David Michael Miller
The MAMAs provide motivation to create.
With new honors for roadies and children's music, performances by acts like Kyle Henderson and Son Contrabando, and proceeds benefiting music education, the 11th annual Madison Area Music Awards will celebrate the talent, drive and diversity in the local music scene. The awards ceremony takes place on June 22 at Overture Center, after a red-carpet event that aspires to out-glitz the Grammys.
The awards were conceived by Tvedt, graphic designer Stephen Ellestad and musician Mark Adkins. The longtime goal has been twofold: celebrating Madison-made music and raising money for good causes.
Voters had to pay a $5 registration fee to the Madison Area Music Association this year. Each registrant receives a membership to Broadjam, a Madison-based service that helps artists license and promote their work. Over the years, this fee has helped supplement music programs at area schools and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club. But some local musicians don't participate in the MAMAs because they object to the fee, because they aren't aware of the opportunity, or because they don't see the point of awards, resulting in an incomplete pool of nominees.
Tvedt says $5 is a small price to pay for participation. The entry fee used to be $10, but it has been reduced since the MAMAs gained sponsors for award categories.
"Last I checked with WAMI [the statewide music awards], it was $40 per band member to be a member, up to $200. In light of that, [the MAMAs] are a tremendous bargain," he says.
Tvedt emphasizes that the Madison Area Music Association is a charity, and that the registration fee is a donation. He argues that the fee is "necessary" because it helps "maintain voting integrity and prevents subversion."
But even if a local act doesn't mind paying a few bucks to be considered for an award, its fans might not want to pay $5 to vote. Tvedt points to a lack of negative feedback about the fee, noting that music fans should be willing to donate at least a little bit of money to help recognize the local scene.
"We get no complaints on the $5 registration donation, though it amazes me that in 2014 we still hear complaints about $5 covers at our fundraisers," he says.
The MAMAs are just one facet of Tvedt's work as an advocate for local music. He and Matt Jacoby run a project called Local Sounds, whose mission is "to document and preserve Madison's music history as well as support the current roster of artists working in Madison."
Tvedt has been increasingly vocal about the need for musicians to be paid fairly. He's also been spending more time sharing ideas about how to build a financially sustainable music career. He says many local performers face two major obstacles when they're considering whether to pursue music full time.
"First is time, because building a network and a fan base takes an incredible amount of time on top of the rehearsing, recording, writing and gigging, and on top of a day job. The second is stability. Few groups can persevere long enough to realize their ambitions," he says.
The Local Sounds blog recently made waves with a post titled "The Revenue You May Be Missing Out On," which shared an infographic explaining how three Seattle musicians make a living through their art. While Seattle is a much larger city than Madison, Tvedt and Jacoby are interested in helping artists explore revenue opportunities they might not know about.
So how do the MAMAs fit into this work? For starters, they provide motivation to create. They also recognize some of the work that goes unnoticed in the life of a musician, from loading heavy gear into a van before a performance to practicing diligently before recording an album.
Tvedt says the presentation of this year's lifetime achievement awards will be especially moving. The 2014 recipient will be gospel icon Leotha Stanley, who'll be honored at the ceremony by Wisconsin Public Radio broadcaster Jonathan Overby.
New as of last year, there's also a songwriter award that honors a local composer for a body of work. Marques Bovre received the award in 2013, after dying of brain cancer.
"It was a very, very moving moment," says Tvedt. "There are always several very moving moments; some are poignant. Those are the highlights for me."