San Diego Music Thing panels good for media and musicians alike

by Ryo Miyauchi, Asst. Entertainment Editor

Two-day music conference and festival San Diego Music Thing took residence at Town and Country Resort this past weekend, Sept. 12-13. At the relaxed vacation resort, media and management gurus shared handy tips and tricks to help attendees navigate through the competitive music industry.

The panels were held in four different rooms running at separate schedules. The Q&A-driven panels were hosted in two spacious conference halls located next to each other. The directly parallel, smaller rooms housed the two mentoring sessions. As the name suggests, the panels focused more on skill building, such as one titled “Social Media Boot Camp” and another rounding up members from the San Diego Songwriters Guild to help with each musician’s important craft.

For musicians, the panels provided the most direct support and feedback to improve how to present their craft. Whether the topic covered publishing, website construction or pitching an album, each panel focused on musicians as the first priority. Label managers and promoters also attended the event, and speakers shared tips to better their strategy. But ultimately, the main point of the tools and conversations essentially boiled down to helping musicians get their work out at the best of their abilities.

Though a roundtable conference can sound formal and business-like, SDMT was actually a friendly, laid-back affair. For one, Friday’s “Website Demolition Derby” panel showed how constructive yet fun these talks can be. In the panel, each attendee bravely volunteered to have his or her website critiqued by a series of web specialists. The speakers approached the process open and sincere, both poking jokes and coaching with well-intentions.

The best stories at SDMT were the ones told by experienced musicians themselves. SDMT welcomed three featured speakers this year: Moby, Jack Grisham and Swamp Dogg.

Grisham proved to be a personal favorite. The punk veteran came unprepared with any specific topic to discuss, but it became clear that he worked best driven by intuition. He recounted different experiences with music as they struck his memory. As he explained, his songwriting tended to work the same way with him and his friends playing around with chords on the fly.

From the beginning, Grisham let his lack of commercial success be known, often pulling self-deprecating jokes for big laughs. His stories of ups and down seemed to be at odds for a conference about breaking out in the industry. However, it was a much needed reminder that things don’t always go as planned no matter how prepared musicians can be. With Grishams talk, SDMT provided the next best business strategy: go with the flow and be prepared for what might come next.