Thursday, June 26, 2003

Music festival deserves corporate Cincinnati's help

Denise Amos

Last September, the MidPoint Music Festival was just a baby, albeit a very large baby.

Ten thousand people came from throughout the Midwest to hear 150 local rock and new-music bands.

Musicians and music industry officials from 30 states and three countries attended seminars.

And in the weeks before the event, 500 bands competed for 150 performance slots.

This year, MidPoint organizers say, it'll be a bigger bang.

A thousand acts are competing for 200 chances on stage. A trade show will augment the music conference.

And the jams will last a night longer, from Sept. 24-27.

Most importantly, it'll all happen in Cincinnati, in the Main Street entertainment district.

No sharing crowds - or dough - with Newport and Covington like last year.

Sound like a good deal for Cincinnati? City Hall thinks so; it kicked in $15,000. The chambers of commerce for Greater Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine also got involved.

Corporate Cincinnati and foundations should follow suit. MidPoint desperately needs a share of the millions of dollars that these movers and shakers contribute each year to arts causes.

Co-founder Bill Donabedian, a Web entrepreneur and musician, says he's pitching sponsorship deals to 25 to 30 of Cincinnati's largest companies. At least one deal is near to becoming final, he said Wednesday. He's hopeful that others will work out, too.

Even in-kind promotions and offers to distribute coupons and product samples to attendees are welcome.

Keeping young professionals in Cincinnati is a must, Donabedian says, and MidPoint is one way to help do that.

A recent Enquirer analysis showed that between 1990 and 2000, Hamilton County lost 5.8 percent of its Generation X population - people now in their 20s and early 30s - while cities such as Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville and Dayton added to theirs.

Says Laura Long of the Cincinnati Business Committee: "Creativity is capital, and every major city is fighting for it. This is one of the initiatives to get there."

Last year, MidPoint only had in-kind media promotion, word-of-mouth (mostly buzz from musicians), and news coverage.

Yet the clubs and halls were packed with people who paid $5 to $10 a night.

Donabedian expects twice the crowd this year.

He and fellow musician and lawyer Sean Rhiney founded MidPoint to showcase new music, encourage local musicians and boost Cincinnati's cool quotient.

In short: "Make enough noise to bring the music industry to the artist," says the duo's Web site,

Some day, they hope, their baby will grow to be as big as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

That weeklong affair creates $25 million in economic impact.

E-mail or phone 768-8395.

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