While Charleston may be home to a number of talented artists and a handful of music industry professionals, it's still a relatively small music market compared with areas such as Nashville, Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
But one event organizer in Columbia thinks Charleston's strong tourism appeal is enough to make it a top music destination, and he's out to prove it by the end of the summer.
Dave Stewart, who was a radio DJ around the country for 25 years, recently retired to launch an event production company in Columbia. One of the first events he's organizing is the New Music Confab, a regional music showcase and conference planned in Charleston this August.
Stewart said he hopes the event will be a smaller-scale version of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, which has become somewhat of a proving ground for independent artists over the past few decades.
“Obviously (South by Southwest) has been a tremendous success, but for a lot of folks who are in the music industry, it's gotten to be a bit overwhelming,” Stewart said, adding that its massive crowds and extensive lineup of performers makes it difficult for small, regional acts to stand out. “My goal with New Music Confab is to re-create the feel of the early years of SXSW, bringing music industry leaders together for a music discovery experience in an amazing town.”
The New Music Confab, he said, would include showcases of about 12-15 artists over three nights from Aug. 27-29, and about half of them would be independent, local acts. He's already reserved the Charleston Music Hall and the Music Farm for the shows.
The list of participating bands has not been finalized, but he expects artists to mostly fall under the alternative and Americana genres.
Many of the unsigned performers will be nominated through the event's Facebook page, and a panel of industry professionals will choose which artists will be invited to the showcase.
The three-day event also will feature speaker panels of local and national figures in the industry.
At first, it seems like a pretty lofty goal to get a festival as large and successful as SXSW to take off in Charleston, which isn't yet on the map of the national music scene.
But Stewart doesn't seem concerned about that.
He thinks Charleston is now what Austin was like about 25 years ago before its music scene became so large.
“The Austin that you see now is not the same city it was when South By came into existence in the early '90s,” he said. Charleston is an ideal destination for this showcase, he said, because “there is enough of a music scene with local and regional talent as well as a town that has a high-enough profile that people around the country will want to visit for the weekend.”
Local singer-songwriter Tyler Boone has booked a number of performances in Charleston this spring, including one at the First Flush Festeaval with headliner Sheryl Crow.
But what many of Boone's fans in the area may not realize is that the upcoming performances will be some of his last as a Charleston-based musician.
The Lowcountry native said he's moving to Nashville at the end of the summer after making a few promising industry connections while performing there a few months ago.
He's been in talks with a new booking agency and a reputable manager, he said, and they've offered him an opportunity to pursue his career in the Music City.
“They told me, 'Well, if you come up here with your full band, then we'll start talking,' ” he said. “I love Charleston, and I have absolutely no hard feelings about it at all. But after playing here for so long, eventually you just get the feeling of, 'OK, what do I do next?'”
The singer-songwriter's next local show is April 9 at the Pour House on James Island. Cost is $10; doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 8:30.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.