Sunday, April 22, 2007

GMA Week - Day 1

GMA is the Gospel Music Association, and this is their week in Nashville!

GMA Week is a 5 day conference for people in all areas of the gospel music industry - artists, promoters, agents, radio djs, producers ... everyone. There are workshops and special events all day, and concerts by top artists each night. The whole thing ends with a bang Wednesday with the annual Dove Awards ceremony. For the uninitiated, the Doves are the Grammys of gospel music.

I'd heard lots about GMA Week, but it was never feasible to go. But now that I'm in Nashville, it just made sense to sign up. I'm hoping to get an overview of the industry here in Nashville, and to learn about the services and options available to me as an artist.

It started bright and early this morning with registration and orientation. I'm in the "Music Professional" track, and our special track for the weekend is called "Indie Impact", focusing on the needs of the independent musician.

Our opening speaker was Christian artist, Shaun Groves. Shaun lead us in a few worship songs, and reminded us that this week must be about finding fame for God and not ourselves. The rest of the day was organized with panels of 3-4 speakers with a moderator. The panel idea was good because you got many answers to each question, but there was also a bit of rambling at times.

The first panel spoke about finding an online presence through sites like myspace. I was quite surprised that none of them knew about Shoutlife. Luckily, one of the audience members brought it up during the comment time. I can't say this was my favourite panel. The presentation was quite jumbled, and it was hard to get clear information. I have a basic knowledge of operating online, but I think a newcomer would have just been lost.

Next, we had a great panel called "Place in this World", about finding your niche. Again, a bit of rambling and storytelling, but there were some great stories, and some great advice. Denver Bierman was one of the panelists, and he has a group called the Mile High Orchestra that does Christian big band. Definitely going to check them out.

This panel also featured Tammy Trent. I first saw Tammy on 100 Huntley St, about 4 and a half years ago. She was speaking about the losing her husband, Trent, through a shocking accident. As she spoke, I realized that she had lost Trent only 3 months before I lost Steve. Our grieving time-lines were the same. I wrote her that night and told her how much it meant to me to hear her testimony. At the time, I was still so mad with God, and I was so impressed to hear how Tammy had clung to God in the same moment that I had pushed Him away. I've been on her email list ever since, and write her occasionally, and it was through Tammy that I was introduced to Shoutlife, which has been nothing but a blessing! I took a minute before the session to introduce myself to her, and to thank her for sharing her story. Such a gracious lady! Tammy Trent is a masterclass on how to treat a fan.

Next was a panel on touring. At first, I thought this might be beyond me because it seemed to be dealing with bands, but it ended up being one of my favourite panels of the day. Tara Leigh is a solo artist who tours and does all her own bookings, and she had great practical information about the ins and outs of booking yourself.

We ended with "The Long Haul" featuring artists who have built careers spanning 20 years or more. I was uber-excited about this panel because it featured the wonderful Allison Durham Speer. There were obvious lessons from each panelist about being persistent, but there was also a lot of detailed practical advice too. They recommended writing out a mission statement for our ministry, so that will be a project for me.

I met some great people today from the States, Canada, Ireland, and Poland. I heard some inspiring stories of overcoming great failures. I connected with some very interesting artists, and made plans to see some great shows.

However, I must say this, too. I was warned that GMA Week will show me the best and the worst of the industry, and my greatest annoyance in the church reared it's ugly head before the day had even begun: Denominational Snobbery. I hate hearing Christians make snide remarks about denominations that are not their own. The Devil is never happier than when we're fighting amongst ourselves.

(Must stop there. I could vent for days on this topic... and it wouldn't be pretty!)

There was a showcase tonight featuring delegates, but I was really exhausted from the past week, so I decided to head in early. Tomorrow will start at 9AM and end around midnight, and I really need my beauty sleep!

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