Is the grand convergence of music and social media finally here? Music lovers can jump from blogs to Twitter to Bandcamp to Vimeo in the span of an hour, discovering more new music released that very day than any publicist could promote in a week. The savviest of today's musicians, without a doubt, have already cast aside the antiquated concept of needing a record label or PR machine for promotion. If you subtract the very real idea of diminishing returns — the further you spread it, the thinner it gets — it's easier and more effective than ever as a musician these days to simply embrace new media, get rid of the barriers between artists and fans, and learn how a smartly done flipcam interview can have more targeted value than a newspaper feature.
For the last 12 years, the organizers of the Allied Media Conference have continually found new ways to fuse music and media — not just by encouraging bands to embrace technology and run with it, but by making sure there's awesome live music for conference attendees each night. As the AMC gets ready to convene in Detroit this week, organizers have planned their biggest music outing to date, with two nights of album releases, concerts and performers who cover everything from punk and hard rock to queer electro, hip-hop, Detroit soul and more. So for all of the high and low technology seminars and DIY media networking sessions at the conference, there's also a wide array of music events happening that should make for a killer weekend of rock and hip-hop.
The folks behind Emergence (Invincible, Mike Medow and Wes Taylor) have curated two nights of multimedia shows and installations to make the evening events just as heavy on art and visuals as they will be on sounds.
"Personally, I found South by Southwest very inspiring as far as thinking about how you could simultaneously have a conference with workshops and music at the same time," Medow says, who is also one of the key organizers of Allied Media Conference. "I hope by next year we can have a music festival associated with the AMC as well, something that's a draw in itself."
If that's the case, they're already headed in that direction, having secured a good amount of impressive talent this year. The Friday night lineup at the Majestic includes hardcore diva Tamar-kali, Midwestern folk-punk band Defiance, Ohio and local indie group I, Crime, which is using the event as a record-release party. Landing Tamar-kali is a strong step forward as the Brooklyn native has been gaining more recognition after recently being featured in James Spooner's award-winning doc, Afro Punk. Her music is a marriage of New York hardcore and rebellious soul, with lyrics dipped in feminine Afrocentricity. On one hand, you can call her sound a merger between Bad Brains and Erykah Badu, but sonically, the music is closer to that of '70s black-rock vixen Betty Davis, albeit with heavier guitars. Earlier this year, Tamar-kali performed at the Charles H. Wright Museum as part of the Black Women Rock! tour (which, you'll note, was a tribute to Betty Davis) and instantly felt endeared with the city of Detroit.
"I've always been fond of the D in a romantic way — a la Iggy Pop, Motown and the MC5 — but my most recent trip gave the admiration some substance," Tamar-kali says. "I was inspired by the residents' love of the city despite the challenges. I think the rest of the country has a lot to learn from Detroit."
She says she's glad to be a part of the AMC and, as an independent artist, feels strongly aligned with mission of the conference.
"I absolutely think that it's important for independent musicians to take charge of their own media," she says while also stating that if musicians fail to do so, they'll ultimately be left behind. "If you're fortunate enough to have a team of media professionals [behind you], that's great but we should always be a part of the conversation."
Saturday night's lineup at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is heavier on soul, hip-hop and dance music. Detroit native jessica Care moore is slated to perform, as are Underground Resistance's DJ Mark Flash, Miz Korona and Flint queer-pop band Stereoluxxx, and Detroit native RiRi Garcia will be playing as part of the duo DJ Rimarkable vs. Durandy. The highlight, undoubtedly, is that Korona also decided to make the show an album release party for her stellar debut full-length, The Injection. "It's a big deal for us to have local artists doing releases the night of the conference," Detroit emcee Invincible says in appreciation of the solidarity. "AMC is uplifting these Detroit-based artists that are releasing their albums and basically making it easier to connect the work that they're already doing in the Detroit music scene with all the folks flying in from out of town."
For Korona, being a part of AMC was a no-brainer.
"I'm honored to have my record release show affiliated with them," Korona says. "Invincible asked if I want to do a release party with AMC and I was like, 'Shit, yeah.'" Despite how musically productive Korona has been over the last six or seven years, as one of the fiercest emcees in Detroit, regardless of gender, this is actually her first album.
"I know it's shocking," she says, laughing. "I've had 12-inches released, leaked songs galore and done mixtapes, but this is the first album." It is, however, not surprising that she's releasing The Injection independently. "I got tired of waiting on people and labels, so I actually went out, got a job, and pressed the album up myself." That essentially is the DIY ethic that Allied Media Conference has been pushing for years so she's a perfect headliner for the show.
When asked what impresses her the most about the conference as a whole, Korona responds: "It shows you how you can reach out and do things from a media standpoint on your own. I like that they show a lot of these kids how to use the Internet. I'm not really into conferences to be honest, but this is about educating youth and young adults about media. It's stuff we all need to know."
The dynamic singer, author, poet and playwright jessica Care moore says she's excited not only about performing at the conference, but also about the chance to see a legion of young media makers visiting Detroit.
"Mainstream media sucks, especially in Detroit," Moore says via phone from St. Louis last week, where she was teaching a workshop in a prison. "They don't want to hear something positive, they just want to cover Kwame going to jail. If you're talking about something relevant, mainstream media doesn't always care, so it'll be interesting to get some alternative views on the city that week. Art is alive in Detroit. There's a lot more going on in this city besides abandoned houses and urban gardening."
Jonathan Cunningham is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
For details on Friday at the Majestic, Saturday at MOCAD and Sunday's after-party at the Cass Cafe, see alliedmediaconference.org.