Music: The Gathering

The Gathering. The Multiverse is a boundless expanse of worlds, each different from the last. These worlds, called planes, differ as wildly as imagination allows. One plane might be covered entirely in dense jungle, while on another, nature may have been entirely replaced by a vast network of cityscapes.  Neither are they united by common laws of physics: They vary from infinite expanses of matter to tiny specks of empty space to logic-defying inversions of reality.

Ok, so that’s from Magic, the Gathering… and not…The Gathering….  But, The Gathering, held in Louisville June 15-17 , finds the alt masses… well, gathering on the hollowed, hoof-trodden grounds of the legendary Kentucky Derby. There, they bask in 3 days of music, networking, commiseration, and frivolity amongst today’s brightest minds of Alternative music.

The Gathering is the brainchild of CO5 co-owners Tracy Brown and Todd Sievers along with the CO5 staff, all industry veterans.

Tracy BrownTracy Brown caught up with us about all things The Gathering. ”This is for the alternative radio format . The reality is that as music fans we all know that we may love a song but everything comes together and we actually love a band after we’ve seen their live show.  That’s really what it’s all about.” Holla!   And not just that– but to see a band in said environment? With your peeps?  “It’s 3 days, we did 26 bands at 8 different venues. The thing is, labels like to showcase their artists and most of those showcases happen in NY or LA, both of which have hundreds of miles that you have to go before you find the first or the next alternative station. So for the amount of money these labels spend outside of the travel for them to get into the market which they would have to do regardless of whether they showcase in NY or LA, there’s no way they would put their band in front of this many programmers any other way but how we did it.”

We spoke about the unmistakable camaraderie that comes within that format. “It’s about the community that is the alternative format. We don’t have Gavin anymore, we don’t have R&R… every other format has a conference that’s geared toward them except for alternative. Myself, I’ve always been a huge fan of alternative music- those are the stations that I’m tuning into when I go into other markets and I love seeing these guys who don’t get to see each other very often- especially after they move around. Not just when they move around in markets but when they changed companies. So if you worked at CBS for a long time, and there’s CBS programmers meetings you get to see your buddies when you go there, but if you move to another job at another market, and you end up at iHeart or Entercom, you’re not seeing those guys anymore. So once a year, we’re bringing this community together, to hang out to talk, to watch music, to get to see each other and just go and have fun.  We like these guys to be like Laurie Gail was. To come back and be like “Great music, and a great time. We were so excited to have Play MPE represented and showing. Laurie came, the company put up a banner. We had that banner at every event we did and a few times she’d be like “I’m not sure I like where my banner is. I’m like where you want it? you feel free to put that banner wherever you want it.”

It was no accident that Louisville was the chosen host: with its famous whiskey distilleries, racetracks, and of course the slugger, it’s a place where names are made. (I mean c’mon- they even kick off festivities sounding a ceremonious bugle at Churchill Downs). Tracy and the umbrella CO5 crew share a goal of building a “benchmark event to highlight rising artists and hold thought-provoking discussions about the challenges of today’s music industry.”  The event draws alt fanatics across the worlds of promo, music supervision, blogging, and of course radio. Ross MacLeod, PD at Toronto’s CFNY shared high praise for the Alt love fest:

“First of all, it was one of the most organized events I’ve ever attended. I haven’t been to an event in a very long time that has your entire time planned for you with all of the things you’d want to do anyway! Secondly, I think the level of bands was amazing. Several of the bands left me wanting more. Isn’t that what we all want from our audiences – them to need more of what we provide? And finally, and equally as important, it was just great to see and hear the perspective of all sides of the business so we could develop a better understanding of how we can work together in different ways that benefits everyone.”

Tapped for performances this year across the notable venues including Churchill Downs are a treasure trove of alternative acts breaking through, all cleverly named, as is often the case in that world. (Silent Rival, VanLadyLove, The PictureBooks, Little Hurricane, and Juiceboxxx, to scratch the surface.)

Amidst the fervor of the music, is the chance to connect over something equally transcendent– a good old fashioned ball game.  “There are no panels. There’s no music meeting. There’s no sizzle reel. There is a softball game. And I will tell you– these guys are dead frickin’ serious about it. Last year we didn’t have enough players so we had one player who just pitched to both teams. This year we had so many players that we divided teams up East coast, West coast and we will continue it that way. It was so big this year that next year we’re actually getting different colored baseball shirts and different colored caps for the teams.  We want major league baseball caps that these guys can wear all year long, nothing with the pull tabs or the velcro clip and belt we have on this year. Let’s get ‘em real baseball caps. Let’s get real baseball shirts. They are so into that softball game and it’s a mixture. Its programmers, it’s promotion guys, some of the bands came out and played in it. We had some of the music supervisors come and play in it. It’s a really fun game and on the flipside since it rained all night and since it’s hot in June in Louisville , most of the ladies decided they were going to stay back at the hotel and have a very civilized breakfast in the air conditioning.” Also, holla.

Again, this is its own format. With a distinct band of programmers and a paradoxically well-defined and hard to pin-point audience.  “This is alternative radio. It’s not pop radio. They need to know that the bands they’re gonna play and get a slot on their playlist which we all know is very coveted, we all fought for those slots, those bands when they come in their market, they can deliver for their listeners.”  And serving that community, as Tracy says, takes a village.

“Certainly I managed and oversaw this but the entire CO5, Black Dog Music Marketing and MX 2 crew, everybody pitched in, everybody pulled their weight, everybody did what they had to do to make this happen. Some people had very special and specific talents that we put to use, to get this all together and other people just said whatever you think I need to do I’ll do. We are the sum total of all of us and this conference was amazing because I am surrounded by amazing people at this company who give a huge shit about how this is gonna come off and really put their heart and soul in it.”  Now that’s… what I call alternative music.

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