With Christmas albums now in the stores and tour busses back in the corral, Music Row is settling down for a brief period of winter dormancy. Things will pretty much be back to speed by the time the Grammy nominations are announced Jan. 4. Among those still quite busy, however, are planners of impending music business conferences and conventions. One of these is the International Entertainment Buyers Association, which is fine-tuning the agenda for its annual meeting in Nashville, which takes place June 7-10, 1996, on the eve of Fan Fair. The association just hired its first full-time executive director, Laurie Stephens, and has set up an office here.
IEBA used to be called the International Country Music Buyers Association, but the organization changed its name a few years back to reflect the wider variety of talent its members were hiring to perform for concerts, fairs, clubs, cruises and so on. By its own account, IEBA has about 450 members and an annual collective buying power of more than $250 million.
Reggie Churchwell, the group’s first vice president, says the June gathering will feature roundtable discussions on sexual harassment, entertainment law, insurance, buying talent for hotels and casinos, security measures, and managing and promoting new artists. Panels will cover such topics as the basics of concert promotion; reasons why bookers turn down promoters’ offers for talent; attracting crowds on historically slow nights; buying for, promoting and producing successful club shows; and touring. Other events include the Founder’s Dinner, the Amusement Business Showcase and Party, and the awarding of IEBA’s annual scholarship to a student in Belmont University’s Music Business Program.
Churchwell, who heads Nashville International Entertainment Group, says the meeting will address the rising cost of entertainment to promoters, something that has become a major problem. As he explains, increasing expenses are due “not only [to] the cost of the act itself, but also [to] the astronomical costs of production.”
A colorful, 33-year veteran of the entertainment wars, Churchwell tells a story to illustrate how greatly the demands of acts have escalated: “I went into Johnstown, Penn., in 1977, promoting a package show [that consisted of] the Statler Brothers, Tammy Wynette and Ronnie Milsap. The building manager was showing me around, and I was talking about where to put the mixing board and blocking out for the sound and lights. I noticed that the building manager, who was an older gentleman, was kind of grinning as we walked around. So I asked him, ‘What’s funny?’ He said, ‘Well, this kind of reminds me of when I was managing another building, and Hank Williams came in. He was going to do a show that night, and I asked him, ‘Hank what do you need for lights?’ And he said, ‘Just turn ’em on.’ ”
♦ If you long for around-the-clock and wall-to-wall bluegrass music, mark Feb. 1-4 on your 1996 calendar. That’s when the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America brings its annual convention to Nashville. This year’s event will be held at the Sheraton Music City Hotel.
The convention functions on several levels: It features a lineup of big-name performers, a talent contest for bands on their way up (with 40 bands competing), workshops in banjo and guitar, an exhibit area for products and services, a concert promoters’ meeting, and an awards show at Opryland’s Roy Acuff Theater.
Already scheduled to perform are the Country Gentlemen, John Hartford, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Cox Family, the Lewis Family, the Kathy Chiavola Band, After Five, Ronnie Bowman, Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz, the Grass Is Greener, New Tradition, the James King Band, Lou Reid & Carolina, the Bluegrass Brigade, the Raleys, Randall Hylton, Rarely Herd, Blue Highway, the Churchmen, IIIrd Tyme Out, the Marksmen Quartet, the Sand Mountain Boys, the Bass Mountain Boys, Appalachian Trail, Wild & Blue, Steve Kaufman, and Five for the Gospel.
As good as the music onstage always is, some of the most exciting segments of the event take place in the hotel’s lobbies and hallways. There, individual pickers wandering about suddenly coalesce into bands, showering onlookers with some truly fresh sounds. Tickets are available on both a daily and convention-long basis.
♦ CMT: Country Music Television recently sponsored a five-day concert tour of Mexico for Capitol Nashville recording artist Emilio. The “Life Is Good” tour (named for Emilio’s current album) took the Tejano/country singer to Mexico City, Toluca, Guadalupe, Santiago and Monterrey. CMT, which is working to build an audience throughout Latin America, displayed its logo at all the concerts and promoted the tie-in with Emilio through radio and newspaper ads.
♦ Nashville’s AristoMedia has released the first issue of Clipboard, a monthly newsletter for people involved in promoting and using country music videos. For more information, call 269-7071.
♦ Fran Boyd has been named executive director of the Los Angeles-based Academy of Country Music. The post was formerly held by her husband, Bill Boyd, who died early this year; Mrs. Boyd had served as the ACM’s executive secretary. Like the Country Music Association headquartered in Nashville, the ACM is a trade association designed to promote country music as a genre. Its annual awards show is broadcast each spring on NBC-TV.
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