Monday, August 16, 2010

Independent Music Conference Q&A with Noel Ramos!

Independent Music Conference 2010

To give a little taste of what is to come, Laurena Marrone Campos of Grit PR asked Noel Ramos, Executive Director of the Independence Music Conference, a few questions about independent music and what makes the IMC different and beneficial for you.

Laurena: Give us a brief history of the IMC, please.

Noel: I spent years working with other music conferences, and I found a large number of problems with them. Most notable was the “showcase for us and you might get signed” hype that many of them used to entice musicians to pay $25 to $40 as a “showcase application fee.” In truth, no act ever got signed after playing one gig at one music conference. Over the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of bands have “showcased,” so if their claims were true, there should have been tens of thousands of signings as a result of all those conference “showcases.”

The baloney used to cajole artists into submitting an “application” created an ethos in the music industry like no other profession. Do Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers etc. attend their annual conferences with no other goal in mind than to party, hang out in bars and completely avoid the actual workshops? No, those professionals attend their annual gatherings to learn, network and advance their respective disciplines. I founded the Independent Music Conference as a true professional industry conference for the new independent music market, which I have been heavily involved in since the earliest days of its creation.

The IMC’s Mission Statement reads as follows…

The Independent Music Conference seeks first and foremost to help independent musicians achieve their goals as entrepreneurial business owners through the presentation of educational seminars, workshops, panel discussions, mentor sessions networking opportunities, performance instruction, evaluation and critique, and live performances. Secondarily, the IMC seeks to positively affect the entire music conference industry, which for too long, has not presented true professional conferences to the music industry in keeping with standards set by other professions. The IMC seeks to alter the erroneous perceptions of conferences as “festivals,” “gigs,” and “concerts.” The main purposes of any worthwhile industry conference should focus on education and networking. At the Independent Music Conference, musicians are treated like any other professional business person, and by setting a higher standard for music conferences in general, the IMC helps encourage and promote the profession of music to the benefit of all.

Laurena: What do you feel are the top 3 things that set IMC apart from other music conferences?

Noel: 1.) No “showcases,” “showcase application fees” or “selections.” We charge an extremely low registration fee, that’s it. There are no other fees to attend, learn and perform at the IMC. All registrants are encouraged to perform and slots are filled on a first-come first served basis. There is no arbitrary, unrealistic “selection” process. Artists are not promised an audience of “industry people” and no wild claims are made about the performance aspect of the event. Our focus is where it should be, on the education and networking.

2.) Our fee is the lowest, and our conference is the most fully packed with workshops, panels, seminars, mentor sessions, performance instruction and critique, networking opportunities and more. The IMC costs as little as $35 for four full days and nights of intensive education. For the last seven years and 11 events The IMC has consistently attracted over 100 of the most experienced, accessible and knowledgeable industry instructors in the independent music business.

3.) Our track record of credibility. Since 2003 The IMC has persevered using the very same indie methodologies that we teach. For 7 years and more than 11 events The IMC has overcome the same obstacles our attendees face, survived, grown, and expanded into cities all over the country. What we offer is clearly worthwhile, and needed by the serious, professional independent musicians who attend. Most conferences see less than 10% of their registrants actually attending the workshops, but at the IMC we consistently see between 75% – 90%! The core values driving the IMC are, honesty, integrity, courage, commitment, dedication, motivation, inspiration, and perspiration. We strive to educate by example, and remain flexible and adaptive, always seeking to be cutting edge, and present information, contacts, resources and services which are aimed at the future, but rooted in reality.

Laurena: Historically, where have most of the musicians who attend come from (mostly the NE or all over, etc)? Any international participants?

Noel: We have always drawn a significant number of attendees from great distances! Since its inception the IMC has been a truly national conference, with attendees traveling from all over the United States, and from as far away as Canada, Australia, Iceland, Japan and Europe.

Laurena: Social Media has really exploded over the past year. How will the IMC help to educate musicians as to how to keep up with it all?

Noel: In the 90s, I founded the very first email discussion group for independent music on the web. Since the late 80s I’ve been a trailblazer for the independent music market, and as an early adopter, I used the internet to promote and advance the industry, helping it grow from a handful of artists and businesses into a multi-billion dollar, global industry. The IMC has always been on the cutting edge of the internet and new technologies. We have long been teaching the techniques, tactics, tips and methods for utilizing social networking sites as well as all other effective technologies that indies can use to their advantage. We help our attendees zero in on what works and what will only distract. In an age of media overload, sometimes less is more, and effectiveness is always key. Each IMC features a number of panels, workshops and mentor sessions specifically geared toward helping our attendees stay focused and make sense of it all.

Laurena: What can an unsigned indie artist expect to take away from the Conference?

Noel: Well we don’t feel that “getting signed” was ever a truly viable business model. Therefore we don’t invite “unsigned” artists, we invite independent entrepreneurs, who may or may not wish to sign a contract with a company that might serve as their “record label” dependent on any number of factors. So I’d say that’s one of the most important take-aways right there… we help them define their business goals, and implement a plan to achieve them. None of our attendees are “UN” anything! They are “IN,” as in independent, and even if they choose to enter into various contractual relationships to advance their career, they will still remain; INdependent, IN charge, IN control, INspired and INvincible!

Laurena: What made you decide against paid “showcases”? About how many artists will be performing and at how many venues?

Noel: I detailed most of my reasons in my answer to question no.1, but let me add that I call it the “S-word” because to me it’s become much like a curse word that represents all that was wrong with the music conference industry. Over the years, “showcases” have been at the root of all the dissatisfaction, unrealistic expectations, missed opportunities and in many cases blatant scams that have plagued the events that SHOULD have been professional industry gatherings, not an excuse to exploit the musicians.
At IMC2010, we expect to have well over 100 performances. We currently have 5 stages confirmed. Other venues may confirm their involvement, which will increase our capacity for more shows. I’d like to have as many as 150 performances occurring over 4 nights at the hotel itself and throughout Northampton.

Laurena: How do the sponsors interact with the participants, what is their role?

Noel: Sponsors are the life-blood of the IMC, more so than any other conference, because in the independent music industry, we all wear many hats, so our sponsors are also instructors, staff members, volunteers, Mentors, Panelists, performers and more. The IMC has been extremely fortunate to have the support of a large number of key industry people who have been with us since the very beginning. Their contributions of time, money, goods and services, experience, knowledge, skill, networking and most importantly BELIEF and SUPPORT are what make each IMC as effective and successful as they have been.

Laurena: What should a musician do to make the most out of the conference?

Noel: I wrote an entire Primer on the subject, entitled appropriately, “How to Get the Most Out of Attending a Music Conference” and I invite musicians to download it for free:

Laurena: What types of industry representatives take part in the conference?

Noel: Each IMC has featured a large number of industry attendees, more than most conferences, even those that are much larger and more expensive. Sometimes as many as 125 independent music industry people converge on the IMC, to teach, network, Mentor, instruct, critique, demonstrate their products and services, and contribute to the conference in many ways. They come from every corner of the market: Managers, Booking Agents, Venue Owners, Authors, Publicists, Media People, Recording Studio owners, Performance Coaches, Producers, Lawyers, Financial Experts, Technology Gurus, Internet pioneers, indie label owners, successful musicians, music organization owners, industry icons and famous performers and so many more…

Laurena: Are there any artists we may be familiar with scheduled to perform?

Noel: That’s a topic we discuss actually! What is the new definition of “success?” Does an artist have to be “famous” in order to succeed? If “we” don’t recognize their name, does that mean they are not famous, or successful, or… HAPPY? There are many artists scheduled to perform who are famous… to their fans, and in the new independent music market, that is more valid than you might imagine.

Laurena: Tell us how to register and if there’s a limit on the number of registrations.

Noel: No limit!, click the REGISTER link.

We’ll post more news here as we move towards the Conference! If you like what you’ve heard, head on over and check out the agenda.


  1. Noel i was wondering what you have to say about gay/bi/lesbian/transsexual musicians attending the conference. can you tell me your thoughts on that?

  2. Sure! First let me say that the IMC (as well as myself personally) endeavors to be gender-blind. I believe humans have the right to choose how they express their sexuality and love is no one's business except the people who are in it! Having said that, I understand that society (and the music business for sure!) still has a long way to go as far as acceptance and equality, so we do try to address the issues that impact independent musicians in these areas. And there are a lot of issues unfortunately! Northampton is a fantastic area in which to do this effectively, having one of the most active LGBT communities in the nation. I look forward to your feedback so that we can create panels, workshops and seminars which are helpful for these topics.

  3. thanks noel! what can i do to help? (myself being bi) i'd like to help out as much as possible with this issue at the conference. in fact, i'd like to be the "go to" person for questions and concerns if thats possible. please let me know how i can help. thanks!

  4. Absolutely! The more input we get the better we can serve our
    attendees. I was thinking of a "Gender Issues" panel, during which we can discuss the all-too common inequalities encountered by women and other-gendered artists. I moderated a similar panel at IMC/LA and it was so effective that it went into overtime. What do you think?

  5. that sounds like a great idea! which day are you planing on having the discussion? because i can only attend 2 out of the 4 days.

  6. Tell me when you are attending and I'll be sure to schedule it accordingly.

  7. OK great, be sure to remind me as we get closer so I don't accidentally schedule the Panel on the wrong day! :)

  8. I just wanted to post a follow-up comment and state that the IMC in Northampton was a huge success on all levels, including our Gender/Race Equality Issues For Independent Artists Panel. We had strong, outspoken advocates of human rights and the LGBT community in attendance, including Athena Reich, Carrie Ferguson, and transgendered artist Leslie Anne Rios. Thank you to ALL our awesome supporters!!! Stay in touch for news about IMC2011.