In our latest edition of My First Time, Jeremy Weiss (Owner of CI Records and Founder of the LAUNCH Music Conference) was kind enough to talk to Infectious Mag all about how he first started LAUNCH seven years ago and built it into the smashing success that it is today.
The first LAUNCH Music Conference & Festival was conceived of in 2008, while participating as a panelist at a conference in Delaware. My good friend and colleague, Rick Gadd, and I were chatting about how great a similar event would be in Central PA. For over two decades, Central PA, more specifically Lancaster, had been hosting some of the greatest national acts, across all genres, due to the area’s proximity to major markets, and its fantastic venues. I was explaining to Rick that the downtown area had been transformed over the previous five or so years, with dozens and dozens of independent art galleries, restaurants, shows, coffee shops, and performance spaces. Lancaster had the markings of a small scale Austin, Texas (home to the legendary South By Southwest Music Conference & Festival) both in layout, and in spirit! Rick agreed to accompany me on a site visit, “walking tour” of Lancaster. Within two weeks of the September event, we had toured the city and were planning the first annual LAUNCH Music Conference & Festival for April 2009.
It was such an extraordinary time. We had developed the name based on our mission, to aid in the career development of musicians and would-be industry professionals by providing advice and education from an assemblage of successful music industry pros from across the country. We crafted LAUNCH out of the acronym “Logical Advice & Unique Necessary Career Help.” We confirmed with our host facility and met with the Mayor’s Office before we had so much as a logo. Rick and I came from a fiercely ‘do it yourself’ background, so we just challenged ourselves and went for it!
It was so exciting developing the brand and its aesthetic in those days. We were so fortunate that so many of our colleagues had faith enough in us to participate as panelists, and rally behind our new endeavor.
LAUNCH 2009 predated the construction of our home since 2010, The Lancaster County Convention Center, and was centered at the sprawling yet modest Hotel Brunswick. Things got a little wild there that year, with nearly 1500 participants, and over 250 bands converging on the hotel and the city, fired up to work and play!
From the word “go,” we committed to producing eight panels each, during both the Friday and Saturday, featuring agents from the top agencies, entertainment lawyers, members of the multi-platinum rock group, +Live+, even a member of Danzig and its predecessor band, Samhain. We also staged over 160 unique live performances by night, and enlisted 10 venues to host said performances in our first year.
While LAUNCH has grown considerably over the last seven years, and some of the faces have changed (Rick Gadd departed amicably in 2013), that first year looms incredibly large today. Due to the receptiveness of the Mayor’s Office, the venues, the host facility, our first sponsors, the local community, and the attendees from across the country, we found ourselves turbo charged for 2010, and committed to hosting LAUNCH annually for many years to come. I will always look fondly on those countless hours, many of them deep into the night (or the following morning!), creating, strategizing, spitballing about our special new endeavor. We certainly try to conceive of new, exciting ways to tweak LAUNCH each and every year, pursuant to improving and freshening up the event, but there’s nothing quite like starting with a blank slate. I continue to treasure the event, and all of the fine folks, bands, and memories that come with it!
Jeremy Weiss is the Co-Creator and Executive Director of LAUNCH Music Conference & Festival in Lancaster, PA. Weiss has owned & operated CI Records since 1987, with over 200 releases. He is the owner of CI Productions, having produced over 1300 concerts throughout Central Pennsylvania, and owns The Champ, an all ages venue, in existence since 2004.
If you’d like to attend the 2015 LAUNCH Music Conference & Festival – which takes place from April 23-26 – you can view the entire lineup of bands and panelists as well as register right here. Bands performing will include the likes of Atreyu and I The Breather while speaking panelists include Vince Edwards (Metal Blade Records), Kevin Lyman (Vans Warped Tour), James Shotwell (Haulix/Under The Gun Review), and many more!