Welcome to Music Town, USA

A message from the MPMF.09 head honcho

Sep 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Dear MidPoint Performer,

Welcome to Cincinnati, the city I’ve enjoyed living, working and making music in for the past 20 years. I hope your experience is a great one.

And I hope you don’t leave. Really. Take a good hard look around while you’re here. The rent is cheap, the architecture and geography are stimulating and the people are generally sweethearts. But Cincinnati is also building something, and we need more builders with your kind of tools.

Cincinnati has a thriving local music scene with a long history that should make Memphis drool. This year is the 60th anniversary of Hank Williams recording some of his classic songs at Cincinnati’s Herzog Studio. (Hey, Grand Ole Opry, “Reinstate Hank” or we will!)

Forty years ago this November, the most sampled piece of music ever was recorded in Cincinnati — “The Funky Drummer” by Clyde Stubblefield and James Brown. Just ask Dr. Dre about the impact that this Cincinnati beat had on the world. And that’s just the tip of the mountain (see: King Records, The Afghan Whigs, etc.).

This type of history coupled with the success of our present-day music makers has brought about an expectation that good stuff is crafted along the Ohio River. The word “expectation” can turn on you like the kid that laid claim to the class clown title back in third grade, but great expectations are what have helped to develop a growing support structure for local original music in Cincinnati.

Take a gander at our newly renovated Fountain Square. It has a long history as Cincinnati’s bully pulpit, city-center landmark and front porch. The Square’s Managing Director, Bill Donabedian, who happens to also be one of the co-founders of MidPoint (along with fellow musician Sean Rhiney), has demonstrated what an amazing resource our music scene is.

You can find Cincinnati’s original bands performing at the biggest events on Fountain Square every week. From the Indie Summer Series to Oyster Fest to the Taste of Cincinnati, local original music has filled the programming at Downtown’s highest profile landmark. How easy it could have been to plant bands on that stage playing covers of Journey or Creed. Instead, tens of thousands of Cincinnatians and our visitors were introduced to the original local music scene on Fountain Square this summer, setting attendance records.

The newspaper you are holding is the producing entity of MidPoint and also Cincinnati’s 14-year-old local music celebration and awards program, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. CityBeat also serves as media partner to multiple local music events and has a mandate to focus on local music coverage year round with multiple local bands gracing the cover of the paper and being consistently spotlighted. CityBeat embraces local music and works hard to help the region find their new favorite artists.

And the opportunity is building. Cincinnati is beginning to understand that you and your music are good business. Did you know that Cincinnati has more than 80 different active YP (young professional) organizations? That is more than cities twice our size. Cincinnati just hosted a national YP summit the weekend before your arrival.

Attracting and retaining young professionals are important to any city’s growth, and do you know what a YP likes? A city filled with music.

Now, while Cincinnati’s music-makers have been garnering great reviews, touring the country, playing national TV shows, festivals, selling records and carrying the name of Cincinnati with them, they have become a big part of Cincinnati’s identity, keeping the attention of our young workforce.

It’s one thing to recognize how important our local music scene is. The next step is nurturing it. Recruiting you and your talents with the same voracity as the YP recruitment is part of that nurturing process … and equally critical to the future of Cincinnati.

The list of Cincinnati attributes that make it an ideal location to hone your craft is long. The legendary King Records is about to be reborn as an active local label. Several local bars pay original bands to play free shows, lowering the bar for the curious to wade in. Sixty percent of the U.S. population is within a six-hour van ride.

And I don’t need to introduce you to the digital age. Musicians have been the pioneers of social media. It’s easy, given the level of talent here, to get heard, blogged about, buzzed about and/or discovered if you are a Cincinnati artist. Don’t tell me you’ve been paying for that New York City practice space with the hopes you’ll eventually have the president of Sony Records stroll into your show.

But here’s my favorite reason why I think you should consider making your music in Cincinnati: One of our most unique characteristics is that Cincinnati is still fertile ground for pioneering. If you see something missing, it’s easy to find like-minded individuals who are missing it too. You’ll find that they’re willing to jump in and help build the vision that fills the void. What greater flex of creative muscle is there than affecting your surroundings?

The abundance of annual local music events organized by musicians is a great example of this ethic. The Rivertown Breakdown, World Music Festival, BRINK New Music Showcase and MidPoint Music Festival are only a few of the long-standing annual events that have gained purchase and flourished. Local visual art, film and theater have equally strong traditions of bootstrap operations that have grown to impact the entire city of Cincinnati and the region.

Here’s something else we have to offer: Cincinnati will keep you humble. Yes, we know you rock, but don’t expect Rock Star treatment. Prepare for a healthy dose of Midwestern stoicism. Your shows will be filled with peers quick to hand out pats on the back or buy a CD. But adjust your expectation. Cincinnati is a great place to live, work and hone your craft, but the world is where you’re a Rock Star.

I just want to let you know it’s within reach from here. And that you’re invited.

Thanks for coming, enjoy your stay and don’t be a stranger.

Dan McCabe
MidPoint Music Festival 2009 Executive Producer

P.S. About that Cincinnati-style chili you’ve heard about — it’s great. Just don’t try it for the first time right before your show.