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Next Level Music Industry Showcase and Conference


Next Level Music Industry Showcase and Conference

Spotlight on Sonoma Music

By Brian Marland

The Sonoma County music scene is getting some attention from regional and national music industry pros with a new event – the Next Level Music Industry Showcase and Conference.  The 3 day event is scheduled for April 15-17 in Railroad Square, Santa Rosa and is being produced by Creative Sonoma and North Bay Hootenanny (NBH).

The first two days will look familiar if you follow the NBH.  This year, Josh Windmiller, the Hootenanny’s founder as teamed up with local music agency Second Octave Entertainment to produce his nearly annual music showcases at the Arlene Francis Center (99 6th St, Santa Rosa).   Local and regional favorites, playing a variety of styles from swing to rock to Americana will take the stages starting at 7:00 pm on Friday night and 5:00 on Saturday.  Bands include Lungs & Limbs, Ashley Allred, Kevin Russell and the Rhythm Rangers and Royal Jelly Jive.

Sunday is a full-on music industry conference where experts will meet with Sonoma musicians and discuss what it takes to take their careers to the Next Level – whatever that might be.  The keynote speaker, Griff Morris, is the senior manager of artist and industry strategy at Amazon Music.  There will be panels about the artistry and business of music careers presented by booking agents, record label staff, music licensing companies, the GRAMMY Awards, and songwriters associations.

Something for everyone.

And on top of all that, at the end of the day, Creative Sonoma will launch a grant program  5 $2500 grants will be available for local musicians to have the cash to actually advance their careers. 

 Next Level Keynote Speaker Griff Morris (second from left) with artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

As a recent transplant to Sonoma County, the vibrant music community has provided me with a great way to meet new friends and start setting roots here in California. After witnessing some raucous fun-loving music at the Wednesday Night Market in downtown Santa Rosa, I introduced myself and was soon holding a sousaphone, playing with the Black Sheep Brass Band. Playing with this band has highlighted some of the struggles that the Next Level Conference hopes to overcome. A lack of funds has limited our ability to record even a simple Live EP, precluding further marketing and fundraising efforts. Getting advice from professionals, networking with other musicians, and the opportunity to apply for a grant, will be instrumental in helping the Black Sheep Brass reach the Next Level. 

I am currently a Research Project Coordinator at the County’s Economic Development Board which is where Creative Sonoma is housed.  I spend most of my time here working on economic research, but when the Creative Sonoma team heard I was a musician, they invited me to participate in the planning meetings for this event so I’ve had the chance to watch it all unfold. This is a unique new experience for Sonoma County, and I am very excited to have a chance to participate as both an organizer and attendee.

Ticket prices for the showcases and conference range from $15 - $30 and are going fast.  Go to for a full run-down on all three days and to register.