Music Chris Ford. Juice file photo.

Chris Ford. Juice file photo.

Get schooled in the biz at Music University

Published on October 15th, 2013 | by Joe Lawler

For years the Des Moines Music Coalition has hosted events like 80/35, Gross Domestic Product and Little Big Fest: festivals spotlighting local and national names. The organization also has put on Music University events focusing on different elements of the music business, but they’ve been smaller, sporadic events.

Until now.

On Saturday the DMMC is making Music University a daylong conference with more than 20 events, workshops and discussions. It’s aimed at musicians in the area and helping them branch out into a career in music, as well as music fans.

“This has been one of the Music Coalition’s long-term goals for many years, just like 80/35 once was,” DMMC administrator and Music University organizer Chris Ford said. “We wanted to put on a bigger event and bring in folks from around the country for a new perspective and to give new educational resources to the community.”

The lineup includes a keynote speech and performance by Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and panel members that include management, producers and publicists for acts like Andrew Bird, Eminem and Sebadoh, along with local musicians like Nate Logsdon (Mumford’s), Seth Peters (Dead Horse Trauma), Brandon Darner (The Envy Corps) and others.

“We put together a group of volunteers who brought input about what they wanted to do at this conference, and we looked at how that fits into the mission of the DMMC,” Ford said. “This is our first time doing something like this and we don’t really have a reputation for putting on a conference like this. We utilized a lot of connections we had made while booking for 80/35, and a lot of people were happy to work with us and our limited budget.”

Ford said the DMMC is hoping for about 150 people to attend the event, and that Music University can help them to take the next step in their musical goals.

“We want people to be inspired to play more shows, or to be a publicist or to start a label,” Ford said. “We want them to take the chance and step out while working and living here in Des Moines.”

There are a lot of events at Music University, so how should you decide what to do? Here are afew options, depending on if you’re just a music fan, if you’re a musician or if you’re looking to do something behind the scenes.

If you’re a music fan

Nels Cline keynote presentation, jam and film

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline will deliver the keynote presentation of Music University at 11:15 a.m., discussing his recording and performance career. At 1:15 p.m. Cline will lead an interactive jam session with local musicians with signup happening at the conference.

Additionally, the Varsity Theater, 1207 25th St., will screen the documentary “Approximately Nels Cline” at 6 p.m. Friday. It’s free with MU registration, $5 without.

Iowa musicians showcase

The Gas Lamp, 1501 Grand Ave., will host a post-conference showcase of Iowa musicians from 6 to 9 p.m. Dick Prall (who was born in Iowa), Parlours, Max Jury, Dustin Smith & The Sunday Silos, Marybeth Doran, Mint and Holy White Hounds will perform. Free.

If you’re a musician

The Art of Making Great Records

At 10 a.m., speakers Kieran Kelly, who has worked on albums by Sufjan Stevens, Julia Stone, Better Than Ezra and others, speaks with Brandon Darner (producer of Imagine Dragons) and Steve Capp (engineer for Aretha Franklin and Eminem). Moderated by MaryBeth Doran.

I Made a Record. Who is Going to Listen?

At 1:15 p.m. Pitchfork writer Matt LeMay, Christopher Ford of Maximum Ames Records and Brian Sauer of Saturday Mfg. walk through how to go about releasing an album, including album art design. Moderated by Byron Dudley.

You want to work behind the scenes

Everything I Learned About Business I Learned from Rock and Roll

At 10 a.m. Drake University entrepreneurship professor Tom Swartwood leads a discussion with House of Large Sizes musician and business owner Dave Deibler and Patrick Tape Fleming (Poison Control Center, Gloom Balloon) about the parallels between running a business and running a band.

Hitting the Road and Staying There

Band managers, booking agents and musicians talk about how to tour effectively and sustainably, and if your band should work with a booking agent. Featuring Dick Prall (assistant tour manager for Wilco), Andrea Troolin (manager for Andrew Bird) Sam Summers (First Fleet Concerts) and Bob Nastanovich (Pavement). Moderated by Andre Perry of the Mission Creek Festival.

Music University

When: 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Saturday

Where: Drake University’s Harmon Fine Arts Center, 2505 Carpenter Ave.

Cost: $25 in advance, $30 day of. $15 in advance for students and musicians, $30 day of.


About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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