Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Well, the most recent stop on the world tour was 40 hours in San Francisco.

I was there to attend SanFran MusicTech, schmooze and watch panels and panelists.

Along the way, I got to be on my very first panel about activism through music/by musicians. It went well despite a good-sized case of stage fright before we started. During the first few seconds I was convinced my heart was going to burst out of my chest and run screaming down the street...but then I calmed down. It wasn't exactly a focused conversation, but I'm glad I did it. Certainly a confidence booster for me.

One niggling observation: I was surprised by the hard-core attitude from audience and my fellow panelists about musicians "not risking anything these days" when they speak about social justice issues, i.e. musicians choosing to advocate on issues like voter registration rather than the death penalty.

I guess I look at activism and efforts to engage music fans around causes as umbrellas that are better the bigger they are. OK Go advocating for net neutrality doesn't preclude Springsteen from railing against Ticketmaster which doesn't preclude orchestras around the country from collecting food bank donations.

I admire the passion and fearlessness of musicians who use their pulpit to talk about controversial topics, but activism isn't a zero-sum proposition and there are certainly plenty of causes to go around.

Aside from my panel, I like going to these conferences because I can steal ideas on ways to make FMC's events better. Having broad power to try new ideas is one of the big perks of working in such a tiny office. As a result of SanFran MusicTech and last week's Free Press Summit, I'm interesting in finding ways to make networking a goal for our events, rather than a happy byproduct of getting lots of interesting people in the same room.

Anyway, off to go talk activism in New Orleans tomorrow. Expect my flickr feed to be abuzz!

1 comment:

Shane Taylor said...

Speaking of which, I'm reminded of this thought from Tom Geoghegan in Which Side Are You On?, after writing of the wildfire of wildcat strikes back in the 1970s:

"Anyway, I live in Chicago and don't think about the UMW [United Mine Workers] now. Except sometimes, driving in my car on Sunday nights, I'll listen to the bluegrass-music hour on public radio, and suddenly, listening to that music, I'll have a strange, uncontrollable desire to go out on strike. What is it about that twangy, whining music? Is there something primitive and Dionysian in it, with dithyrambs and cymbals, that is more maddening and strike-inducing than Eric Clapton and rock and roll?"