As I wrote earlier this month, the Yellow Phone Music Conference (YPMC) is finally upon us after lengthy preparation by local organizers. The three-day conference takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the InterContinental Hotel Downtown and a number of nearby music venues.
Yellow Phone is the brainchild of Pursuit Live's Scott Ziel, David Silbaugh and Doug Johnson and Mindpool productions and it brings together industry panelists like current and formers Milwaukeeans Jeff Castelaz, Lucas Keller, Marc Solheim and Peter Strand, along with other industry cats from Los Angeles, Chicago and beyond.
In addition, there are many bands from across the country on tap.
We asked the Pursuit Live folks about Yellow Phone, which kicks off this week.
OnMilwaukee.com: Can you tell me a bit about where the idea for the conference came from?
Scott Ziel: We've been talking about doing it for years and finally decided to stop talking about it and just do it. Finally, blast off!
OMC: Who is behind it?
Doug Johnson: The brain trust is an amalgam of Pursuit Live, an entertainment consultant and resource company, and Mindpool productions, a video production and content company.
OMC: What do you think the event brings to the city?
David Silbaugh: It puts a spotlight on Milwaukee and what we have going on here. It's a vibrant city. Some of the people we have coming here have been to Milwaukee and think it's great, others have not but have heard what other people are saying or want to just check it out. With all that will be going on in the city that weekend, it'll be a great showcase for Milwaukee and these people will take that positive experience with them.
SZ: It brings New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and a lot of knowledge in between to Milwaukee. Music makers and industry leaders will come to enjoy Milwaukee and vice versa. A ton of useful information will be delivered at this event. This is a fantastic opportunity for local musicians to get first hand knowledge from innovative music industry professionals. This is a chance to go one on one and get the information a local musicians needs to succeed.
OMC: Will this be an annual event?
DJ: Absolutely! We already have some stellar industry people lining up to come next year that were disappointed they couldn't make it work this year.
OMC: Tell me about the panelists that are coming.
DJ: We have a panelist coming from Europe, panelists that have run record companies that have sold 25 million records. Our panelists are cutting edge; the creative engine in the "new" world of music. This is a nuts and bolts conference: learn how to succeed in the music world we live in. And they are all absolutely approachable. We mentoring sessions where you can have a panelist in a small group atmosphere (of 5-10 people).
OMC: Have the ones with Milwaukee ties been eager to come back and help out the local scene?
DS: First ones to the plate! Making calls to have other leaders in then industry participate. Jeff Castalaz at Dangerbird; Emily Smith at WhiteSmith Entertainment; Lucas Keller from The Collective. All wanted to bring this great wave of knowledge back to Milwaukee because they know the talent that resides in the region and they grew up here. They want to help out. These are the first people we thought about when we approached this idea.
OMC: How about the ones with no Milwaukee connection; are they excited about the idea of seeing what's going on here?
SZ: They definitely are. The response from people in the industry has been great. As I mentioned before, there a good number of excellent people who really wanted to make it this year that will be putting it on their calendar for next year.
OMC: I'd love to hear about the selection process for bands
DJ: A lot of research, listening sessions with focus groups, screening submissions from Sonicbids and decisions made by committee. As it is with anything, there were bands we wanted that couldn't do it for various reasons. All the artists are unsigned.
DS: We have Milwaukee well represented along with bands from all over the country: California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan. All but a handful are up on the website and a few more are being locked in.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.