In August 2019, the U.S. National Whitewater Center hosted two days of live music, panel discussions and workshops that aimed to inspire, inform, connect, elevate and celebrate the music community in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.
Coming out of that weekend, it appeared that Confluence could become a staple in Charlotte’s music scene, serving as part festival and part convention, benefiting the countless artists who call the Charlotte area home. Then, as was the case with so many other local events, businesses and organizations, COVID-19 brought a swift end to that vision.
Now, after a four-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, Confluence is back, set to return on Oct. 18-19 with a fresh slate of panels, workshops and live music performances spread across venues at AvidXchange Music Factory and other venues in Charlotte. Organizers say they intend for Confluence to become the must-attend annual music industry event in the Carolinas.
Produced by Music Everywhere Charlotte, a nonprofit initiative launched by Charlotte Center City Partners dedicated to growing Charlotte’s music scene and economy, the festival came as the result of a 2018 report from the organization based on community input, surveys and focus groups intending to understand the greatest needs of the local music industry.
The report led to the development of an action plan that included the creation of a regional music industry conference. Organizers worked with local artists, venue owners, booking agents, producers, indie label heads and others to create a conference that would be helpful to a wide range of folks within the music community.
“I think the report created the awareness that what the scene was looking for was an opportunity to learn and really come together,” said Taylor Winchester, local songwriter, performer, and a Confluence organizer. “And I think Confluence was our effort … to try and be a part of the solution.”
That specific solution was, unfortunately, put on pause. Following the 2019 fest, the directors had scheduled a meeting to discuss planning the next Confluence, but ironically, they had scheduled it for March 27, 2020, the day Gov. Cooper issued his statewide stay-at-home order.
The interruption, however, only fostered improvement, insisted Rick Thurmond, head of Music Everywhere Charlotte and chief marketing officer with Charlotte Center City Partners.
“The first time around, it was really about ‘Let’s see if this works, let’s see what people think,’” Thurmond told Queen City Nerve. “This time around, we’re really taking it up a couple more notches.”
Confluence is a chance for newcomers and old heads to learn
In 2019, the Whitewater Center offered attendees a heightened focus on the live music experience. This year, Thurmond said festival organizers are working to ensure that the conference aspect of the weekend doesn’t get overlooked.
“I will look at [Confluence 2023] as an equal focus,” Thurmond said. “We want to produce a conference that really benefits [and] celebrates the music community here, whether it’s working artists or people on the business side.”
The event will include two days of educational sessions and a final night of showcases in various Charlotte venues like Snug Harbor, Petra’s, Neighborhood Theatre and more. Thurmond said his team is still solidifying performers and additional venues, but that information will be released in the coming weeks.
Local, regional and national industry representatives will also lead sessions on music marketing, booking tours, production essentials, visual content, collaborations, digital service provider (DSP) playlists and more at the AvidXchange Music Factory.
“The hope would be that [Confluence] is a resource and educational opportunity for folks that are trying to really grow their careers, maybe take it to the next level,” Winchester said. “And then at the same time, [figuring out] how we build content that is also relevant to people that are already at a certain level within the industry.”
Jason Jet, R&B artist and owner of GrindHaus Studios in east Charlotte, is set to lead a session on touring and music engineering, kicking off his second year participating in Confluence. Fresh off artist and record producer Erykah Badu’s Unfollow Me tour, Jet is excited to share his experience touring as a monitoring engineer with budding artists.
“[This years’ Confluence is] a little bit more grounded in the art and connecting people in a bigger way,” Jet said.
Winchester admitted that, as an artist, it’s difficult to have the capacity to also learn the business side with so many other things happening on a daily. Confluence offers a low-risk environment for people at all stages in their career to develop their skills and knowledge.
Thurmond said the event will provide an opportunity for local artists to learn actionable information used to advance their music, build connections and community through networking and give audiences a chance to experience the depth and richness of our local and regional talent.
The goal is to make Charlotte a regional music hub
Moving Confluence from the Whitewater Center to Uptown gives audiences a glimpse into what Thurmond calls the lifeblood of the music ecosystem: local, independent venues.
Out-of-state industry representatives coming to participate in the conference will be able to explore what Charlotte has to offer — not just in our music, but the community as a whole.
Bands from Gastonia, Shelby, Concord and other surrounding areas rely on Charlotte’s music scene to gather experience and exposure, so it’s helpful to hold this educational event in the very venues they may be interested in booking.
Thurmond and the Music Everywhere Charlotte team have a vision to unite the communities in and around Charlotte to create a regional music hub full of music business services and industry needs.
“That really kind of strengthens the whole region by virtue of having Charlotte being a hub for music,” Thurmond said.
“I think that’s something we don’t see a lot of in Charlotte communities,” Jet added. ”Tons of artists coming under one roof, [having] one experience like that, I think that’s always a good thing.”
Music Everywhere Charlotte is committed to making Confluence an annual event, as was originally planned, building its reputation and recognition over time. Winchester believes resuming Confluence can help pull influential music industry players into a local conversation, benefiting Charlotte’s music economy and, in turn, allowing Charlotte’s music scene to learn and grow from industry professionals.
Even four years after the first Confluence, Winchester has seen the dialogue within the Charlotte music ecosystem grow, something he’s excited to see progress this year.
“Music, history and heritage is so strong in this area,” he said. “We want anyone that experiences this conference to come away appreciating that and celebrating that.”
Confluence 2023 will occur Oct. 18 and 19 from 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. at AvidXchange Music Factory and other venues. Tickets are expected to go on sale in early August and will include a conference badge, music badge or combo badge. Music Everywhere Charlotte is expecting an attendance of 300 for the conference and 600 for the music showcases.
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