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October 1, 2008

Mixed feelings on the Baltimore Music Conference

baltimore music conferenceA lot of good ideas and enthusiasm went into this year's Baltimore Music Conference. Dozens of seminars and shows were scheduled, including all kinds of bands.

And there was plenty of press coverage prior to the conference. But as a participant, I got the feeling it was poorly managed.

I was supposed to speak on a panel at the Hilton, but when I arrived, I was told the seminar was being moved at the last minute to Rash Field due to payment issues. Sounds like not enough people showed up for the organizers to pay the bills.

At least one band had a horrible experience with the conference. Check out these comments left by a member of the Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad. 

BMC founder Lisa Suit was pleased with the four-day conference, which she estimates 5,000 people attended.

"I'm very pleased with much of the event," she wrote in an e-mail. "I do want to concentrate on the seminar attendance more for next year as I think people didn't quite understand the wealth of experience we provided to help them with their careers."

But I'm not the only local journalist with a bad taste in my mouth ...

City Paper music writer Al Shipley was also supposed to participate in the conference attended the conference and witnessed the wasteland that was Rash Field:

"[T]he whole scene was just too depressing to spend much more time surveying. I still have no doubt that there could be a genuinely great annual music conference in Baltimore, and applaud anyone who wants to make one happen, but it's a shame that the only people interested in trying don't seem to know what the hell they're doing."

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Local music


For what it's worth, the Bad Liquor Pond set at the 13th Floor (9/17/08) was a BMC show and they killed that ... Check the audio for the most unappreciated Baltimore band playing:

As a performer, I had a terrible experience as well. When I was booked to play at a venue, that shall remain nameless, I was under the impression that this conference was meant to spread new musical ideas, as well as help create exposure for up and coming talent.

I even watered down the selection to make it as digestible as possible for a mainstream crowd, but after 10 minutes, I was informed by the management that house was the only music that I should be playing. Now if I am not a house DJ, and was booked with the knowledge that I do not play house, what good would putting together a house set do for me?

After all, I was not getting paid, but excepting that this conference was a good opportunity for exposure. I know people say a dj has to "read The room", but what good would the exposure be if I'm doing something completely different then I am trying to break out with. Long story short, my set only lasted about a half an hour before they pushed the next DJ on. I felt like I was being exploited. That this was a way for somebody else to make money without having to pay the performers.

You can find pretty much the entire account of our BMC show @ Fletchers at Jeff "The Baltimore Taper" Mewbourn's blog:

There are comments there from The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad, Lisa from the BMC, Evan from Fletchers, and Dal, the manager responsible for that evening's events. There's also a video of them shutting us down and kicking everyone out.

It was definitely not one of our top 10 show experiences. Lisa from The BMC is trying to work out a "make up show", but I haven't been given any solid details yet. I've also been communicating with Evan from Fletchers, and while he was very apologetic, I'm still waiting to see what actions will be taken to make sure other bands playing at Fletchers don't have to deal with this same situation in the future.

Ryan Graham
The Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad

Questions, is why is this spread so thin over multiple days at multiple venues? Seems like a good first step would be ton concentrate the focus to a few venues on a few days close in proximity to each other. Sounds like they bit off more than they could chew.

I, too, had a terrible experience with the Baltimore Music Conference as a performer. Though the organizer seems nice and what not, her organizational skills are horrible. My band (HARLOT) found out the show we were to play Saturday night (9/20)at HourHaus studios was cancelled through a note left on the door! There was no phone call and claims of an e-mail sent the night before. Ms. Suit from BMC later told me she was unhappy that at the cost the soundmen were charging (which she apparently didn't bother to confirm until the night before the venue's first show) and they were having a problem with drawing people, largely because most of the city's better bands we know didn't want to be involved in any way in the BMC. Trust me, we asked them. She also tried to blame the communciation breakdown on the shooting at another BMC venue in Northeast...though, fact is, the HourHaus shows were cancelled no less than 7 hours prior to that sad incident. Unfortunately, for all parties, Harlot actually was anticipating a good crowd thanks to a good performance at HampdenFest the week before and had to scramble to inform friends/fans to save the gas money. The entire experience was a train wreck and highly unprofessional..even in a low-key scene. I would not encourage any band in Baltimore to ever participate this in future years. In the end, I'm actually somewhat glad Harlot did not play as we can now distance ourself from the entire thing and accurately say we weren't a part of it in the end. After all, we only wanted to do it because one of the venues doubles as our practice space (would've been the easiest load-in ever). At any rate, quoting one of the bar regulars at Joe Squared next door to HourHaus about BMC, "There's a reason why this thing has bomb for four straight years." It's sad and disappointing that a music conference for a music scene this good could come together so poorly.

Quick clarification: I didn't participate in the conference in any capacity, nor was I asked to, though I attended parts of it with a friend who was an invited speaker. I just covered it as a journalist.

It is with mixed feelings I too have as I read the way people see this event.
As is usually the case, those with complaints speak loud & those that are happy say nothing in a blog such as this.
I realize everyone had a different experience & many that had a positive one & enjoyed themselves have written me directly.. those comments can be found on our website -
I'm not going to try to justify or give excuses on any of the above comments as I've spoken with some of those involved & realize they won't be happy no matter what the reasoning is behind what happened. I didn't even know about the DJ experience nor who that is so I can't address that one without more info.
Either way, there are explanations for all but the saddest one really boils down to people not getting behind this event and supporting it.
I've been doing this for 4 years now & it's been out of pocket each year for me & volunteers who do believe in it.
It's a labor of love.. for all of us.
Perhaps if all the people that want to make fun of it or complain about it offered to get on board & help with it, it could be the event that I still feel Baltimore needs to have to get the word out about our music.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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