Michigan Music Alliance seeks to connect industry

Organization launches databases covering artists, venues and recording studios.
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The Crane Wives performs before a live audience prior to the pandemic. Courtesy Elle Lively

Musicians in the state now have more resources available to them as they navigate the new normal in their industry, courtesy of the Michigan Music Alliance (MMA).

The organization recently launched three new online databases that are designed to serve as resources for the Michigan music industry as they search artists, venues and recording studios.

“This is about collaboration over competition and killing the ‘starving artist’ mentality,” said Elle Lively, executive director of MMA. “In post-pandemic where things are going to be a lot different than they were before, such as how bookings work and how venues pay bands, the theory is that if we work together, we can all be stronger and more successful by sharing those resources and making more lasting connections by leaning on each other instead of each trying to do their own thing and creating their databases. (It) is great that everyone can, but just to create a master one, where people can offer up their information and add their venues and add their studios so that we are all looking at the same starting point can hopefully help people, especially those who are just getting started on the music scene.”

Artists can join the Michigan Artist Database with information that includes their names, names of their bands, links to their website, streaming services, social media handles and the genre of their music. 

The lists of venues and studios are compiled by a team of interns from across the state who are working for MMA this summer. Some of the interns are college students from Ferris State, Wayne State and Grand Valley State universities.

The Michigan Venue Database includes the location and type of venues, capacity limits, contact information, website links and social media information. The Michigan Recording Studio Database includes studio names, locations, contact information and social media handles.

Lively said by June, MMA had well over 100 venues listed in the database, which she said she expects to only continue to grow. Some of those include Frederik Meijer Gardens, the Listening Room, Pyramid Scheme, the Intersection, different breweries and coffee shops.

“All of our studio partners are in the database, so it is about 15 at the moment. But we are really hoping that studio owners, engineers and producers hear about this and let us know about them because there are so many home studios in Michigan where engineers work out of a home studio and are doing amazing work,” Lively said. “They are a little harder to find sometimes, so we’d like them to make themselves known to us so that we can add them to the database. There is a lot of talent that we don’t want to miss.”

Singers and songwriters Nicholas James Thomasma and Sarena Rae both opted in to the Michigan Artist Database with hopes of it helping them to connect with others.

Thomasma, a folk musician, sometimes performs by himself and other times with his band Nicholas James and the Bandwagon.

“I am excited for the database because a lot of times I am constantly trying to find new musicians to play with,” he said. “It seems like I am in an endless search for a bass player and a drummer in my band, and I have gone through a lot of people over the years. Now I am at the point where when I need a drummer, I don’t just have 10 people in mind to ask, ‘Wait, who plays drums?’ So, it is nice to have a resource where you can look up musicians and connect with them.”

Sarena Rae Courtesy Third Coast Recording

Rae, an R&B singer, said she released her EP “Heaven” last year, but she has not been able to perform it live. With the database, she said she will be able to have a release party and perform her music at different venues and collaborate with other artists. 

“It is amazing to find artists to collaborate with. I think it is an amazing tool and an amazing resource that the Michigan Music Alliance has created for us, but not only for musicians but venues and studios,” she said. “I am really excited because I think it is going to be an accessible way to work and collaborate with other people in Michigan.”

The MMA has been serving as a connector for years. On March 8, International Women’s Day, Rae was able to collaborate with a group of more than 25 female artists from across the state who gathered either in their homes or one of MMA’s five partnered studios to create a music video that was paired with a cover performance of “Respect,” paying tribute to Michigan’s Aretha Franklin.

The MMA also was instrumental in helping artists who struggled financially through the pandemic with the launch of the Michigan Artist Relief Fund. The organization was able to raise $50,000 to help Michigan artists pay bills.

Thomasma spent the latter part of 2020 performing drive-thru concerts throughout the state.

“I am grateful for the Michigan Music Alliance,” he said. “The fact that they were able to spearhead such a large relief fundraising (effort) was impressive in itself, and their continued dedication toward improving the lives and the careers of musicians in Michigan is admirable. I am so grateful to have such an organization in Michigan.”

“I am grateful to the Michigan Music Alliance in so many ways,” Rae added. “I love that they advocate for musicians and for the arts.”

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