Nonprofit aims to put Memphis music back on the national stage

George Monger will join other entrepreneurs to discuss the future of Memphis music at Music in the City presented by High Ground News and the EPIcenter on February 23. Register for free.

The Consortium MMT (Memphis Music Town) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop a viable music industry in Memphis. Founded in 2012 by singer/songwriter/record producer David Porter, the organization provides a structured learning environment through four programs in order to build a new generation of commercially successful music entrepreneurs and professionals.

Leading the charge for The Consortium MMT is George Monger, Vice-President and Executive Director. In regards to hiring Monger, David Porter remembers, "I couldn't be happier, more comfortable and confident in anyone to do the job that's necessary for this program more so than George."

"There was a gleaming need for a serious music industry focused organization," Monger said about the inception of The Consortium MMT. "We were not dreaming about what a music industry could be; we knew what it has been. The music industry, when there was an industry here in Memphis, was built on Stax, Hi Records, American and Gold records. It was an industry worth a billion dollars in today's money. So we knew opportunity existed, and we took that message to the community as well as music industry icons-- all who respect Memphis music for its soul. It has not been difficult for us to encourage people to rally around the Memphis music industry."
 
The organization's flagship program is the SoulRight Music Mentorship program. Focusing on songwriters, record producers, and recording artists, the program runs four times a year in six week cycles. Interested applicants apply online, they must be over 18 and have desire, passion, and skill to qualify.

"We get several hundred applicants each session and we only take 30 people," said Monger. "The reason being we believe in quality not quantity. We know that it isn't reasonable to take 120 people at one time and teach them the wisdom around writing producing and recording."

The majority of participants are Memphians, but applications have been received from as far as Amsterdam. Previous sessions have had participants drive in from Atlanta and Nashville to attend.

The SoulRight Music Mentorship program aims to impart wisdom and skills to the creative processes and teach participants how to separate themselves from the cluttered marketplace. "We only have so many human emotions, so as a songwriter when you are writing to say 'I love you' you can't just say 'I love you,'" Monger explains. "We all have the same set of human emotions, we can't create new emotions so how can a songwriter separate themselves? If you want to say something that resonates you say something like 'I'll put a hand on a blade, stand in front of a train, catch a grenade for you' and all the songwriter is really saying is 'I love you.'"

The Consortium MMT uses an online platform to measure the growth of participants, and at the end of the six week mentorship session participants are evaluated. Those who have something they feel deserves more attention are moved into the Emerging Stars Network program within their Talent Development Complex, home of the Memphis Music Resource Center (formerly the Memphis Music Foundation.) Here they have access to recording rooms, staging and choreography to work on their stage appearance. Participants can spend up to a year here developing themselves within the music industry and making use of the Consortium MMT's partnerships within the world of music distribution.

To further their agenda of building the local music industry, The Consortium MMT has partnered with Start Co to launch Start MMT, a high-growth music start-up accelerator. The program will attract entrepreneurs from around the world to launch innovative new business models in Memphis to transform the music industry.

"Start MMT is a means for The Consortium to invest in the technology around the music industry," said Monger. "Ideally we'll have three participants, no more than five total." Application deadline is March 1, and the accelerator program will run from May until August. 

Monger promises that soon, the community and world will see the results of The Consortium MMT, but there is more work ahead.  "This is something the city has needed, and our supporters have embraced us. The talent pool here, to their credit, is hungry for opportunity. They are looking for credible things that they can engage in and commit time to and expect to see quality results. Some of the talents from our core program are seeing results now. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done because we've got to grow the income level for independent writers, producers, and artists from $400 a week to something significantly greater so that folks can be better at their craft."
 
Monger is optimistic about the city's growth in terms of the arts. "There's a collective spirit to drive new industry in Memphis, from Start Co to Visible Music College to the University of Memphis and so many others who understand the value of a vibrant arts community. That's one of the things I am most excited and thankful for, the ecosystem we have here that is working on making sure that Memphis is a competitive community."

For Monger, the now is the time for the Memphis music industry to rise again. "When you look at the music industry overall and look at the success of artists like Adele and Robin Thicke, these sounds are very familiar to Memphis. So I think the opportunity for us to take our place on the national stage is right."
 
George Monger will join other entrepreneurs to discuss the future of Memphis music at Music in the City presented by High Ground News and the EPIcenter on February 23. Register for free. For more information contact amy@highgroundnews.com

Read more articles by Amy Hoyt.

Amy Hoyt is High Ground News' Community Engagement Specialist, which suits her love of Memphis and its inhabitants. 
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