the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Music Conference

As a professional musician, I am excited about attending this music conference next week in San Diego. It gives me a chance to meet my peers.

A friend is going for the first time. She is excited about meeting a certain rockstar, and can’t stop talking about her. I shrugged when she mentioned the rockstar’s name. I’ve never been much into her music. Her songs are OK, but she’s too commercial for my taste.

I do like pop music. I even downloaded the latest song by a popular boy band. But I don’t use fame or money as a deciding factor in what artist to buy on iTunes.

I’m a fan of indie bands, some unknown. One of my faves is a band that only plays small clubs in Brooklyn.

I listen to different music depending on my mood. When I get angry, I blast this guy from Spokane who is keeping Punk alive. During one concert in Phoenix, he smashed his guitar on his head and vomited on the audience. He is wild!

I seem to best relate to the folksy female singer-songwriters who create introspective songs about motherhood and marriage. Some of my own songs have that “sensitive guy” quality. My hipster friends find this type of music overly-precious, as if you need to commit suicide to be a real artist, but I find honest storytelling so much better than the manufactured corporate rock you hear on the radio.

Sadly, the music industry has become all about money. Even this music conference I’m attending has changed throughout the years. The conference is less about the music than the product placement. All the big record companies and talent agencies show up, and much of the community spirit has been shattered by envy and jealousy.

When I started playing music, I promised myself that I would never sell out to the “man,” but it is getting harder and harder to resist the corporate sponsorship that has infected the music industry.

All I know is that when I read someone talking about a “rockstar” online, I tend to shrug.

I like country music. I like rap. I like Barry Manilow. If you go to a music conference just to talk to the rockstars, that tells me that you’re not really into the music.


  1. Bridget

    Love! This is why I only went to this big music conference once. I found a few smaller, artsier, less rock-star-ish ones that suit me just fine.

  2. Headless Mom

    Well done, Neil.

  3. midlifenatalie

    I am so slow tonight. I am sitting here trying to figure out what instrument you play and wondering why I didn’t remember this. And then I figured out that the Music Conference is in San Diego. And then I realized that I was supposed to attend that same conference. Man…it’s a good thing I dropped out because I totally suck at instrument playing. I am now attending a conference on teaching phonics. For Real.

  4. Twenty Four At Heart

    I’m finding I don’t really want to go to the Music Conference this year, but I’ve bought my ticket so I’m going. I can’t stand to read the twitter stream about it … it’s so extremely shallow in content. I fear everything I loved about the conference has been lost in a collective concern over who is wearing WHAT and how many “private” invitations have been received. I’m seriously considering buying a bottle of wine, sitting in the lobby, and chatting with whoever wanders by. Of course, I imagine most of the musicians will be too self absorbed to even notice if I do …. Look closely though Neil … because that is where you’ll find me this year.

  5. alejna

    I find that I enjoy listening to music on my own more than attending big music conferences. The rockstars don’t hold a lot of appeal for me, either. I’ll listen to a song of theirs every once in a while, like when a friend of mine posts it on tumblr or something. Sometimes a song of theirs will have a good hook, but they’re not the musicians whose songs get stuck in my head, or whose albums I regularly buy.

    I do wish I could take part in more smaller musician’s jams, though. (I’m quite fond of a lot of less well-known artists.) That time we got together in someone’s garage was great, even though I felt a little out of place playing “twinkle, twinkle” on my violin.

  6. Fran

    I want to go so I can hang out with all of the groupies.

  7. amy turn sharp

    so sad to miss u all. xo I will write sad love songs at home alone.

  8. Karl

    Sorry I can’t attend the music conference this year because I’m also a fan of the indie music. There are ways to find the indie artists, and you’re a veteran of the conference now, so I’m sure you’ll find them. Small, intimate gatherings are my favorite part.

  9. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    You are a professional musician? How did I miss that? What is your instrument?

    And yeah, what you said is dead on.

    • Neil

      I did play clarinet in high school band!

  10. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    And that took me one more minute… please disregard my last comment.

  11. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    Except, you are still dead on.

  12. Megan

    Well developed conceit. And very accurate.

  13. Angella

    This was brilliant, Neil. Giving you the slow clap (and a Stumble).

  14. Juli

    You are a rock star.

  15. Rene Foran

    I admire “rockstars” from afar. It’s less cringeworthy that way.
    I am an obtuse Picasso of arcane references and awkward silences.

  16. Amanda

    I find I take the deepest delight when I find myself mouthing the words without realizing it.

    The double entendres just write themselves around you, don’t they?

  17. Diana

    Wait. Am I not a rockstar? Because I know you go to Music Conferences just to chat me up. Don’t deny it, Neil. Don’t. Deny it. 😉

  18. elizabeth-flourish in progress

    You like rap? This is promising. Very promising.

  19. Jane Gassner

    Who’s the rock star? Not that I care because though I’m a gifted musician myself, I hate the group gropes that this music conference fosters.

    Terrific conceit…!

  20. Chrisor (ynotkissme)

    I was thrown off by the first 4 words of this post. I had NO IDEA you’re a professional musician. That’s kind of incredible that your talent extends both to music AND photography. If you play/sing as well as you take pictures, I don’t know why you haven’t been “discovered” yet. Keep an open mind about the music conference, you may get turned on to some new bands or just meet some interesting people. I can’t believe it’s going on at the same time as BlogHer! It looks like San Diego is the place to be this week. 😉
    I also love most types of music. Music has the ability to move me so deeply, it’s scary. Depending on the song, it can make my heart leap with joy, make me shed tears, jump up and dance, fall asleep, complain, etc. Lyrics are so important and a good storyteller is priceless, with or without music. The first time I heard “Stan” by Eminem I got the chills (& it still affects me that way every time I hear it!). Today I listened to an Avril Lavigne song and it made me cry. I’d be thrilled if you schooled me on what your favorite music is, even some of these unknown indie artists. Those ARE usually the best. In the meantime, see you on Instagram!

  21. Laurie

    Um, I’m pretty sure the “group grope” is part of the attraction for our citizen of the month 😉

  22. Stasha

    I am so country I am staying at home. Have a lovely time listening to rock stars and return to jam your own tune.

  23. Dana

    This makes me wish I was going to the music conference — if only for the chance to meet you.

  24. Josette at Halushki

    I’ve spent all my income on amps and instruments, so I can’t afford to go to the conference.

    It’s a bit ironic, though, isn’t it? Musicians hanging around talking? I thought we were all communicating through our music.

  25. Kara

    I’m also a musician, although I’m newby and have never been to, nor even heard of the music conference until I was told I’m an Honouree this year. I’m not quit sure what that means exactly. All I know is I’m no rockstar and no one is going to miss me when I don’t attend.

  26. subWOW

    Well played, Neil, well played.

    Truth quotient?… 😉

  27. Not Like Normal People

    Perfect pitch. I have been a musician for a long time, even before the Web came along and everyone became a musician. Some people call this #realmusicians or something. I play many sorts of music, geeky, tasty, snarky yet I find most of the musicians at the music conferences want to hear only their own style, and that of people who are leg-hump…er, I mean emulating them.

    There is lots of free music, from musicians and non alike, so I stayed home and listened to that, wrote a few of my own tunes. One of them sounds a lot like Barracuda and smells like female empowerment, but that’s a rant for another site…

  28. Deer Baby

    I listened to snippets of this music conference. It made me want to be a groupie. Over here we only have tribute bands.

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