Panels, Performances & Insight Aplenty At Relix Music Conference: Two-Day Nashville Event Is Filled With Real Content, Industry Leaders

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Relix Magazine’s Dean Budnick, Aaron Frank of AMFM, Dayna Frank of First Avenue Productions and National Independent Venue Association, Ad.Ventures’ Josh Rowe, Spotify’s Mary Catherine Kinney and Tara Moore of PSBM take part in the Relix Music Conference panelSound Check: The State Of The Business Part 1.” Photo by Em Walis.

In the cash churn world of seminars, consumer-facing conferences and symposiums, there may be no higher ROI than the Relix Music Conference, which wrapped this week in Nashville. Two days, one panel at a time, ample space and time for networking, carefully curated performances and interviews removes the frenzy and encourages attendees to settle in, absorb the content and perhaps have meaningful conversation of their own.

Starting Monday, April 17 at Nashville’s buzzed about Brooklyn Bowl, Relix Editor-In-Chief Dean Budnick moderated a “State of the Business” panel that included AMFM manager Aaron Frank, First Avenue Productions/NIVA’s Dayna Frank, Ad Ventures’ Josh Rowe, Spotify’s Mary Catherine Kinney and PSBM’s Tara Moore. Taking a deep look at where live music is, how people are consuming and what it means for artist development, they painted a very real picture about the work needed and opportunities for growth.

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Wasserman Music’s Chappel McCollister, Jonathan Levine and Lee Anderson and Wasserman’s Molly Bailin participate in “Case Study: Wasserman Music,” a conversation moderated by Project Admission’s Josh Baron. Photo by Em Walis.

That tone – realism, sobriety, hope and making it happen – defined the two days. These important topics were thoughtfully addressed, whether it was Tuesday’s Josh Baron-led “Case Study: Wasserman,” which saw the white hot agency’s Chappel McCollister, Jonathan Levine, Lee Anderson and Molly Bailin talking about their growth, vision and plans to create an even more dynamic future for their clients, or Monday afternoon’s “Where Is My Mind?: Mental Health in the Music Industry,” featuring moderator Hilary Gleason of Backline, Music Health Alliance’s Tatum Hauck Allsep, the Neal Casal Foundation’s Michele Augis, the Gibson Foundation’s Erica Krusen and artist Andy Frasco talking about the stigma, the resources and critical need for mental health awareness and care.

“I think the idea behind the conference is to keep it lively and engaging. Two days feels about right. First set, second set, no encore needed (though we do host post-conference events at the Brooklyn Bowl),” Budnick said of what drives the highly concentrated event. “We want to blow out two days with a diversity of participants. That’s the glory of the gig, so it’s not hard to restrain ourselves. I think there’s something special that comes from working with limitations.”

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Peter Shapiro of Dayglo Presents, tvg Hospitality’s Ben Lovett, Live Nation Entertainment’s Tom See and Chrissy Hall of Ryman Hospitality Properties came together for the panel “Point A to Point Z: Optimizing the Fan Experience,” which was moderated by IEBA’s Pam Matthews. Photo by Em Walis.

Those limitations – two days, no overlap – create a no fat reality. IEBA’s Pam Matthews hosted a lively discussion with tvg hospitality’s Ben Lovett, Ryman Hospitality Properties’ Chrissie Hall, Dayglo Presents Peter Shapiro (who also serves as publisher of Relix magazine and is the owner/operator of Brooklyn Bowl) and Live Nation’s Tom See about the reality of giving fans the best circumstances from ticket purchase to post-event in “Pt. A to Pt. Z: Optimizing the Fan Experience.”

There were panels on blockchain, crypto and NFTs, the opportunities and obstacles in creating performances for the youngest fans, extended interviews with Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Peter Frampton and John Oates and a multiple perspective examination of brands and their impact on artists that weighed the meaning for acts at various points in their careers.

Iconic guitarist and songwriter Peter Frampton sat down with music journalist and Pollstar Contributing Editor Holly Gleason for a career-spanning conversation where he discussed his work with his bands The Herd and Humble Pie, the intersection of prog-rock and hard rock, meeting George Harrison for the first time, his relationship with David Bowie and much more. Photo by Em Walis.

Designed to be informative rather than self-promoting, attendees had the opportunity to not only ask questions from the floor, but to talk to the panelists after they spoke. Whether it was exchanging ideas, seeking advice or lining up future dealings, it felt more productive than glad-handing in a room with several entrepreneurial types. Local promoters, small labels, an indie record-pressing plant, managers, lawyers and others drank local beer, talked about the issues facing their sector and other parts of the entertainment industry amongst themselves.

“The fun of the conference,” Budnick agrees, “is that I was able to take these (topics) up with numerous folks from varied perspectives in one-on-one settings over the two days.”

Budnick also moderated the bookend “State of the Business, Pt. 2,” which kicked off Tuesday morning. Taking Third Man Records’ Ben Blackwell, WME’s Braeden Roundtree, Gibson Brands’ JC Curleigh and rock/soul singer Maggie Rose through a litany of topics including touring costs, the reality of getting records pressed and into fans hands, the economy and shrinking opportunities, they found plenty of ways to keep the faith. It was empowering without being “Up With People” – just what you’d expect from seasoned hands like these.