In a non-descript office building set among car dealerships on Odana Rd. Tuesday night, a couple dozen musicians, some of them uncomfortably sporting day-job business casual attire, gather in a handful of conversation knots drinking beer and grazing on snacks.
Conversations about effects pedals, CDs in production and the current state of MySpace dominate as the gathering starts to resemble a professional networking group which, essentially, is what it is. The occasion is the registration kick-off for the 2007 Madison Area Music Awards.
Jon Schoepke is here, registering his electronic band, Giddings Love For Who. With a CD in production and an active MySpace page, Schoepke is hoping to raise his groups profile via the MAMAs.
"We just want to get some recognition for what we've been doing," Schoepke says.
In its fourth year, the MAMAs are threatening to become an institution in town. According to Roy Elkins, president of the MAMAs board of directors, about 700 people voted in last year's awards which included 150 - 200 musicians, bands and other performers who registered. The point of Tuesday's festivities are to get those local musicians once again fired up about getting involved in our own little version of the Grammies.
Elkins, who also owns Broadjam, an online music distribution service, plays host at his company's new offices. The space allows musicians to register for the awards with some assistance from Broadjam staff, chat about the scene with peers and even pull out their guitars for an impromptu jam.
Elkins shows off the space and emphasizes that while the MAMAs organization might be known most for the annual awards show - Saturday, May 12, at the Barrymore - it was founded with a philanthropic mission.
"The goal of the MAMAs is to put instruments in kids hands," Elkins says. "We're a not-for-profit, but we're not without cash. We're continuing to raise more money."
Part of that fundraising effort happens in the annual voting process. Anyone can log on to the MAMAs site and participate in the voting process by paying $5. That aspect of the awards has been controversial in years past, but Elkins says it has allowed the organization to stay true to its mission.
"The $5 people pay to register doesn't go to the MAMAs," says Elkins. "That goes right toward the instruments."