New England Music Awards – Fueling Our Creative Economy

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Want to get in on the ground floor of discovering future Grammy Award winners or rock n’ roll Hall-of-Famers?  Then make your way to the 3rd annual New England Music Awards, taking place at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on February 21-22, 2014.  It’s an amazing showcase of the region’s best independent musicians and bands, many of them destined for stardom.

State tourism officials are delighted that NEMA has found its home in Lowell, a city known for hosting first-class musical events such as the Lowell Folk Festival and the Lowell Summer Music Series each summer.  Because of its location, affordability, cultural traditions and proximity to highways and transportation, Lowell is the perfect place to host this regional event, says Deb Belanger, head of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, who helped bring NEMA to the city in 2013.   She wants the event to grow in Lowell each year, and we do too.

The local music scene is part of the bustling creative community in Massachusetts, which employs over 100,000 people and contributes $1 billion to the state’s economy, says Helena Frucio, who heads up the state’s Creative Economy Initiative.   Keeping musicians and other artists busy, prosperous and satisfied with where they live is important to the state.  A robust performing arts scene also attracts tourists from across the country and around the world, and that is good for our economy.

As a sign of the NEMA’s growing popularity, over 4,200 bands submitted entries this year, says Joseph Graham, co-founder of the event.   Over 100 finalists were culled from the entries by a committee of top music journalists, radio personalities, talent buyers and record label executives from across the six New England states.  Then online voters choose the winners.

The awards ceremony on Saturday, February 22, is hosted by comedian Steve Sweeney, a Massachusetts treasure in his own right.  He’ll help announce the awards in 23 different categories, including Band of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best in State for each of the six New England states.

What we like about NEMA is its commitment to helping independent musicians find the right resources to be successful.  On Saturday afternoon it is presenting a free Artists Conference, in which aspiring and seasoned musicians alike can attend workshops on marketing and social media, hear live demonstrations, meet talent scouts and ask questions about business contracts, insurance and other topics of interest.

Pundits are already suggesting that NEMA could become the next SXSW Music Festival, the iconic gathering of indie music lovers that takes place in Austin, TX, each winter.  We say why not!  Massachusetts has the cultural traditions, grassroots spirit and natural talent, plus  a host of excellent music colleges (Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, UMass/Amherst and UMass/Lowell to name a few), to become a major destination for performing arts festivities.

In the past few years alone, we’ve had a slew of new festivals, including Boston Calling festival at City Hall Plaza, Outside the Box arts festival in downtown Boston, Life is Good Festival in Canton, the Nines Festival in Devens, and the Summer Arts Weekend at Boston’s Copley Square.

Performing Arts is one of those quality of life assets that help to define a place.  A strong cultural scene is an incentive for talented people to visit, study, and settle down here.  Our performing arts scene continues to grow stronger each year, and that is good for our Creative Economy.