winston, Frank Zappa and Robert Cray.
The awards will be announced Saturday. Nominees in folk-related categories include Dolly Parton, John Prine, Steve Earle, Doc Watson and Catie Curtis. Folk- and blues-related categories/nominees include:
Dolly Parton The Grass Is Blue (Sugar Hill)
Dudley Connell & Don Rigsby Meet Me By the Moonlight (Sugar Hill)
Lynn Morris You'll Never Be the Sun (Rounder)
Mountain Heart Mountain Heart (Doobie Shea)
Steve Earle The Del McCoury Band The Mountain (E-Squared)
Darrell Scott Family Tree (Sugar Hill)
John Prine In Spite of Ourselves (Oh Boy)
June Carter Cash Press On (Risk)
R.B. Morris Zeke & the Wheel (Koch)
Richard Buckner Bloomed (Slow River)
Corey Harris Greens from the Garden (Alligator)
Mance Lipscomb Live! at the Cabale (Arhoolie)
R.L. Burnside My Black Name A' Ringin' (Adelphi- Blues Vault)
Various artists Blues Routes (Smithsonian Folkways)
Various artists Living Country Blues (Evidence Music)
Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan In Session (Stax)
Little Milton Welcome to Little Milton (Malaco)
Lonnie Brooks, Long John Hunter, Phillip Walker Lone Star Shootout (Alligator)
Luther Allison Live in Chicago ( Alligator)
Syl Johnson Talkin' Bout Chicago (Delmark)
Adrian Legg Fingers and Thumbs (Red House)
David Grisman Dawg Duos (Acoustic Disc)
Hayes & Blazer The Gateway (Ben Lauren)
James Wilkinson Because of the Rain (White Cloud)
Todd Phillips, David Grier, Matt Flinner Phillips, Grier & Flinner (Compass)
Ani DiFranco & Utah Phillips Fellow Workers (Righteous Babe)
Catie Curtis A Crash Course in Roses (Rykodisc)
Chris Murphy Among the Nomads (First Break)
Jonatha Brooke Jonatha Brooke Live (Bad Dog)
Tim O'Brien The Crossing (Alula)
Doc Watson & David Holt An Evening With Doc Watson and David Holt (UNC-TV)
Jody Stecher Wind and the Rain (Appleseed)
Joe Thompson Family Tradition (Rounder)
Tara Nevins Mule to Ride (Sugar Hill)
Various artists Let Zion Move: Music of the Shakers (Rounder)
Native North American music
BrulÉ One Nation (SOAR Natural Visions)
Burning Sky Enter the Earth (Rykodisc)
Kevin Locke The First Flute (MakochÈ)
Mary Youngblood Heart of the World (Silver Wave)
Various artists Across Indian Lands (SOAR)