A couple of months back in my social media feed something called ‘Overture Con’ popped up. I was intrigued, so I clicked on their website and what I read was this,
“Two days filled with unique, once in a lifetime experiences. Created by music überfans, it’s a new way to celebrate music. OvertureCon was created for people who love rock-n-roll and want to share their love with bands and with each other. Filled with daytime programming (music related panels with bands and special guests, relaxed meet-n-greet/photo ops lounge, VIP room with exclusive artist designed experiences along with live nighttime performances to get your rock on. OvertureCon is designed to give fans and bands the opportunity to have meaningful exchanges in an environment that is both intimate and powerful.”
Instantly I knew this was something me, as an ‘expert fan’, should attend. I’ve been to Comic Con in the past and this sounded like the musical version of that! I became intrigued about the ladies behind this and the bands that would be performing/serving as guests on panels. I was also curious about just what the ‘artist designed VIP experiences’ would be like. I mean most of us have been through the rushed, awkward meet and greet process. Which personally, I am no fan of. So, recently I interviewed a few of the people involved in this event, the first is an interview with Sabrina Greenwood-Briggs and Stacey Lawson, the music uberfans who cooked up the idea for Overture Con and made it happen. The second Interview is with Justin Tranter from Semi Precious Weapons who will be performing/hosting VIP experiences/be a panelist. Finally, the third is with panelist Vicki Hamilton from Aesthetic V Management and Entertainment Company.
Before this interview took place, I was actually asked to be a panelist on the ‘New Music Discovery’ panel (!!!). I answered yes immediately. I am stoked to be a part of this experience! Anyway, read on to find out how the idea was born, how they chose everyone involved, both bands and panelists, and what cool things they have in store for attendees of Overture Con!
Interview with the creators- Sabrina Greenwood-Briggs and Stacey Lawson
Tell the world a little about yourselves.
Stacey- I have been in Southern California for about nine years now, I lived in Northern California before that and also Florida and other places. Ever since I was a teenager its been my dream to come and live in LA. That was during the whole hair metal/glam rock age. You heard about the Sunset Strip with the Whisky, The Roxy and the Viper Room and all these places. When you’re young it felt like you could come out here and be a apart of what seems like this amazing, glamorous thriving music scene. Then I got married young and did domestic stuff and went into the corporate world. I worked for a Skin care company and I didn’t lose my love of music but I lost my driving passion for it, I just misplaced that part of myself for a while. A few years ago, I found it again. I started going to shows again and immersing myself in music. The first time I went to one of those clubs I thought about as a teenager I was like, “Oh my god! I’m in The Roxy! I’m in The Troubadour!” it awakens something inside of you. I’ve been to tiny shows, huge concerts and I came to realize that when I am at a really good show there is nothing else like it for me. I feel like every single cell inside of me feels alive with energy. I realized I didn’t want that to be something that was only part of my life, like a hobby. I thought, “How can I bring this more into my life?” So Sabrina and I started having conversations about this and started doing road trips and things kind of took over from there.
Sabrina- I have always been a music person. My mom’s favorite story to tell is about how all of our family members would be like, “You have to turn off all the music in the house while the baby is sleeping! Be quiet so she can sleep!” but my mom put my bassinet right next to the speakers in the living room and would play Classic Rock all day while I slept. So, I literally grew up with 70’s Classic Rock music. I turned out to be the typical teenage girl in love with New Kids on the Block and all the pop bands. My dad was probably my biggest enabler ever because at twelve years old he would take me and a whole group of my girl fiends to shows. He is the one that got me started doing road trips. I think my first concert was in Portland, Maine which is about three hours from where I lived. It was exciting and important to him because he was such a music fan. He had a turntable and the first thing I got was a record, I didn’t even get a tape though they were big at the time. I got records to start with. I grew up going into more theatre, film and TV. I ended up becoming an accountant, not quite sure how that happened! Much like Stacey, I didn’t want the music part of me to just be this hobby that I did once in a while. There was a point where we didn’t go out hardly ever because we were so tired from work or whatever. Then we started going out again and realizing how much energy you get form doing that. You’re still tired but it’s a different kind of tired. We started with our road trips and checking out more music. We wanted to do something real, for ourselves and not this corporate humdrum.
How was Overture Con born?
Stacey- So, last summer we started really flushing out, “If we could, what would we do?” We didn’t mean to but just out of a few really amazing talks and brainstorming sessions, we realized, “Oh my God, we actually have the bones of a business plan!” We had answers to all these initial questions with our skill sets and knowledge as well as those of our friends. We actually had what we needed to run a convention. We are gigantic geeks, we go to Comic Con every year. So the idea of marrying a balls out rock show at night, but allowing music fans during the day to experience something so far beyond what they would normally get to experience was what we wanted. Basically, its kind of what we love best about conventions. I thought, “I don’t think this really exists.” We racked our brains figuring out if it existed, and we couldn’t find anything exactly like what we wanted to do. That is the basics of Business 101, find a need and fill it!
Sabrina- My biggest problem with the convention is that I don’t know what I want to do! That sounds conceited but I want to see all the panelists and be in the VIP room and want to do everything we laid out! That’s because we laid out everything fans want to hear about, that you don’t normally. One of the most amazing things about this whole process is how many women have some out of the woodwork to be a part of this. We knew from the beginning we wanted to feature women and bands that had women in them. We are women and we want to be able to help them along, it is important to us and you don’t see a ton of it. When we got going we were hoping to get a couple women, but it ended up being weeks before we had a male panelist. So many women wanted to be involved. I am blown away by all the women who are going to be on the panels and not just the ‘Women in Rock’ panel but the whole thing.
Stacey- The two we are most excited for are the ‘Women in Rock’ and ‘New Music Discovery’ panels. The incredible diverse talent on those panels just has me in awe. Its so humbling that there are people out there that have been in the business for more than 20 years, are amazed at what we are doing. They believe it has validity and want to be a part of it.
Sabrina- When we first started out people didn’t get it. Nobody understood. What they kept saying was, “Oh like a conference, like a music industry conference?” and we thought, “No, there are enough of those already!” Then they thought we would have trade booths and things, maybe in the future but this is a fan convention. You know, we went to Morrison Con in November. There were almost 500 people there and people who bought the tickets got what they were trying to do. Its been an amazing family of fellow geeks we found by going to this thing.
Stacey- Even months later everyone is still talking to each other and the amount of creative output that has come out of this thing is incredible! We are part of it.
Sabrina- Yeah, we are part of it because of what they did and how they did it. It is somewhat how we are modeling our convention. Not to mention we got validation from Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) while we were there.
Stacey- He was sketching something for me in my notebook and I have been a huge My Chemical Romance fan for a while. He was asking me how I was liking the experience and I told him how much I loved it. I sort of segued into how cool it would be to have something like it for music (earlier in the day he had been on a music and comics panel), and I said a friend and I were putting something like it together then continued to describe the bare bones of it. He said that it was a brilliant idea and we should do it.
How did you pick the bands on the lineup?
Sabrina- Well, we came up with a list of bands we would ask and reach out to. As soon as we started approaching bands they got it! As soon as we told them what we wanted to do and the access to fans they would get, they were like, “Where do we sign?!” As soon as you get anybody in corporate management involved though, they would be like “Whoa wait a minute, what are you doing? Why would you do this?” Well, I took a class at UCLA in Touring and Merchandizing. We had a lot of guests from the business come in. One woman from Live Nation came in and she actually said it was one of her jobs to create the VIP experience packages. She had to figure out what fans value, and what they want. She said because people in the music industry forget what its like to be fans because they get comp tickets, parking, etc. They don’t have to wait for anything or refresh browsers in hopes of getting tickets. She was confident enough to realize this about the industry. People don’t realize they have become so jaded about it.
Stacey- I got to sit in on the class that night and when she was saying that, Sabrina and I looked at each other and a light bulb went ‘Ding!’ We realized that there are people out there that get the whole drinks and dinner package and special merch, but very little contact with the band and that is their thing. But for us fans, that is not a VIP experience. I want a few minutes of conversation with the band where you don’t have some big dude looming over your shoulder giving you the eye. I just want two minutes to thank them for doing what they do. The bands involved didn’t have to be on a tour cycle, or be big bands, we wanted them to come because we like them and they are interesting. We are giving them an avenue where they can perform, keep 100% of the merch and they all had a say in designing their VIP experience. It’s all them.
Sabrina- That was the point. We wanted the fans to get to know the band members. You get to know the band members if you let them pick what they think is fun to do. We want it to be fun for them too.
Stacey- Its not just about come, do sound check, play, and go back to your van. Its come and spend the day. We have had a few ask about having to be there. We basically said, “We would really love for you to show up at 1 and stay until 5.” All the bands are doing three things, panel, VIP Room and perform. They might as well stay.
Sabrina- Picking the bands was a long process. We had a wish list, but also a list of others we really, really liked, for example Cadaver Dogs. They were on immediately.
Stacey- Also, we met Chelsea (High Voltage Magazine) and Kristin (High Voltage Magazine/Local Music Nation) and they are so plugged into music, so we asked for suggestions. Queen Caveat came from Kristin, and Chelsea and I had a brain twin moment over Semi Precious Weapons. Chelsea knows them and asked them to come on board. I have been a fan for a while but Sabrina hasn’t seen them live yet! Rags and Ribbons approached us through The Mint. Panelists gave us suggestions, people approached us and we found people on our own. We ended up with this incredible lineup!
Sabrina- It worked out a lot better than I expected the first one to work out.
Stacey- I don’t know if we had been able to do what we have in such a short amount of time had Sabrina not met Chelsea and Kristin. Chelsea has been an angel, a mentor and a huge supporter.
Sabrina- The event would not be what it is without her. We really hit it off with everybody. Everyone we have been working with has been absolutely amazing and lovely.
How did you pick the panelists?
Sabrina- We weren’t going to have panelists from the industry necessarily. Mostly it was going to be the bands, each band has their own panel. Well, when Chelsea got involved she said, “I know people who will do this, they will come talk.” I thought, “Oh, how much will that cost us?” She said nothing. Sure enough, people were coming to us and wanted to do this.
Stacey- Chelsea was a godsend, she has an amazing group of friends that surround her and she had us talking to all kinds of people. Then, along the way we thought, “Oh, this person would be cool!” and it all came together as it should. The industry is small, so once people started talking, people wanted to be involved.
How many panels will there be?
Sabrina- Eight. About an hour each.
Stacey- Yeah, an hour was perfect. It’s long enough to have good conversation but not long enough for people to get bored.
Will there be moderators or people asking questions?
Sabrina- Yes, both! There will be moderators and then someone in the audience with a microphone for questions. We will be capping the last panel of the convention off without a moderator because we are ending with a fan panel.
How will you measure Overture Con’s success?
Stacey- When people come away from the event saying, “Oh my God, that was amazing, I have never had an experience like that.” And its not just the fans saying it, but everyone involved. When people ask when the next one is and if they can be involved would be another measure of success. It’s not just our success, its everyone involved who has helped us from the beginning.
Band Member Interview- Justin Tranter- Semi-Precious Weapons
How did you feel about being asked to be a part of Overture Con?
Miss Chelsea Schwartz is the one who approached us about doing it, and we always take everything she is involved with pretty seriously.
What was your reaction when reading about the goals of OC?
I guess my reaction was that I was pretty honored they asked us to headline something so special.
Many times fans feel awkward about waiting around to meet bands or Meet and Greets in general, what is it like for you on the band side of it all?
We are pretty darn close with our fans, and I think my personality lends its self pretty well to a meet and greet, so we love them and our fans love them! We get hear ridic stories of how our shows and music became a part of someone’s life, it’s a dream come true really.
Have you experienced any star struck moments with bands you are fans of?
I met Stevie Nicks once and thought I was gonna pass out. But she was so fucking cool I was able to keep it together.
How important do you think it is for fans to feel a sense of family with both you as band members as well as a whole fandom (audience)?
I think in the age of twatterspacevinebook-ness people expect artists to share everything, so you may as well give in to it. And I love to see our fans from Texas make friends with fans in Romania because of our music, that’s beautiful.
What actions do you take to keep in touch with your fans?
Ask our fans…hahaha…we go deep!
Why should people listen to your band? What makes you unique? If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
Everyone is unique if they aren’t afraid of themselves. I’m proud to say we aren’t afraid of much. Except a world with no diet coke and whiskey. That’s scary. Our slogan…hmmm… “We’re alive alive…”
Panelist Interview- Vicki Hamilton- Aesthetic V Management and Entertainment Company
How did you feel about being asked to be on a panel at Overture Con?
I am very excited to be a part of Overture Con….and flattered to be asked to participate with such young and upcoming music executives, I’m sure I will learn a lot about the “the new music business.” Very excited too that my baby band Lucid Dream Factory is going to be playing acoustically Saturday afternoon.
What was your reaction when reading about the goals of OC?
I think it is really smart! Since we have become such a social media world, the fans don’t get many opportunities to connect with the artist they love or executives to answer their mentoring needs. Sometimes it’s just nice to have an eye to eye conversation!
Any stories of memorable experiences you have shared with bands that you would like to share?
Oh gosh…so many! Since I worked with GNR, Poison, Motley etc…it would be hard to pick just one…I’m currently writing a book with Iris Berry which will be a full book of those kind of accounts and memories. It will be coming out on Punk Hostage
Press in the near future, most likely 2014…so keep a look out!
What are the best things bands can do to keep fans engaged (especially in times of lull-like when recording or on a break)?
Blog on their websites, post home made videos, engage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Here is a link to Amanda Palmer on Ted Speaks about that very thing….I think this is brilliant and true!
How do you discover new music? What sounds/characteristics of a band draw you in?
Most of the bands I have worked with have been referred to me by a music business person or a musician…If musicians like a band…they are usually pretty good…they tend to hate most bands.
My advice to bands is this:
1. Have amazing songs 2. A great live performance 3. Be personable, let your fans know you care 4. Be original and don’t be a cookie cutter of the bands that you love, take it to the next level. 5. Be true to who you are and don’t kiss ass to industry people but listen to their advice, then make your own decision. 6. Be loyal to the people who loved you and helped you in the beginning, it’s good karma!
Who was the first band(s) you really became a huge fan of?
As a kid I loved the Partridge Family, Osmonds, and Jackson 5 as a pre-teen and teenage DAVID BOWIE! still my favorite, Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones. Of course I am a huge fan of all the bands I worked with too…I have to love it to want to get involved.
How did you get into the music industry in the way that you are?
I started in a record store as a clerk and record buyer, I was a music journalist too and wrote album and concert reviews in a free press. Then I started managing bands and doing A&R at labels, then started my own label. I also promoted concerts and booked clubs. Now I continue to manage bands, consult, write musicals, screenplay and make documentary films…mine is very aesthetic world…I’m grateful.
Basically, if you are a music fan, this is definitely an event YOU should be at!
Date: May 18-19, 2013
Convention: The Mint, 6010 West Pico Blvd, LA 90035
Times: Convention 12p – 5p
Shows 8:15p – 12:30a
Click the link for ticket information: http://overturecon.com/ticket-information.html