Latin Alternative Music Conference, Day 3

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Ernest Barteldes

Latin Alternative Music Conference, Day 3
Friday, July 11, 2008
Roosevelt Hotel & Prospect Park, New York

On the second day of panels and networking at Midtown's The Roosevelt Hotel, former producer Moses Avalon discussed the various pitfalls faced by young musicians in the dog-eat-dog world of show business. Among other topics, he gave examples on how independent musicians can seek royalties and how not to “get played” (or swindled). In a very stark example, he said that if an artist wants to “screw the label” (his words) he should always “use protection,” an allusion to being aware of one's rights before signing the dotted line.

He also argued against the claim that major labels are in a bad situation as it has appeared on the media, saying that they were using slow CD sales “as an excuse” to complain against downloading lobbying Congress for more control over material they release. According to his statement, disc sales are at the same level they were back in 1991, and that they get much profit from licensing, legal downloads and merchandise.

Back at the pressroom, we spoke with Chilean-born DJ Bitman, who was on hand for the Saturday Afternoon Summerstage concert. He told us that “LAMC is a great opportunity for Latin musicians to open doors in the US, and it is exciting and important for all of us from Chile and all over Latin America,” he explained.

He also told us that the response to Latin Bitman, his latest remix compilation “has been amazing – two tracks from it have appeared in video games and others have appeared on weekly TV shows Stateside,” and with a smile he concluded that he “couldn't ask for more.”

At a later panel discussion, a group of music supervisors for TV, video games, film and advertising talked about the many opportunities available for Latin artists in the realm of licensing for the kind of products they make, going from placements in commercials, TV series and the like.

Brazilian-born Raphaella Lima, a music director at Electronic Arts explained that sometimes the path isn't easy, telling the story on how it was difficult to include a hip-hop tune in an NBA video game because executives believed the artist (who she did not name) had a bad reputation. She also stressed that this kind of placement can help make an artist who would probably not get radio exposure otherwise.

After the events at the Midtown hotel ended, it was time to head to Brooklyn for the two main shows listed for that night. When we got there, Ticklah had already finished his set, and it was the turn for homegrown talent Chicha Libre (literally, in this case– some of the musicians live blocks away from the venue) to showcase their psychedelic cumbias inspired by bandleader Olivier Conan's travels through Peru, where this sound originally came from.

The crowd didn't respond well to them – many around me were chatting and sipping beer without paying much attention to the music, either because they were unfamiliar with it or simply due to the fact that they were there for the main act.

Nevertheless, Chicha Libre soldiered on, getting some of the audience's attention with songs like the French-language “Indian Summer,” which featured vocals by a very pregnant Alyssa Lamb (one of the vocalists from local band Las Rubias del Norte), who also participated on Chicha's independently released disc, Sonido Amazonico (Barbes Records)

The weather was perfect for an outdoor concert – the temperature had dropped to the mid-70s, and with a comfortable breeze and almost no humidity. Although the band shell area was packed to capacity, it was not as suffocating as it had been in earlier editions.

After a 25-minute break, The Brazilian Girls graced the stage, playing some quirky songs from their upcoming CD, New York City. Vocalist Sabina Sciubba was dressed in a puffy white dress, oozing sexiness and charm. Even though some of the songs were completely new, the strong had fans immediately on their feet, cheering and clapping to every song. The band clearly fed on that, and turned the energy up song after song almost without interruption, including “All About Us” and “Don't Stop,” their biggest hits from 2006's Talk To La Bomb.

Among the new tunes, “Berlin” was the quirkiest, bringing a circus-like vibe that reminded me of The Beatles' “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The set stretched until after 10:30 p.m., when after a short encore venue's directors announced that the band had run out of time. Fans booed for a short while, and then applauded loudly as Sciubba returned to the mike to bid everyone her farewells.

With one day left, we are looking forward to going to Central Park to check out what DJ Bitman, Plastinina Mosh and Julieta Venegas will bring to the stage. Stay tuned.

- Ernest Barteldes

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