Show Up and Be Counted

This weekend, the Jackson Free Press is proud to be sponsoring the Gulf States Music Conference, a day of panel discussions and performances arranged by JFP columnist and Best of Jackson award recipient Kamikaze. I call your attention to it not only because it's something you might consider attending if you have aspirations for the music business.

I also want to point out that it's a great example of what we at the JFP like to refer to as "DIY Jackson."

This town may be in the throes of a cultural and developmental revitalization, but by the very nature of the region, its economy and the creativity inherent in its residents, this Jackson renaissance is not something that "other people" will do.

Yes, it takes banks and developers and construction companies to construct new buildings in downtown, Fondren or around the JSU Parkway. But the renaissance itself is something that you make happen. That we all do. It's something you need to get up off your butt … and do.

One of the things I appreciate the most about Kamikaze's Gulf States Music Conference is its focus on the business of the music business. Jacksonians and Mississippians within driving distance deserve this opportunity to attend more workshops that marry creativity and business, making it clear to a younger generation that you can mix your vocation and your avocation. You can take a risk on self-expression and earn your living at it.

In fact, with the advent of the "long tail" of the Internet, you can even make a decent living without the big labels or a Los Angeles address. If you've got a niche—if you know how to develop a market for your creative output—then you can make a living, or supplement your "day job," and get your start in art wherever you happen to be.

Jackson is as good a place as any, and perhaps better than most.

In 2008, I think we'll see an increased spirit for "DIY" cultural events in Jackson. Some of the traditional festivals—Mal's St. Paddy's Parade, Crossroads Film Festival, JubileeJAM!, Farish Street Festival, Wellsfest, CelticFest and others—are poised to have great years and, in some cases, complete their "comebacks" as is the case with Jubilee! JAM.

Other upstart festivals, such as Jacktoberfest, will be building new traditions in Jackson as does, we hope, the fourth annual JFP Chick Ball.

So what's the call to action? The first step is to support these efforts—when you see one of these events being thrown by a local person or group, make the effort to attend. You can read about them each week here in the newspaper or at jfpevents.com. Grab a few bucks in cash and head out the door to buy tickets, popcorn, beer and art.

It's not always easy—sometimes there are a number of events competing for your attention. But your attendance at any and all of the events mentioned above not only helps them on that day with a ticket sold or a smiling face in the audience, it also helps future events get grants, supporters, sponsors, space and talent. Fill out a form or answer a questionnaire. You can't imagine what impact that could have on a festival's future.

Second, if you see a gap in the festival line-up for Jackson, don't just complain about it. Fill it. Come up with a plan, find a mentor and start talking to people about your idea. If your goal is to improve the lives of both artists and festival-goers alike, then your idea can work. If you do your due diligence and chat up the folks who have made successful events happen already, then you'll have a good chance of joining the ranks of regular festivals that make Jackson the unique place that it is.

The Jackson Free Press' online forums are a great place to promote events or to simply begin a discussion about the types of events you'd like to see in the Metro; if you've got an idea and don't know how to start, post about it and let's get a discussion going.

Other resources for getting your group going include existing organizations like The Collective or the M.A.P. Coalition, as well as organizations such as the Greater Jackson Arts Council, which can help you with venue, small grants and other opportunities. And we invite you to contribute tips at Jackpedia, where we already have a list-in-progress of places where you can put posters up around town for your events. Add to it, print it out and go.

Not quite ready to put together your own festival? Volunteer for an existing festival or organization and get involved in promoting what's going on in Jackson. I know from experience that all sorts of arts organizations can use volunteers who have a creative skill set—flyering, Web production, print production, music, art—all sorts of outlets are available in support of and for promoting the work of local organizations. And once you get into an organization such an arts organization, you're likely to be asked to sit on the board of directors where you'll learn even more about the festival game—eventually, you'll be ready to throw your own (or take over the reins of an existing one).

(You'll find info about arts groups and other volunteer opportunities at Jackpedia as well. And please, add yours.)

It's a cliché to say, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," but there's truth to it, even for young creatives. The more you get to know (and be known) by people who can help you with your art or self-expression, the easier it'll be to find a venue, a stage or an audience for what you want to do. And if you help others along the way, suddenly you'll be a friend to a great many like-minded people, and you'll be ready to tackle the next big challenge.

For starters, get out to the Gulf States Music Conference and see if there's something there for you, then check out a special seminar and film presentation next weekend to be presented by the Crossroads Film Society on Saturday, Feb. 23, in the New Stage Hewes Room.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, you can make a difference just by showing up. What you do after that is up to you!

Previous Comments


To quote Michel Jackson, "I'll be there." I want to introduce to Jackson and the country before going international, a blue grass, county and yodeling style of gansta or hardco' rap, that to my knowledge, no one has tapped into yet. So far, I have finished only a couple of songs, My Three Wheeler and Fishing Withtout Poles. I got the idea from the movie, O Brother Somehing. I can't recall the rest of the move's name. Maybe Kaze and I can team up and do some things together. Thanks for info Todd. If I blow up, so will you!

Ray Carter

Will there be any tips at these events about being introverted, shy, and overly self-conscious? :-P


The best tip ever for social events: Ask people about themselves. Works (nearly) every time.



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