When the North By Northeast fest rolls around every year, most average music fans flock to the nightly showcases and don't bother paying attention to any of the conference components. In the past, that oversight was understandable; the panel discussions and presentations had a strong industry focus that offered little to even rabid music geeks.
But this year more than ever, that side of NXNE is specifically geared toward folks who wouldn't touch wheeling-dealing industry machinations with a 10-foot pole. Jumping off from the thematic starting point of The New DIY, the conference focuses on strategies for developing a new self-sufficient grassroots model for music culture, separate from the increasingly irrelevant major-label infrastructure.
Emphasizing the need for more voices to be heard in the new music biz model, the conference kicks off today (Thursday, June 8) between 2 and 5 pm at State Theatre (69 Bathurst) with a massive Industry Town Hall round table, including everyone from major players from radio and TV (the EDGE's Alan Cross , MuchMusic's David Kines ) to musicians (Barenaked Lady Steven Page , Swollen Members' MadChild and Prevail ) to media folks from NOW and elsewhere. Check out the panel's diverse ideals or just show up to have your say.
One of the most popular (and high-profile) parts of the annual conference is the celebrity interview segment, and this year festival organizers have secured an impressive hat trick of hugely influential artists (all at Holiday Inn, Regency B and C). Friday (June 9) at 2 pm you can catch T.O. icon Rob Bowman interviewing elusive savant Tom Verlaine of NYC rock innovators Television. Saturday (June 10) at 12:30 pm, watch Buzzcocks founder and punk pioneer Pete Shelley get grilled by Kim Clarke Champniss , and later that afternoon (4:30 pm) former Früvous fella Jian "J-Gho" Ghomeshi takes on Police drummer Stewart Copeland .
Making a solid step toward addressing the perennial dearth of urban content at the NXNE fest are Saturday's multi-faceted Urban Music Workshops , which include an awesome-looking DJ Lab discussion with Baby Yu and Scott Boogie (2:30 pm, Regency D), followed by a practical demonstration on scratching, mixing and an equipment breakdown by Starting from Scratch and DJ Dopey (3:30 pm).
Friday's more conventionally structured panels include one on digital music sales ( The Fan Is The Future , with reps from Zunior.com and PureTracks , 11:30 am, Regency A), what to do when everything goes to shit on tour ( Managing A Disaster , with art-ists, managers and, perversely, a McGill prof, 12:30 pm, Regency C) and an intriguing-looking New DIY panel (11 am, Regency C) featuring lovable Pursuit of Happiness geek Moe Berg and indie dynamo Emm Gryner , who'll reflect on the evolution of the DIY mentality over the last decade and how contemporary artists can make it work for them.