Singer-Songwriter Cape May seeks to educate, entertain about the changing music industry

Singer-Songwriter Cape May seeks to educate, entertain about the changing music industry

Singer-Songwriter Cape May seeks to educate, entertain about the changing music industry

 In what’s turned into a musical rite of spring, singer/songwriters will return to Cape May this weekend.

Singer-Songwriter Cape May, a two-day festival of live music, workshops, and panel discussions, is marking its 10th year at the Jersey Shore resort on Friday and Saturday.

John Harris, director of the conference, says it has evolved over the past decade.

“We started out with about 100 acts in 2008,” recalls Harris, who grew up in Havertown and graduated from Monsignor Bonner High School in 1969. “Now we go between 130 and 180 acts, depending on how many venues agree to participate. I think we’re at 146 (acts) in 2017,” the Harrisburg resident estimates.

Performers will come from 14 states, Washington, D.C., and Australia. Harris, who has managed artists and concert venues, started the Millennium Music Conference & Showcase in Harrisburg in 1997. He felt the Jersey Shore could also support a conference.

“We wanted to kick off spring in Cape May when room rates were affordable for musicians and the weather might cooperate,” he says. Harris credits Patrick Logue, vice president of operations at Cape May Resorts, for his support.

“I consider Patrick to be a co-founder because he visited my conference in Harrisburg a decade ago to discuss putting together an event for Cape May,” Harris says.

Doreen Talley, marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, says the conference has provided an economic boost for the region. “Total revenue for that weekend is about 50-60 percent higher over a normal winter weekend,” she estimates.

The historic Congress Hall hosts the workshops and panel discussions, while performances are held there and at more than a dozen venues around the resort in the evening, including Carney’s, the Mad Batter Restaurant and Bar, and the Ugly Mug.

All shows are free except for the Friday and Saturday evening concerts headlined by keynote speakers Jim Boggia and Jonatha Brooke at the Grand Ballroom at Congress Hall. The venues are within walking distance to allow visitors to check out the wide range of performers, Harris notes.

What will Brooke discuss in her speech? “It’s a secret,” she says with a laugh in a phone interview.

Turning serious, she adds, “I’ll be speaking about being mobile and covering all your bases.” Brooke, who has recorded and toured as a member of The Story and as a solo act over the past 25 years, says flexibility and adaptability are necessary for artists.

Its advice she has followed. She recently staged My Mother Has 4 Noses, a one-woman show about dealing with her Mom’s dementia, and is now touring to promote Midnight. Hallelujah., her latest album.

“You have to figure out social media,” Brooke says, “in an age where people don’t want to pay for music.” She points to artists using fundraising sites that allows fans to finance the recording of new music.

In a separate interview, Boggia says his speech will look at songwriting. “It centers on the meaning and language that’s built into your songs that doesn’t come from the lyrics and the idea of listening with your central nervous system in order to identify that language and meaning,” he says.

“It will be zippy and have laughs,” Boggia promised.

Like Brooke, he agrees that social media and the growth of streaming and downloading music have altered his approach after more than 20 years in the business.

“The major thing it’s changed, particularly for independent artists, is it almost entirely flipped the order of when you make, promote and sell the album,” the Philadelphia resident says. “Things used to go in that order. Now with everyone crowdsourcing to make their album, you’re essentially doing the selling up front, and then promoting it before and during the making of the record.”

Harris sees challenge and opportunity for musicians and hopes Singer-Songwriter Cape May can provide guidance and encouragement.

“The whole paradigm of the music industry is in constant change,” he adds. “The digital age and demise of the ‘record label’ have opened opportunities for emerging talent to create a career in the industry. The conference is designed to educate and energize.”

For a complete list of performers and venues, visit

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Published at Mon, 20 Mar 2017 01:06:13 +0000

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