"It's a long way to the top, If you wanna rock and roll." AC/DC
When Jim Lewi decided to "send it" off the extreme chair lift in Aspen on Saturday, he didn't really consider all the consequences. Luckily, Lewi recovered from the resulting "yard-sale" and played through with an aching back and a bruised ego.
In 1996 Lewi took another un-calculated risk. From the back of his van...Jim Lewi begat ASPEN LIVE (click for their website). 20 years later Aspen Live is "THE think tank" for the Music and Live Entertainment industries. Aspen Live is considered the "Sun Valley Conference for the Music Industry" and has morphed into one of the most influential, most enjoyable and most fun conferences on the calendar.
Click for pix: 20 YEARS of PASSION
The Aspen Live crowd is tightly knit, they like to party and they like to do deals...with each other. "The Hang" is often more important than the finely currated curriculum. Agents, promoters, venue owners, ticket sellers, tech geeks and music professionals make it out to Fat City every year to gig on the mountain and off. The result: Aspen Live is a family.
If there is one word to describe Aspen Live it's PASSION. It was clearly a passion project when Lewi created it in 1996. Think about it...the music industry in 1996 was in complete disarray. CD's were being sold for pennies over cost...remember CD's? R.E.M. and Tracy Chapman were really hot (really). Beck's album Odelay ruled the day (sort of). The internet music scene was just getting started. Real live ticket scalpers, excuse me...brokers still had jobs. Touring was thought to be a necessity in order to sell discs. Tupac was super hot, but then he got shot...RIP. M.C. Hammer declared bankruptcy and Michael Jackson got divorced from Lisa Marie Presley. Napster didn't even come out until 1999. Suffice to say...a lot has changed since 1996. Aspen Live has evolved. Yet for 20 years it has remained a cutting edge event to learn, to meet, to greet, to network and to get business done.
One thing has not changed over two decades. Jim Lewi is still passionate about Aspen Live. Almost all the Aspen Live attendees love their careers in the music and live entertainment business. This years con had over 150 registered participants from all rungs of the music food chain.
Highlights included an intimate discussion with the guys responsible for putting together the Fair Thee Well / Grateful Dead shows in Chicago and Santa Clara last Summer. Mike Luba and Peter Shapiro had some great stories to share. Andrew Dreskin is generally considered the first guy to sell an on-line ticket and rumor has it he's done quite well in that business. How well? Let's just say he wears success nicely. All this mishegoss was moderated by Steiny Steinberg.
Day 2 saw a lively discussion with Mark Williamson, head of artists services at Spotify. That was followed by a session with Scott Borchetta, the guy who broke Taylor Swift. There was a wee bit of irony in the scheduling, because in case you haven't heard, Spotify and Taylor dont agree on much.
Bob Lefsetz (who grills everyone) went one-on-one with one of the most powerful men in music. Marc Geiger who heads up Music for William Morris Endeavor. Geiger, considered a visionary into internet music and a founder of Lalapalooza comfortably held his own under the glare of the spotlight that is Bob.
it was a great itinerary to celebrate the 20 th year of Aspen Live. That to go along with the skiing and riding, the networking and the non-stop kibitzing.
The overwhelming thing that bands the Aspen Live family together is the undying passion for music and entertainment. Make no mistake about it...Aspen Live is a family. Whether its your rookie year or your 20th time attending Aspen Live...it's hard not to get pulled in for the real thing..."the Hang".
Congratulations to Jim Lewi and Aspen Live on their 20th Anniversary session. You have built a lasting and meaningful event here in Aspen. Cheers to the next 20 years. To the Aspen Live fam...anyone who has ever attended...we'll see you out here in Aspen next year for one of the best, most productive ways to party like a rock star.
Click for Pix: 20 Years of Passion.