Last month, the Memphis Music Foundation had reps in Austin, Texas, promoting Memphis music at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Last week, they sponsored a Memphis songwriter's showcase at Austin's Bluebird Café, featuring Sid Selvidge, Eliot Morris, Grace Askew, and Ron Franklin.
But this week, the foundation has a big event here at home with the first Memphis Music Launch.
The weekend-long, registrants-only event will take place at Emerge Memphis (at 516 Tennessee, downtown) from Friday, April 8th, through Sunday, April 10th.
The idea behind the event is to bring developing and emerging musicians together with industry representatives to take a musical concept from idea to recorded product over the course of 48 hours, with four finalists chosen to carry their work forward and perform at a July 8th showcase at the New Daisy Theatre (where they will be paired with a headliner to be announced). The winner of the contest will receive $4,000 worth of career assistance — studio time, distribution and marketing help, cash, etc. — according to the Music Foundation.
Those interested can register, for $40, up until the start of the event at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. Pitch sessions on Friday night will yield eight concepts to go forward during the weekend. At the end of the weekend, participants will vote on four concepts to continue development leading up to the July showcase concert.
Among the artists already signed on to participate, according to Music Foundation director of development and communications Pat Mitchell Worley, are rapper Pat24Seven, R&B singer C.J. Tate, and Latin artist Marcela Pinilla.
In addition to developing new artists, the foundation hopes the event will help to forge new relationships within the local music scene.
"There will be folks who work together on this who've never worked together before," Mitchell Worley says. "Collaboration and entrepreneurship are the ultimate goals."
The foundation would like the Memphis Music Launch to become an annual, signature event.
"We want to allow it to grow organically," says Mitchell Worley, who hopes the event can become a model for other cities and a magnet drawing artists to Memphis.
For the foundation, the event is an outgrowth of the daily work of its Memphis Music Resource Center, an open workspace and professional development service housed at the foundation's South Main headquarters.
"It's the only thing like this that has a dedicated staff," Mitchell Worley says, noting that other cities have approached the foundation to look at the Memphis model.
For more information, see the foundation's website, memphismeansmusic.com.
The Beale Street Music Festival kicks off the summer concert season at the end of this month, but schedules also have been announced for several other outdoor music events.
The Levitt Shell's spring concert series will run May 19th through June 21st, with 7:30 p.m. shows every Thursday through Sunday and kids' shows at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Among the highlights: New Orleans faves the Rebirth Brass Band (May 20th), lap-steel ace Aubrey Ghent (May 28th), indie-country songstress Mindy Smith (June 2nd), Memphis institution Di Anne Price & Her Boyfriends (June 11th), and Texas roots-rockers Brave Combo (June 19th). On June 18th, local classic-soul super-group The Bo-Keys will perform, celebrating the release of their first album in seven years, Got To Get Back. For more information, see levittshell.org.
A few miles east, the Memphis Botanic Garden is gearing up for its annual Live at the Garden concert series. It kicks off June 4th with ZZ Top. Other scheduled performers throughout the summer are the Steve Miller Band, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, Huey Lewis & the News, and Goo Goo Dolls. For more information, see liveatthegarden.com.
But before either of these, there's a new series, Laurelwood Unplugged, in which local female artists perform free concerts from 6 to 8 p.m. in the courtyard of Panera Bread at East Memphis' Laurelwood Shopping Center. Former American Idol contestant Alexis Grace starts the series on Thursday, April 7th. Concerts will follow each Thursday night throughout April and May. The other featured artists are: Joyce Cobb, Misti Rae Warren, Valerie June, Grace Askew, Susan Marshall, Holly Cole, and Dani McCullouch. For more information, see laurelwoodmemphis.com.