The Americana Music Association’s Annual Festival and Conference — attracted an estimated aggregate attendance of 51,000 during its September 12-17 run. All points of engagement with the event were up from last year, with evening show wristband sales up 36 percent and conference registration up five percent.
The addition of new venues and an increase in performances were instrumental in the overall spike, with AMERICANAFEST℠ hosting 500 performances throughout the week (a jump over last year’s 300) that sprawled across 57 venues and eight Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County city council districts. The event also filled expanded conference space in its new location at the newly opened Westin Hotel in downtown Nashville.
“It was clear from the feedback we received last year that fans and attendees wanted more music and more opportunities to see it,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association℠. “We also heard from locals who loved the Festival and Americana music and wanted to engage with it, but who were finding it hard to commit to an entire week. For those fans, we added separate ticketed events, extra venues throughout the city with lower price points and a ton of free events. That proved to be a successful formula.”
Among those separate ticketed events, which included the sold-out 16th annual Americana Honors & Awards show at the Ryman Auditorium on September 13 — streamed live at NPRMusic.org and other outlets — was a sold-out concert at Ascend Amphitheater by Van Morrison who was awarded the Americana Music Association’s℠ Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting at the Honors & Awards show.
Other special events included “The People Sing!,” a star-studded week-opening concert at historic War Memorial Auditorium featuring Allison Moorer, Rhiannon Giddens, Joe Henry, Alice Randall, Billy Bragg, Blind Boys of Alabama and more; and two film screenings at The Belcourt, Nashville’s nonprofit film center, featuring the world premiere of Old Crow Medicine Show’s 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde The Concert and a special presentation of Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…and More.
The Honors & Awards show will be digitally re-mastered for broadcast in an edited form to air on November 18 as part of PBS’s Austin City Limits “ACL Presents” series.
Among the many artists who performed during the week of the event, in addition to those aforementioned, were John Prine, Iris DeMent, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, The Mavericks, Graham Nash, Jim Lauderdale, Don Bryant, Emmylou Harris, The Lumineers, Bettye LaVette, Dave Alvin, Iron & Wine, Deer Tick, Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer, Josh Ritter, Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Big Star’s Third Live and many more. For an official list of showcasing artists, click here.
In addition to venues that have been mainstays of the Festival, including The Basement, 3rd & Lindsley, The Cannery Ballroom, The Mercy Lounge, City Winery, The Station Inn and more, the Festival also added official showcases at Soulshine Pizza Factory, The Cobra, The Country, The East Room, bringing the total amount of sanctioned showcasing venues to 23. There were also plenty of official special events presented by partners throughout the city at off-site venues, including The Yee-Haw Tent, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Fond Object, Grimey’s New and Preloved Music, The Groove, BMI and RCA Studio A, to name a few.
For the first time, AMERICANAFEST℠ has opened its doors to all 900 musicians including showcasing artists’ band members for an opportunity to attend the conference portion of the event for free and take advantage of Nashville’s most comprehensive music industry forum.
Panel highlights from the conference included the Music Of Nashville – From Script To Studio featuring the hit CMT show’s Executive Music Producer Tim Lauer and Music Supervisor Frankie Pine, along with actor Sam Palladio; The Ups-And-Downs of Artists Curated Events; Talking Music 2: Blues and Roots Music Mavericks; An In-depth Look At The Lumineers’ 2nd Album Cleopatra, which included The Lumineers’ members Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites; Jonathan Taplin – Move Fast and Break Things; From the Song to the Bank; The Ins and Outs of Podcasting; Woody Guthrie: Songs for Social Change; Celebrating 60 Soulful Years – Royal Studios with historic studio owner Boo Mitchell and members of the Hi Rhythm Section; Songwriter Workshop With Joe Henry, Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell; Music Publishing & Performance Rights Organizations; and more.
Additional conference highlights included Southern Blood: A Tribute to Gregg Allman and Mike Judge’s Tales from the Tour Bus Series Premiere & Musical Tribute, presented in partnership by the Americana Music Association℠ and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum; and a special episode of Skyville Live which served as an unforgettable tribute to Graham Nash.
For the second year, the event once again expanded its outreach with the grassroots “Edge of AMERICANAFES” campaign highlighting the East Nashville community supporting, and supported by, almost 30 local businesses offering discounts and additional musical performances to AMERICANAFES attendees.
AMERICANAFES was a national and international affair as well, with 64 percent of attendees coming from 49 different states or territories and 12 percent coming from 14 countries outside the United States, including the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Iceland.
The 19th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference will take place September 11-16, 2018.