Music business professionals from Music City traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, “The Golden City,” to kick off the first annual five-day Play Prague Music Conference and Concert with a mission “to give major exposure to undiscovered recording artists, bands, singers, and songwriters.”
The conference was the brainchild of cousins Dan Wunsch, songwriter and founder of Nashville Music Guide magazine who was born in the Czech Republic, and Jan Honza Prucha, a musician and native of Prague. “Dan and I wanted to do something different, to bring two cultures together through music,” said Prucha. Accomplished and aspiring artists from the US and Europe gathered at Club Na Slamniku to absorb all of the information that they could about the music business and to share their musical talent during concerts each night.
The Nashville music industry executives, producers, and artists who served as seminar presenters included Rich Adler (Grammy award-winning producer/engineer), Kimberley Dahme (first female member of the rock group Boston), Stan Webb (hit country music singer/songwriter), Suzahn Fiering (jazz diva), Sir Waldo Weathers (member of the James Brown Band for 15 years), Evert Wilbrink (Nashville and European record label executive) and Dan Wunsch (former owner/editor of Nashville Music Guide magazine).
Wilbrink, an expert in both the European and U.S. music business, said, “It’s a pleasure to combine the cultural heritage of the old town with the rich musical heritage of Music City.”
Even though seminars and performances led by the above music pros were top priority on the conference agenda, sitting with some of the most renowned experts in the Nashville music industry during breaks was a memorable learning experience. Casual conversations beginning with phrases like, “When I worked with Paul McCartney…” and “Working with Bob Dylan…” kept attendants rapt as they gained additional insight and obtained a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes making of almost 6 decades of music history. The Nashville pros shared personal stories about such legends as Duke Ellington, James Brown, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash, enticing participants to linger between sessions each day.
The experts further shared their musical knowledge and experiences and offered words of encouragement and motivation to rising artists throughout the daily sessions. During the seminar “Crafting a Hit Song,” Webb, an accomplished songwriter whose many hits include “I’m From the Country,” explained that one of the purposes of songwriting is to help others express themselves. He said that he enjoys “helping people bring out the best of what they have inside. I believe there is a hit song in everyone.”
Creating and maintaining a lasting music career was discussed in depth during Suzahn Fiering’s seminar “How to Become An International Independent Touring Artist.” Approaching independent touring with a business strategy is instrumental in reaching a broad audience and developing a lasting touring career, according to Fiering. The jazz diva emphasized that finding a fan base in one target city at a time, whether in Europe or the US, is key in creating wide-ranging exposure. “Once a fan base is developed, move to the next city or town and do the same thing.”
Headliner Kimberley Dahme, bassist of the rock band Boston, addressed the art of performance during her seminar, “Sustaining A Successful Performing Career.” She explained that performing is about being creative and expressing oneself. However, expressing herself openly through music wasn’t always so easy. During her college years, Dahme got a job as a radio and TV announcer to overcome stage fright and become more comfortable speaking in front of others. With such fears a distant memory, Dahme shared her experiences and philosophy as a successful international performing artist.
Dahme said that the most important thing an artist can do is “be good.” “Get as good as you can get,” she said. However, honing one’s craft to be “good” takes hard work and grueling practice. Dahme shared that Boston sometimes practices two songs a day for about 12 hours when preparing for a tour. “I enjoy working with perfectionists because it makes me better. When performing, you have to give the audience your best.”
Dahme said that she thinks of the stage as her living room. She tries to be welcoming and share a piece of herself through her musical expression. “I want people to feel something. When I see people sitting with their arms crossed, but then they start tapping their feet, then bobbing their heads, I feel that I have opened them up to feel and enjoy the show.”
As the headlining act of the final concert at Club Vagon, Dahme mesmerized the audience with soulful performances of songs from her new album Let's Sleep On It Tonight, including “When Love Comes Callin,’” as well as crowd favorites such as “Can’t A Girl Change Her Mind” and the inspiring “You Make Me Believe.”
Prucha and his Prague-based band performed with Dahme during the closing concert. Prucha said, “I feel lucky to have been part of the show with Kimberley and to contribute to her performance. She has amazing stage presence, and we learned a lot from her expertise.”
As co-organizer of the conference, Prucha said, “We plan to make Play Prague even bigger and better next year so that more Czech bands can display their talent, while coming together with a common goal of making and sharing music.”
To learn more about Play Prague, please visit www.playprague.com.
By Kerri Bartlett