September was OkSessions’ birthday month, we are 1 year old. We are excited to look back on 2018, so we know where we’re going in 2019. We’ve gone from jazz jams to music festivals and laid the foundation to establish a collaborative music media hub in OKC. It’s as important to celebrate your victories as it is to stay humble, so let’s dive in.
1. We Placed Value on Music in Oklahoma City.
Music is valuable to everyone when we treat it like it’s valuable. The expectation, presentation, and communication around the art is what makes music valuable in an economic sense. Consider this: it’s common for local restaurants to command premiums compared to national chains serving the same type of cuisine because boutique restaurants surround the culinary art with intention and care that increases the value of what’s on the plate.
Saints Sessions was a small but important victory because we took an amazing group of jazz musicians and built the session from a monthly jam to a weekly ticketed show that is generally well attended and pays bands 2-4 times what they earned at the same venue before there was a cover charge.
The musicians at Saints Sessions have been in OKC for years, but we treated the stage like it was sacred, consistently introduced the band like they were important (they are), brought in talented emcees, photographers, videographers, writers, and other media professionals, and enthusiastically invited people via social media, email, web, posters, media coverage, and word of mouth.
The vision for 2019:
The general public of Oklahoma City really likes music, especially jazz. Show attendance has consistently increased, and we still meet people every week who are just finding out about the music here. We see that trend increasing next year as our communication channels grow.
We want to explore other types of intimate performances, particularly house shows or performances in creative spaces. We are working on launching live music subscriptions that would give subscribers monthly access to unique live concerts. We will manage these subscriptions through our Patreon, which is already up if you’d like to support our blog and calendar.
2. We Invited Non-Musicians to Play with Us.
Deep Deuce Sessions was a 12-month creative experiment to see what OKC would be like if everyone – musicians, promoters, tastemakers, businesses, media, videographers, photographers, government, and the general public – came together to live in an incredible music city. We hoped the event would show venues how to successfully and profitably draw crowds by hiring musicians and investing in making their spaces great for live music.
Monthly attendance grew from 200 to 800 this year, and we paid musicians $18,000 over 12 months.
The vision for 2019:
Going forward, we will find new ways to reach the public in OKC, branch out to surrounding cities, and invite people from other states to experience the way Oklahoma does live music. Deep Deuce Sessions will go to a 6-month season that runs from April to September and will include an annual Christmas Party featuring musicians who performed at DDS throughout the year.
We have been approached by other districts to organize similar district-wide monthly events, and we are open to that idea. We think OKC could sustain multiple mini-festivals, and we will weigh launching new monthly series against other exciting ideas for reaching new people and making music happen.
3. We took Creative Collaboration to the Next Level.
OkSessions.com began as a place where we can share what we know about local music: which bands are releasing new albums, which shows you should go to next weekend, etc.
In late 2018, we have begun building out interfaces that would allow bands, record labels, bloggers, or enthusiasts to submit live music events or contribute blog posts which we can push through our channels. We think it will be better to feature a lot of voices about local music, not just our own.
The vision for 2019:
Collaboration will always be at the core of what we do. Oklahoma City needs a great music media hub, and we want our site to be more than a blog and calendar. We envision a platform that elevates the voices of the music scene and community, and that platform will be driven by Amplify, our Accelerator for Music Industry Entrepreneurs.
Amplify might be the most exciting thing for OkSessions. We believe technology can bring closer to live music and each other, and we want to explore new cultural concepts that improve the local live music industry for artists, venues, cities, people, and creators. On a more immediate level, Amplify provides great networking and exchange of ideas within our music scene. We would love to see Amplify turn into a music conference that invites music industry professionals and innovators on a regional or national level to scout talent in Oklahoma and weigh in on ideas to grow music economies everywhere.
2018 taught us a lot about collaborative event organization. We are considering what a highly-collaborative, city-wide music festival could look like in Oklahoma City. This idea is a big one, and we want to think carefully not just about logistics, but purpose as well.
4. We Made Stuff. We Learned. We Got Inspired.
We did awesome stuff with our friends without expecting anything in return. Some ideas didn’t pan out; others were a big success. We did some things that caught people’s attention, and we made some things that no one ever saw. Most importantly, we learned a lot about artists and audiences in Oklahoma City.
We appreciate the flexibility and cooperation we experienced working with artists in OKC. Experience is valuable and we have gained confidence together and sharpened each other.
We created every single day, and a little bit of what we made has been awesome.
The vision for 2019:
Innovation is a speculative venture. The key to new discoveries in trying new things. Failures are forgotten, successes are remembered, and consistency is rewarded. OkSessions always leads with our beliefs and values, and we invite music industry entrepreneurs and the general public to rock with us as we push for new ways of doing things. Change is good but not always easy. Mistakes are important to the process of getting things right, and time and effort are rarely wasted if we’re willing to be gritty.
We want to make everything we did bigger in 2019, and we have brand new ideas that are many times larger than anything we have attempted so far. At first, some seemed ridiculous but are becoming feasible as our relationships grow and we gain experience.
Stay tuned and invite your neighbors.