A new festival called Independent MusicFest 2001 will be held in Nashville June 14-16 at Municipal Auditorium. It will parallel the Country Music Association’s historic Fan Fair, June 14-17, which is also being held in downtown Nashville.
The fledgling event is free to the public and is designed to give exposure to artists who — because of their musical style or record label size — are not eligible to perform at Fan Fair. Artists will not be charged to showcase at the festival nor for the use of its house band. The undertaking is being financed through the sale of booth space in its exhibition area and advertising in its printed programs.
Masterminding Independent MusicFest 2001 is Steven B. Riley, a former country artist and now owner of V2 Productions, a Nashville video production company. He says the CMA was represented in his initial meeting with Nashville officials to explain the festival and secure use of the city-owned auditorium. “We gave them a three-year projection,” he says. “They gave us the go-ahead. At the end of that third year, we’ll look at it [with the possibility of it becoming] a city event.”
While he stops short of claiming the CMA supports his festival, Riley notes that the trade association has been referring independent artists to him that Fan Fair cannot accommodate. CMA spokeswoman Wendy Pearl confirms that the CMA has made such referrals. “We’re just trying to be good neighbors,” she says. Riley adds that the CMA has even offered to refer its surplus volunteer workers to him.
“What’s going on with us is geared totally toward the independent [record]industry,” Riley explains. “We’re not trying to attract major labels. There’s plenty of independent industry out there that is doing things, selling product, making noise and being very, very successful at it.”
Moreover, although MusicFest 2001 will have a country music flavor, it aims to showcase artists of virtually every musical stripe. “We have pop, rock, gospel, jazz, blues and bluegrass,” Riley says. “We don’t have heavy metal. We’re having conversations with some rap bands about their lyric content. If they can get their lyric content straightened up, then we’ll have some rap. … We’re not charging anybody to showcase or to use the house band. The band is being staffed through the [musicians'] union. We’re going through [the] BMI and ASCAP [performance rights organizations] to make sure royalties are paid for anything done in the room. We’re trying to do it right.”
Riley is advertising the festival on three Nashville radio stations, as well as promoting it on the Internet. No big names have signed to showcase yet, but Riley says that Ken Mellons, former Epic and Curb recording artist, will be the festival’s official spokesman. So far, 75 independent record labels and “right around 300 artists,” have asked to participate in the festival, Riley reports. Most of the 125 booth spaces have been sold, he adds, noting that “we’re making them available to artists first.”
Independent MusicFest 2001 will stage a “Legends” show on opening day, Thursday, June 14, at 4 p.m., which, Riley says, will feature performances by as many as 20 Grand Ole Opry stars.