Marvin Miller, Co-Chair of LARA (LGBT Academy of Recording Arts), sat down with dot429 to discuss the sudden postponement of the 2010 OUTmusic Awards and their constant struggle for financial support.
Why were the OUTmusic Awards postponed?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr. Miller: The OUTmusic Awards (OMAs) are postponed until Spring 2011. After much debate and soul searching, LARA, the governing body that oversees the OMAs and The OUTmusic Foundation (OMF), decided it was better to postpone the 2010 OMAs than to follow through with a production that was not up to our standards. We had a major donor renege on a commitment to underwrite the event a week before the original date. Postponing was such a difficult and heartbreaking decision. Tickets were selling well, the artists and honorees were excited, and my team had put so much work into making it a spectacular event.
Also paramount in our decision was our ability to help the benefitting organizations of OMF’s “Sponsor A Young Person Initiative.” We recently launched a national campaign to help fight youth homelessness, and we wanted to be able to make an immediate impact in the lives of some of the three million homeless and at-risk youth in the United States. We wanted to buy coats, food gift cards, and sleeping bags for them, and we would not have been able to do so if we had pressed forward with the OMAs this year. It’s amazing how clear things become once you remove your ego from the equation.
“ší„®”ší„®It is the 20th Anniversary of the OUTmusic Awards, and you are still having trouble getting corporate sponsorship, while there are so many other award shows that have a lot of sponsorship. Why do you think it is more difficult for the OUTmusic Awards?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr Miller: While 2010 is the 20th Anniversary of OUTmusic, we are very much still in our infancy with regards to producing an event of this scale. There really is nothing like the OMAs in LGBT entertainment. Last year was the first year we moved out of small clubs that accommodate a couple hundred people to a venue that supported a couple thousand. We worked with Logo, Clear Channel, and some other major media sponsors for the first time last year, so we are still learning and evolving.
Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to move forward, and this year we had to take a step back. We have a lot of community support, yet the huge dollars needed to produce an A-list event have been a challenge to secure. It is extremely challenging to get corporations to loosen their purse strings, but I believe that once we convey the message that OUTmusic is not only a celebration of brave, talented artists but also an equality movement in which we are striving for equal rights and equal representation in the music industry, the sponsorship dollars will follow.”ší„®”ší„®
Luke Cazwell stated recently in an interview that “the music industry isn’t homophobic. It’s just not-making-money phobic.” Considering that the OUTmusic Awards were just postponed due to lack of funding, what can you say about his statement?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr Miller: Well, I am a big Cazwell fan and love what he is doing in the rap game, but I think to say that the music industry is not homophobic is a bit naive. There are so many artists who can’t get record deals or are made to stay in the closet. When you look at platinum-selling artists like Melissa Etheridge, Elton John, George Michael, and Adam Lambert who are “out” and still sell records, you see that people will buy the music if you give them the option. The hurdle is getting the music out there. The reticence on the part of major labels to sign artists or release music made by openly gay artists is homophobic.
In response to Cazwell’s point about making money, I do believe the music industry can be exploitive and eager to make a buck on a trend. That trend might be “out” artists someday, but just because the music industry is willing to make money from a gay artist does not mean that homophobia does not exist. There was a time when radio would not play two women back-to-back. Black artists have also had a long struggle for acceptance and equality in the music industry. Just because a record label will cash a check does not absolve it from a social conscience.
“ší„®”ší„®”ší„®Do you think that homophobia has had an impact on the Outmusic Awards”ší„® not getting as much publicity as other award shows?
“ší„®”ší„®Mr. Miller: Homophobia exists and is part of the world we live in. However, I think that as an organization and a movement, we need to do a better job of getting our message of “equality through music” out into the public. I feel that this is a simple equal rights”ší„® message that will resonate with the public and take off. For example, Black artists have been around since the beginning of music, yet the BET Awards were only launched in 2001 to celebrate them. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time for the world to catch up.”ší„®
“ší„®”ší„®You had a lot of big supporters in town for the OUTmusic Awards, and you secured LOGO as a media sponsor. Do you believe this will help raise awareness of the Outmusic Awards for the future?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr. Miller: Yes. We have some big talent among our supporters, including Carol Channing, Melissa Etheridge, Chely Wright, Dr. Wayne Besen, to name a few, and we “ší„®know they will carry our message with them. We also have wonderful supporters in the entertainment world and the community at large. They work with us, we buy their products, and they see us as a force to be reckoned with. We, as a community, need to own that power and support our artists. We need to demand to be played on radio, video shows, and in clubs. It will take some work on our part to make OUTmusic artists household names, but artists like Adam Lambert are showing that we are ready to have openly gay artists on the radio and on posters and become a part of pop culture.
Can you name a few artists who are talented but under-exposed?
Mr. Miller: Jason Walker, a multi-octave performer who can sing his face off and writes the most amazing songs about universal love; Rachael Sage, who has been writing, touring, and producing her own music for over 10 years; Avi Wisnia, who is carving out his own brand of pop-jazz that appeals to generations; Nhojj, a neo-soul singer who is every bit as talented as his mainstream counterparts; and Christine Martucci, who can rock with the best of them. These artists are stars, and once people are exposed to their music they see that music conveys universal emotions.
“ší„®”ší„®Do you have a lot of support from the LGBT community and LGBT press?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr. Miller: I have received some of the most incredible letters of support and kindness from the LGBT community and press but also some of the harshest criticism. I feel they hold us to a higher standard, as they should. I see it as much like a family. We are hardest on the ones we love. When we let them down we hear it, but when we are successful, we all benefit and celebrate.
What does it take to put on the OUTmusic Awards?“ší„®”ší„®
Mr. Miller: The truth is, I am still learning the answer to that question. There are many parts to putting on a show the scale of the OMAs: fundraising, marketing, event planning,securing sponsors, recording the show for TV, tabulating votes, ordering the awards, and dealing with live production, artists, and honorees. “ší„®Ultimately, I believe that the main ingredients are love, hard work and”ší„® a bit of glitter!
“ší„®”ší„®”ší„®When will the Out Music Awards happen? Who is going to sponsor them? “ší„®How are you going to make sure to have the necessary funding for the”ší„® Awards?”ší„®”ší„®
Mr. Miller: The OMAs will happen in Spring 2011. Amy Lesser of GO! Magazine will produce the event. She can book the type of LGBT, A-list talent we need to throw a spectacular celebration. We are going into the community every day to”ší„® raise support and diversify our sponsors. We’ve had a “ší„®good response, but we still need more. Our challenge is to secure a variety of sponsors, giving them the opportunity to show the LGBT community their support for equal rights in the music industry.
For more information on the OUTmusic Foundation’s “Sponsor A Young Person Initiative” click here.