Articles Index

Vocalist & Club
Free Newsletter

Enter Email


Music conferences are a critical piece of any aspiring artist, songwriter, producer, engineer, publisher or label owner's career, and the upcoming Musician's Education and Career Advancement (MECA) Conference & Festival, to be held May 12-15 in Chicago, Illinois, is not exception! Mark Wolfson, Music Producer/A&R/Music Supervisor, will be a featured panelist at the conference. MusicDish asked Mark how conference participants could make the most of their conference experiences.

Mark is well qualified to discuss this topic, as he has been in the entertainment business since 1972. He has continued, on a consistent basis, to cross from music to film, commercials to live events and television as a producer, music supervisor, engineer, writer and musician. Currently, his main client is The Playtone Company (Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks), where his title is director of production and development for Playtone/Epic Records.

MusicDishHe's worked on films such as "That Thing You Do," "Mi Vida Loca" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and soundtracks for projects such as "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "Josie and the Pussycats," "Philadelphia," "Stop Making Sense," and "Silence of the Lambs." Some of the artists Mark has developed independently include Stone Temple Pilots, Jane Child, and School of Fish. He has also worked with artists from Smokey Robinson and Natalie Cole to Ice T and UB40.

More on MECA Music Conference & Festival
* Date: May 12-15, 2004
* Location: Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
* Website:
* Register: Saturday Pass
* Register: Full Conference
* Sponsorship/Advertising
* Contact: Kathy Morrissey
* Publicist: Traci Failla (

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Thank you, Mark, for agreeing to be interviewed by MusicDish regarding the upcoming MECA conference. Would to tell us a little about the panel that you will participate on at MECA?

MusicDishMark Wolfson Thanks for the interest. The festival has scheduled me for a few panels including the publishers (film, television) panel and mentor sessions, but I will be slotted for more by show time. For me, the band performances are an important part of the conference.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Mark, music conferences cost money, including registration fees, hotel and transportation costs, food, venues, and other amenities. For many aspiring artists, songwriters, publishers, publicists, and label representatives, attending a music business conference like MECA represents an important investment in their careers. Are there steps that conference participants can take prior to the conference to enhance their experience when they arrive?

Mark Wolfson The most important thing to understand is that the information is at the conference. Perusing that information and being open to what you hear is the number one objective. Being late to panels and not walking around meeting people during the day is a waste. To start, if there is more than one of you from your group or company, you need to spread out, pick separate panels, take notes, and ask questions. Get numbers, business cards, and make personal contact. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, but don't be a pest. Then later, at your leisure, get together with your group and each of you tell the others what you found out. If you are alone, you need to sit down and write down what you need to accomplish in your career in the short term, look over the list of panels and pick the specific panels for your short term goals. You will start a ball rolling that will not stop if you do it right.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Could you give us some examples of the opportunities that music business conferences like MECA offer to help participants move forward with their careers?

Mark Wolfson Yes. Meeting record company reps, managers, PR, and production people face to face, and networking with people in the same place as you. You are not alone and you can help each other. You can qualify your own information and adjust to a moving market. All the panelists are there for you, so ask, acquire, pursue, and collect.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] What are some common misconceptions about music business conferences that can lead to participants missing out on its benefits?

Mark Wolfson The number one misunderstanding is that a band will get signed there on the spot. It is very rare and I would not bank my career on being that one in 10 million. Number two: bands come to these conferences thinking that it is a competition - it is not. Number three: The right information for your advancement is at the conference. We are talking ladders not elevators - patience and persistence is a virtue. If you are good, we will find you. We are all in this together, and a hand you extend today will be the hand that will be there for you in the future.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Conferences like MECA are often the first time that those seeking to enter the music industry have the chance to meet music industry professionals. Any suggestions on what to do -- or not do -- when meeting these individuals?

Mark Wolfson The habit of participants to hand out materials again and again to the same person -- this is a problem. I always get three or even four copies of a package, and it shows that the artist or manager is not writing down who has a package and paying attention. It is a waste of your hard earned funds and an annoyance to us (and the hotel maid) when we have to take that stuff home or toss two copies out. It is better to "keep it lean," get a number or card (write on the back info that will help you remember) and send the information and CD to them later in an interesting form with a note saying you met at the conference. Maybe even on the outside of the envelope write, "Met you at MECA."

Of course, if you come to a listening session then you need a CD. And over and above all, you should always have one CD or DVD to play if someone wants to hear it. Take numbers, make friends. This will not be the only time you will run into these people if you do your "do diligence." 6 degrees of separation is in force in the music industry.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Over 200 artists will be performing in MECA showcases at 20+ venues throughout Chicago during the four-day conference. What do you see are the purposes of conference showcases? What objectives can artists and bands hope to accomplish by performing at conference showcase?

Mark Wolfson To be seen, to see what other bands are doing (this is not a competition), and have a good time gaining new fans in Chicago proper. Another big move is that you meet other bands and make deals to play their cities with them in exchange for that band playing with you in your town. Maybe helping out with lodging, etc. Treat them the way you would want to be treated on the road. It gives each band a bigger fan base, as well.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Mark, imagine that you are an artist attending the MECA conference. How do they choose the right panels to attend? Below are the titles of the panels for the first two days of the conference. From the titles, plan these two days for us by selecting what you would attend and a brief statement as to why:

Mark Wolfson To qualify this before I start, different levels need different things. If you are a new artist, some of these panels will not help and if you have things "going on," then some panels won't suit your needs. Pick carefully and honestly!

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Starting with THURSDAY, MAY 13

Round 1: Case Studies (Urban); Artist Development; Marketing & Promotion; Copyrights, Co-writes & Performing Rights

Mark Wolfson

Case Studies (Urban): If you are at the beginning of your career then finding out if you are a real "player" is what you need to hear. We all think we are players, but what does your none-related public think of you? Artist Development (Where's the Love for Tomorrow's Stars?): Aspiring Artists need to know these things.

Marketing and Promotion: If you are already touring regionally and have a following, making more out of your existing market or building a market is key. 70% of your income will come from performance and merchandising of your project.

Copyrights, Co-writes and Performing Rights: This is where the nickels and dimes count. Do your business. If you have lots of material - is it protected? When do I participate in co-writing? Am I a member of a performing right society? Where do you think your income is going to come from?

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 2: Case Studies (Beginner Rock/Pop); Music Production & Engineering; Publishing Income Workshop; Endorsements & Sponsorships

Mark Wolfson

Case Studies (Beginner/Rock-Pop): Even if you think you have it going on, put your hand in the fire and see what other think of your career level. We all think we are the "one" special talent, but what does the outside world beyond your "fan base" think of you?

Music Production & Engineering: Why do some records sound better than others? Is it the song or the production? These are different "hats" and switching can be difficult. Get some tricks.

Publishing Income (There's Gold in Them Thar Non-Mechanicals): This is where incomes comes from as a writer and owner of the Masters you work so hard on.

Endorsements & Sponsorships: Important to make use of these avenues for support and credibility.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 3: Demo Listening (Rock); A&R Panel; Managers 201

Mark Wolfson

Demo listening: All the input you can get is here. Great songs are a combination of good writing and a timely place for them to be heard and exploited.

A&R Panel: If you want to get signed, you need to get inside these heads. Opinions are just that, but they write the checks.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 4: Demo Listening (Rock); College Radio & Booking; Managers 101; Touring International Markets

Mark Wolfson

College Radio and Booking: This is marketing and touring, which in the case of booking translates to income.

Managers 101: Do you need a manager? How do you get the help of a manager, how do you protect yourself from so called "managers" and "tag alongs"?

International Markets/Touring: This where the money can be. Are you ready for the world? The US and International markets are different. If you fit in the International market, go after it. The world doesn't revolve around the USA.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Mentoring Sessions.

Mark Wolfson

Mentoring Sessions: This is where you can get one on one attention to your specific situation, saving yourself years of beating your head against the wall. Be open and take it for what it is worth - a lot!

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Mark, please take a look at some additional panels that will take place on Friday that you haven't already covered:


Round 1: Demo Listening (Urban); Publishing (Video Games, TV, Other); Legal (Things You Should Know When Starting Out); Booking - Chicago; CD Manufacturing

Mark Wolfson

Publishing (Video Games/TV/Movies): 7-12% of your income will comes from licensing. This panel is an excellent way to find out how to make money now and market your project to a label at the same time.

Legal Issues: This is the Business of Music understand where the money goes and the legal pitfalls of being a serious contender.

CD Manufacturing: Don't waste money by paying too much. How many records to make and where the breaks are? Where and can you cut corners?

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 2: Case Studies (Advanced Rock/Pop); New Media; Press Packages/Kit; Online Tools You Can Use on Monday Morning; College Markets Workshop

Mark Wolfson

Press Package/Kit: You need to present yourself and not over present yourself. We can tell right away where you are in your career by what you understand our needs to be. Simple and clean is best. If we like it, we will ask for more and you have elicited an honest response and started a ball rolling.

Online Tools: This is marketing, visibility and sales. If you have product that is competitive, join the party.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 3: Demo Listening (Rock); Touring Without Tour Support; Street Teams & Other Non-Traditional Marketing; Booking Festivals

Mark Wolfson

Touring Without Tour Support: Being inventive and touring can make friends, contacts and set the stage for bigger and better things. All big fires start with a little kindling.

Street Teams and Nontraditional Marketing: We need all the tricks we can get.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Round 4: Producers - How To Value, Find And Work With One; Press; Booking Regional

Mark Wolfson

Producers-How to Value, Find And Work With One: This is important. There is a difference between writing songs, being a band and making a record.

[Getting] Press: Important if you want to be noticed. Being noticed translated to sales and income.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Now imagine yourself an aspiring producer/indie label owner with two signed urban acts. What panels would you attend?

Mark Wolfson

Thursday, May 13

Round 1: A&R Development (Where's the Love for Tomorrow's Stars?); Marketing and Promotion; Copyrights, Co-writes and Performing Rights

Round 2: Publishing Income (There's Gold in Them There Non-Mechanicals); Endorsements & Sponsorships.

Round 3: Managers 201

Round 4: College Radio and Booking or Touring International Markets.

Friday, May 14

Round 1: Publishing (Video Games/TV/Movies); Legal (Things You Should Know When Starting Out) or CD Manufacturing.

Round 2: Press Package/Kit or Online Tools You Can Use On Monday Morning

Round 3: Touring Without Tour Support or Street Teams and Nontraditional Marketing

Round 4: Producers - How To Value, Find And Work With One or Artist [Getting] Press.

[The Aspiring Songwriter] Mark, thanks so much for all of your advice and insights. Any parting words to our readers who are planning to attend MECA or other music business conferences in the near future?

Mark Wolfson Have a good time and don't take anything personally. You know what you know, now find out what others know and cross check your information. We are all here to help steer you in the right direction.

MusicDishProvided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2004 - Republished with Permission