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VOL. 133 | NO. 77 | Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Supporting Musicians Focus of New Initiative

By Andy Meek

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Old Dominick Distillery is hosting a bash this week to raise money for a new program that supports Memphis musicians while also turning them into ambassadors for the city.

Bands like Marcella and Her Lovers, shown here playing at DKDC in Midtown, are the focus of a new effort to support musicians and promote Memphis music. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

The Tambourine Bash kicks off at 7 p.m. on April 19 at Old Dominick, 305 S. Front St. It is a first-ever benefit event for the nonprofit Music Export Memphis, which plans to launch a pilot version of its ambassador program later this year.

The premise of that program is straightforward: musicians need financial support to travel and play as many shows to as many fans as possible; additionally, there’s a benefit to audiences recognizing that Memphis is more than a music “museum town.”

“I think there’s a lot of perception that Memphis is this museum town,” said Shangri-La Records co-owner and Music Export Memphis board member John Miller. “You come for Sun, you come for Stax and all the history.

“But we really have always been a town that’s had a very eclectic music scene,” he said. “That’s why Sun and Stax worked. We want to help folks outside the city see what’s going on here, bring it to them.”

By creating a pool of funds to support local musicians going on the road, the musicians would also accept direction in talking up the city, which would help present Memphis as a place with a dynamic music scene that doesn’t just live inside the history-filled walls of museums and old-school recording studios.

“We also want to help the artists who are here in town that are looking to take that next step with their career,” Miller said. “They’ve been playing, they’ve got something of a tour radius they’ve built up, but maybe there’s a couple places they haven’t been able to extend that tour yet or a couple new audiences that really eat up that type of music. We want to help them get there.”

The ambassador program will be piloted beginning in the third quarter, said Music Export Memphis founder Elizabeth Cawein.

“This will put cash support behind touring artists and give them some other tools to be able to better tell their own story and the Memphis story and to promote the city,” she said.

The need for such a program comes from the fact that Memphis has a rich music legacy and abundant contemporary music talent, but not so much in the way of a modern music industry infrastructure.

Once the program is up and running, her nonprofit’s board will start distributing cash grants based on several factors, including the number of dates the artists have lined up and the geographic reach of their tour.

“My hope is that we eventually create a city where an artist decides that going on a tour is something they can afford to do and can take on, because there are resources available to them,” she said. “We’re looking for young musicians, established musicians, anyone who’s playing their music and telling the Memphis music story.”

Artists approved for the Ambassador grant will complete a storytelling training that will include learning how to share their own story and some guidance in how to promote Memphis as a place to visit and live.

The nonprofit will also help musicians create content like videos, playlists and blog posts as well as give them postcards to set out on a table at each show.

Once their tour wraps and they return to Memphis, the musicians will also be asked to give some feedback and anecdotal comments about their efforts.

Cawein hopes the event this week raises at least $10,000, which could mean funds for five to 10 artists. Craft beer from Crosstown Brewing Co., included with the price of general admission, will be served. Old Dominick cocktails, designed by mixologist and musician Sean Murphy, will be included with the price of VIP tickets.

There will also be live music, food and other benefits. General admission is $25; VIP is $50.

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