Over at Smart City Memphis, Sherman Willmott of Shangri-La Records has made a number of suggestions about how to improve the Memphis music industry. Besides excellent ideas like greeting Memphis' airport visitors with live homegrown music, he emphasizes building the business from within, with live music, strong web presence, and homegrown TV and radio shows. He also decries the "let's lure a big record label/big record producer/big record deal from outside" approach to jumpstarting the industry (an approach the city and specifically the Music Commission have emphasized for so long), offering this real alternative:
If the band has nothing to sell, as they build up a following, the band goes into a (Memphis) studio, cuts a record, and releases the record - either with their own gig money or money from a small, independent record label. The record label spends money on design, printing, advertising, a web site and pressing the record. All of a sudden, you have a small music industry. This small, cottage industry has been growing for over 15 years and the number of independent releases from Memphis bands and labels has increased every year. With each additional strong record release, interest in Memphis music grows. As interest in Memphis music grows, major labels and major “hot” producers come scouring for talent. It is a demand driven industry. If there is interest in Memphis music, the money will come in the form of labels/producers/recording budgets etc, but the demand has to be built. It starts with the music and musicians, not by bringing in producers first.Perhaps the folks at the Commission can't fathom a cottage industry.