Flemings Feedback 

"There are two sides to every story," Memphis Music Foundation president Rey Flemings said last week.

Responding to last week's Local Beat column -- which reported that multiple sources close to the foundation say that Flemings is on his way out and will likely move from the foundation to a position with Justin Timberlake's organization -- Flemings is now saying, simply, "I have not resigned."

Flemings wouldn't elaborate on his future but did have plenty to say about his three-year tenure:

"Look at the MTV Video Music Awards story. We went out to get 'em [in 2004], and we didn't get it. It's easy, in hindsight, to say we shouldn't have tried to court the VMAs, but if MTV told you, 'We're seriously considering bringing them here, and this could have a $40 million impact,' what would you do? We had to take that shot, and just because we failed to get the VMAs one year doesn't mean that we'll never get them."

And, Flemings said, although we lost the opportunity to host the 2005 VMAs, we're winners in the end. "The last time Viacom produced a music-related show in Memphis was [for the MTV Sports and Music Festival] in 1997," he noted. "They had such a bad experience that they hadn't been back. But since we brought the top brass here, Viacom-owned stations MTV, VH1, and BET have shot 18 programs in Memphis, including My Block: Memphis, Motormouth, and My Super Sweet Sixteen.

"With 800,000 people watching those shows," he said proudly, "we think it's a good thing."

Flemings cited the Court Square Concert Series, now in its second season, an unsigned-artists vehicle dubbed ND Radio (twice-monthly urban and gospel programs broadcast on WHRK K97-FM and WHAL 95.7-FM and downloadable as iTunes podcasts), and educational seminars as positive results of his tenure at the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission and, later, the Memphis Music Foundation.

"It's not all Rey Flemings' decision," he said. "I have about 50 bosses, because I serve two boards. It's a balancing act between all these competing interests and objectives, and nobody wants to pay for most of these programs. Do the math: How far can you really spend $150,000 of public money? I put together the digital-music proposal in three weeks, but it was a $750,000 deal, and we couldn't find the money for it. The music commission's Web site is still in development, because we don't have money to pay for it.

"We've got $400,000 raised for the Sam Phillips Resource Center, part of the University of Memphis' music-business program," he continued, "but the first three years of operations will cost an estimated $900,000. We're not gonna open until we've got the funds to do so, but as soon as we reach $500,000, we'll begin an executive search. I've written the business plan, and by the time we're done, I will have personally raised every dollar for it.

"So many people throw out a few events that look good, but the lives of local musicians never change," Flemings said. "We've had 30 years of self-congratulatory concerts and dinners in this town, but after everyone pats themselves on the back and goes home, nobody's sold any more music.

"I'm not sitting up here, just chillin' and looking out for Rey, and I think anyone who works for me would agree," he said. "I genuinely care about Memphis music. If this takes years, so be it. This shit isn't simple."

Flemings' focus is economic development. "I'm doing all this grunt work trying to get a big boulder -- the local music industry -- out of a stationary position. It's been 30 years since we've had a music industry in Memphis. I can't create that in three years."

While he demurred on naming corporations, he said that he's got "a number of things on the table" which will eventually benefit Memphis' music and entertainment industry.

"It's a farce to say I've done nothing for local music," Flemings said. "The only thing we've done a really poor job of is publicizing our successes, but with the work we're doing, I feel that I'll be vindicated. What's the end result? I think everybody's trying to judge this thing a little too prematurely."

After 14 years operating the Midtown studio Memphis Soundworks, owner Posey Hedges has announced he will close the studio and fold his operation into the studios at Young Avenue Sound. Hedges will hold an open-house sale of equipment and furnishings not making the move at 10 a.m. Wednesday, September 20th. Memphis Soundworks is located at 89 N. Cooper.

Speaking of Ray Flemings, Memphis Music Foundation


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