Being a blogger of free and cheap things has many advantages. I save a lot of money doing it and sometimes there are awesome perks. Case in point, this year N4F was given press credentials and got the VIP experience: music, conferences, VIP parties, and sweet, sweet swag.
Let us start with the music. If you jumped on a wristband when they first went on sale you would’ve snagged it for for a mere $35. That’s $8.75 per night of rock. Nights with musicians like M. Ward, Cults, Foster the People, Justin Townes Earle, Yelawolf, and more. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, and it is. The music this year was great. Since there were fewer venues (that were closer together) there were fewer conflicts and most of the venues were walking distance from each other, which has all kinds of benefits.
It would be hard to pick a favorite show of the festival, but standouts for me were Those Darlins at the Factory Party, Dawes and M. Ward at the War Memorial, Foster the People at the 12th Ave Block Party, and Jason Isbell at the Cannery Ballroom. Other great shows were Madi Diaz at the Mercy Lounge, Humming House at Station Inn, and Tristan at the Factory Party. Let’s just say there was a lot of great music and leave it at that for now, because there is so much other stuff to get to.
At any point of on-sale you could’ve opted to pay $150 for a VIP pass that includes parties, free drinks, and a pretty excellent series of “field trips,” Soundland’s attempt to liven up the typically boring conference standard. Field trips were held at places like the Belcourt, the Grammy house, the Soundland Registration House, and the Gibson Guitar showroom. All of the panels I went to were wonderful, but having to drive to different locations throughout the day was a little frustrating, though parking wasn’t ever the problem I thought it would be. Personal panel stand outs for me were the Grooveshark panel on streaming services and what they offer musicians and labels, the Kickstarter panel, and the Root Music/BandPage presentation.
There were also a few interviews and performances sponsored by American Songwriter at the Soundland Registration House. I missed Low Anthem but heard it was excellent and managed to catch the Justin Townes Earl interview. JTE provided great insight into the changes in Nashville and country music over the years and his need to leave the city. He was candid and witty and he played a few of his excellent songs (including a new one) after the interview.
I was incredibly surprised at how few people attended these field trips. I don’t think I saw more than 30 people at any of them. Yeah, VIP passes are a little expensive for some and a lot of people (myself included) have jobs during the day. But if you are a student interested in music, music business, or general marketing and whatnot and didn’t go then for shame! Students with a valid ID got into all of the field trips for free, which is very cool of Soundland.
But I bet you all want to know what goes on at those VIP parties and the swaaaaaaag. I’m not gonna lie, those VIP parties are pretty legit. I didn’t hit them all up but there are some common themes: free booze (mostly Fireball Whiskey), free Red Bull (which was much needed and appreciated) free food (from sushi to BBQ to kick-ass kabobs), and free toys (mostly sweet items from Griffin Tech). The parties were pretty relaxed and I met cool people at all of them, which is quite the feat considering my inherent shyness. There were even VIP areas at some of the shows where you could continue to get free booze and Yelp swag. Man, with all the free goods you get PLUS the shows $150 for a VIP ticket is a sweet deal.