Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WAMI Awards at Turner Hall | My First Time Down That Road

WAMI MilwaukeeDoes Wisconsin need the WAMI's? The WAMI organization hands out awards to deserving artists, to be sure. I like the fact that they are based outside of Milwaukee. I can respect the fact that their board is made up of local musicians. One thing is for sure, any award-handing-out body is certainly going to miss the overwhelming majority of talented musicians that just put their heads down and play. I'm talking about all of those musicians that have a devoted fan base, but never seem to get the props from their peers. After all, the WAMI's are pretty much peer ratings of your talent.

One observation worth noting is that the WAMI board is never going to hand out an award to my next door neighbor who has played amazing music on the biggest stages in Wisconsin, because she isn't schmoozing and pimping herself. She works her butt off, gets great gigs, gets paid well, teaches music in her off time, and focuses on raising her two kids. When I hear that she just played the Marcus Amp. or Riverside, or Potowotomi, it's after the gig, not before. She doesn't jam her amazing talent in my face. I like that. She will never win a WAMI, but I'll bet that she's performed in front of more people than the entire WAMI board combined. She keeps her profile low, but manages to get bookings because she's got an amazing talent. Is that the smartest way to get paid? I'll say that it's a great way to get steady work, and yes good pay.
My guess is that she never once put together a promotional package, or subjected herself to CD Roulette.

What's good about the WAMI organization? It puts on clinics on how to brand yourself as an artist, how to promote your project with "pitching sessions" for possible bookings, and more. Some think that it's great to be part of the somewhat famous CD Roulette, where your band is judged worthy of potential bookings by a panel of judges who listen to a whopping 90 seconds of your hard work. If I sound a bit snippy on that last bit, it's just that this style of "judging" is what we musicians fear the most. Can I get this club owner or booking manager to listen to more than one minute of the first track on my website? Good luck with that.

What CD Roulette says to me is that when a booking manager gets a promo pack, or link to your web page, they will look at your image, play about 90 seconds of one track and either toss it, or move forward to consider you for the noon slot at State Fair. How do I back that opinion up? CD Roulette involves "blind taste testing" in that the judges have no idea who you are. Okay, if I were an aspiring artist, I would think "hey cool, it's not about my connections or look, it's about my sound." Yes, that is pretty cool, and that one paid gig at Bastille days might lead to more, but the judges are certainly not going to risk losing money by booking you for a headline slot at any one of their events. Those slots are reserved for bands that have a following. Take a look at where those "winners" end up on the schedule.

Yes, it's a way to get your name out there, to test the waters, etc. Yes, you win a paid booking. It's all great, but in a backhanded way, I can't help but think that CD Roulette brings to the surface what really does happen when you put yourself in front of the powers that be. Is that what you worked so hard for, one minute of some local booking manager's time.

If I were to take advantage of what WAMI has to offer, I would avoid CD Roulette, and those "pay to get your 60 seconds in front of someone from Summerfest," events, and attend their branding and Promos 101 seminars instead. There is so much that you can do on your own. Work your way up as an opening act, play for free on off nights, build a Facebook following, prove that you can get at least 50 people to pay money to see you, then work from there.

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