The 57th annual gathering of the Music Business Association has finally hit Nashville, giving the event a much needed return to its glory days when live music was as much a factor in the convention's success as its panels on business issues.
In the opening session, Mayor Karl Dean welcomed the convention to his city by pointing out that Nashville didn't get the title of Music City just because of all the great songwriters and musicians that populate the place.
He said that the music industry has an annual $10 billion impact on the city and it supports some 56,000 jobs here, adding, "it's a huge economic development engine for Nashville."
Next up, Music Biz president Jim Donio said "it took 57 years, but we finally brought Music Biz home to Music City. How could we go anywhere else, they rolled out the red carpet and rolled up their sleeves," to help make the best possible convention.
He noted that the move to Nashville produced the convention's biggest attendance in eight years, with some 1,300 delegates, and even more walking up.
But he reminded people that while most in attendance are blessed to work for the music business, they would remember "we wouldn't be doing what we do, if not for the song," and cited that 200 publishers are based in Nashville.
Later, Music Biz chairman Fred Beteille of YouTube noted that the association's Scholarship Foundation has awarded almost $7 million dollars in financial assistance to deserving students.
John Kunz, owner of Waterloo, one of the best indie stores in the world, was presented with the Independent Spirit award. During the presentation it was noted that the store features about 150 in-store performance a year and has featured a who's who in music, everybody from Willie Nelson, to Jeff Buckley, the Stooges, Norah Jones and Nirvana.
But beyond that, Waterloo also is a responsible citizen in the Austin business community, reminding city government that indie stores contribute more to the economy and also is a part of a group that sets up emergency health care funding for local musicians.
Kunz said that Waterloo is more than a record store. Rather, it's kind of like a town hall/community square where Austin gets together. Looking at his watch, he said couldn't have received the award "without the 50 people back home who opened up the store a few minutes ago." He urged indie stores everywhere to work together, like they do in Austin. On Record Store Day, any customer who shops in an Austin indie record store can get a discount from any other indie record store they visit that day, a practice he urged retailers elsewhere to adapt.
In closing, he said, "let's make it so that the Global Friday streetdate [beginning July 10] does not harm indie stores and everyone should show support for vinyl Tuesday."
Finally, Jack White was presented with the innovator award for all he has done with vinyl along with other ideas he's come up with including a vinyl subscription program.
"Jack is committed to expanding his craft," Donio said. "Isn't that what true innovators do?"
In receiving the award, White thanked the convention delegates for helping to keep music alive. He noted that the last decade hasn't been the most successful for the music industry. "I would appreciate it if you all continue your gospel that music is sacred," he said. "If [consumers} continue to pay for films, video games and TV shows, than musicians deserve the same kind of respect."