Attending the DIY Musician Conference in Nashville

The DIY musician community gathered in Nashville for a life-changing 3-day weekend of music biz education, live performances, and more.

Yes. I just used the term “life changing.” No hyperbole.

Last Friday 1400 artists and a great many respected music industry professionals met in Nashville, having traveled from 49 US states and more than a dozen countries, to attend the only full-scale industry conference that focuses solely on the needs of independent musicians.

Attendees paid $99 or less for tickets; they showed up eager to dive deep into new strategies, networking opportunities, and creative exercises that will bring their music to a bigger stage in the year to come; and they left with not only inspiration, but clearer goals, more detailed blueprints for achieving them, and many new friendships.

Oh, plus it’s Music City, so attendees had easy access to the historic Ryman, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Third Man Records, Carter Vintage Guitars, endless live music on Broadway, Music Row, and so much more.

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The DIY Musician Conference
Kevin Breuner welcomes attendees to the conference.

Life-changing, though?

Absolutely. I heard that exact phrase used by so many conference attendees over the past few days. The Omni Nashville Hotel was — if I can sound like a hippie for a second — buzzing with good energy, and in many ways the gathering felt like a (functional) family reunion. Of course CD Baby and Rock Paper Scissors try to lay the groundwork for a great experience, but it’s the artists who make this event so special, bringing and sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge with one another.

To those who were there, thank you! We hope to see you all in 2018 for the 4th DIY Musician Conference, happening again in Nashville, August 24-26.

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Genre meetups at DIY Musician Conference
Making new friends at the genre meetups.

Looking back on the DIY Musician Conference 2017

It’s really impossible to “recap” a conference with:

  • 30+ sessions
  • tons of one-on-one mentoring slots
  • a song pitching session hosted by NPR’s Bob Boilen
  • three nights of live music
  • an all-day jam room
  • a YouTube pop-up studio
  • a tour and recording clinic at Ocean Way Studios
  • a tour of Hatch Show Print
  • the chance to talk to reps from our awesome sponsors (including premium sponsors GigSalad, Berklee Online, and Music City SongStar)
  • not one, but TWO live onstage makeovers from Tom Jackson
  • and so much more

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Mary Gauthier at DIY Musician Conference
Mary Gauthier gives hugs after her moving keynote about authenticity, vulnerability, and the transforming power of song.
Ari Herstand at the DIY Musician Conference
Ari Herstand mentoring artists at the DIY Musician Conference.
Charles Alexander of Streaming Promotions
Charles Alexander teaches artists how to build their presence on Spotify.

And because it’s impossible to recap in full, I’ll share just some of the countless photos, videos, tweets, and testimonials we’ve found along the way, beginning with this video from the band Harbor Drive Hookup:

Spotlight on the artist

A surprise highlight for many at the conference was an incredible set of soulful songs from AHI during Saturday’s showcase.

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AHI performing at the DIY Musician Conference showcase
AHI performing at the DIY Musician Conference showcase (with Bob Boilen snapping some shots)

On today’s episode of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen recapped a bit of his experience over the weekend and even played a song by AHI, who he’d discovered at the conference:

Here’s our official conference playlist, containing music by showcasing artists, speakers, and attendees

Please take a listen and follow the playlist if you enjoy.

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All about collaboration

Lena Zawaideh said of her experience, “After this weekend’s @cdbaby conference, I’ve never been more inspired to create and collaborate.”

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The jam room at the DIY Musician Conference
Harmonizing with new friends in the jam room.

Connections made at last year’s conference yield big results in 2017

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Serenity Fisher

Last September, Michael Shanks met Serenity Fisher and Michael Gronstadt‍ at the DIY Musician Conference in Chicago. He joined them for a jam session — and 11 months later they’re great friends, playing shows together and making a living from their music.

Michael said: “Serenity was at the piano in the lobby. I walked up and we started jamming. There was an instant connection – there were no egos involved, we were just enjoying the music.

“We met 11 months ago and here we are playing shows and making a living. We keep each other accountable and it helps us to gets things done. When we met Serenity was talking about doing a video and I was able to keep asking how she was getting on and gently push her and the results of that are amazing.

I’m looking to make more genuine connections like that at this year’s conference – without the conference it’d be a million to one shot to meet people like this.”

More highlights from the DIY Musician Conference

Ocean Way Studios
Conference attendees take a tour of Ocean Way and watch a session in action.
Trent Harmon and Tom Jackson
Tom Jackson does a live onstage makeover for Trent Harmon.
Tin Roof in Nashville
The after-party at Tin Roof on Sunday night.
Jam Room collaboration
Making the magic happen in the jam room.
Conference attendees at the DIY Musician Conference in Nashville
Big smiles and lots of learning at the DIY Musician Conference.
The Open Mic in Nashville
Taking the stage at the DIY Musician Conference open mic.
Illmac at the DIY Musician Conference
Illmac talks about building and managing his music career.



Bob Boilen and Shannon Vanderlaan
“Having my song Atmosphere picked at the Song Pitch session (a huge surprise to me) was an amazing experience for me. It humbled me but also motivates me to work harder and take advantage of every opportunity out there. It’s proven that I never know what can happen and I’m so thankful I got to meet so many wonderful people here. I can’t wait til next year!” – Shannon Vanderlaan


This was my 2nd conference and it did not disappoint. I think what makes this conference so special is that you have industry people there who get it and genuinely care about the success of everyone there. It’s all too easy to get discouraged, but whatever your idea of success is, this event reinforces, encourages, and reignites the passion to keep going, because it IS possible. What happens for each of us after the conference is up to us, but you certainly give us all the tools we need to succeed, and I am very grateful for that, so THANK YOU!Ryan Van Slooten



The main stage sessions

This year we had PioPlay Livestream helping us live broadcast all the events on the main stage via Facebook and YouTube. In the coming weeks I plan to share these videos individually on this blog with an outline of the content and key takeaways, but if you’re eager to dive in now, here we go…

Were you at the 2017 DIY Musician Conference?

If so, what were the highlights? What did you learn? What will your next year look like? Let me know in the conference below.