The 2017 DIY Musician Conference recap: CD Baby hosts three days of creativity, community, and career advice

The DIY musician community gathered in Nashville for a life-changing 3-day weekend of music biz education, live performances, and more.

Yes. I just used the term “life changing.” No hyperbole.

Last Friday 1400 independent artists and a great many respected music industry professionals met in Nashville, having traveled from 49 US states and more than a dozen countries.

Attendees showed up eager to dive deep into new strategies, networking opportunities, and creative exercises that will bring their music to a bigger stage in the year to come. They left not only with inspiration, but clearer goals, more detailed blueprints for achieving them, and many new supportive friendships.

The jam room at the DIY Musician Conference
Harmonizing with new friends in the jam room.

Life-changing, though?

Absolutely. I heard that exact phrase used by so many appreciative conference attendees over the past few days. The Omni Nashville Hotel was — if I can sound like a hippie for a second — buzzing with good energy. Of course CD Baby and Rock Paper Scissors try to lay the groundwork for a great experience, but it’s the artists who make this event so special, bringing and sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge. To those who were there, thank you!

Tin Roof in Nashville
The after-party at Tin Roof on Sunday night.

Looking back on the DIY Musician Conference 2017

It’s really impossible to “recap” a conference with:

  • 30+ sessions
  • tons of one-on-one mentoring slots
  • a song pitching session hosted by NPR’s Bob Boilen

    Bob Boilen at the DIY Musician Conference
    Bob Boilen leads a “song pitch” session where musicians get feedback on their tracks.

  • three nights of live music
  • an all-day jam room
  • a YouTube pop-up studio
  • a tour and recording session clinic at Ocean Way Studios

    Ocean Way Studios
    Conference attendees take a tour of Ocean Way and watch a session in action.

  • a tour of Hatch Show Print
  • the chance to talk to reps from our awesome sponsors (including premium sponsors GigSalad, Berklee Online, and Music City SongStar)
  • not one, but TWO live onstage makeovers from Tom Jackson
  • and so much more
Bob Boilen and Shannon Vanderlaan
“Having my song Atmosphere picked at the Song Pitch session (a huge surprise to me) was an amazing experience for me. It humbled me but also motivates me to work harder and take advantage of every opportunity out there. It’s proven that I never know what can happen and I’m so thankful I got to meet so many wonderful people here. I can’t wait til next year!” – Shannon Vanderlaan

And because it’s impossible to recap in full, I’ll share just some of the countless photos, videos, tweets, and testimonials we’ve found along the way, beginning with this video from the band Harbor Drive Hookup:

A surprise highlight for many at the conference had to be an incredible set of soulful songs from AHI during Saturday’s showcase:

AHI performing at the DIY Musician Conference showcase
AHI performing at the DIY Musician Conference showcase (with Bob Boilen snapping some shots)

On today’s episode of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen recapped a bit of his experience over the weekend and even played a song by AHI, who he’d discovered at the conference:

Serenity Fisher

Last September, Michael Shanks met Serenity Fisher and Michael Gronstadt‍ at the DIY Musician Conference in Chicago. He joined them for a jam session — and 11 months later they’re great friends, playing shows together and making a living from their music.

Michael said: “Serenity was at the piano in the lobby. I walked up and we started jamming. There was an instant connection – there were no egos involved, we were just enjoying the music.

“We met 11 months ago and here we are playing shows and making a living. We keep each other accountable and it helps us to gets things done. When we met Serenity was talking about doing a video and I was able to keep asking how she was getting on and gently push her and the results of that are amazing.

I’m looking to make more genuine connections like that at this year’s conference – without the conference it’d be a million to one shot to meet people like this.”

Trent Harmon and Tom Jackson
Tom Jackson does a live onstage makeover for Trent Harmon.

This was my 2nd conference and it did not disappoint. I think what makes this conference so special is that you have industry people there who get it and genuinely care about the success of everyone there. It’s all too easy to get discouraged, but whatever your idea of success is, this event reinforces, encourages, and reignites the passion to keep going, because it IS possible. What happens for each of us after the conference is up to us, but you certainly give us all the tools we need to succeed, and I am very grateful for that, so THANK YOU!Ryan Van Slooten

The main stage sessions

This year we had PioPlay Livestream helping us live broadcast all the events on the main stage via Facebook and YouTube. In the coming weeks I plan to share these videos individually on this blog with an outline of the content and key takeaways, but if you’re eager to dive in now, here we go…

Were you at the 2017 DIY Musician Conference?

If so, what were the highlights? What did you learn? What will your next year look like? Let me know in the conference below.

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