Global Mixx ’08: The 4th annual Music Retreat gathered an A-list group of industry insiders, the weekend of Oct. 3, to dialogue with emerging talents looking for guidance as recording artists.

Hosted by On the Street Promotions and Marketing, the conference included several panel discussions covering topics such as music and politics, marketing and songwriting, and producing. The three-day retreat took place Oct. 3-5 at the Blackstone Hotel in downtown Chicago.

Panelists for the Saturday, Oct. 4 discussion included Grammy award-winning songwriter/producer Bryan Michael Cox, who’s worked with Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, and producer No ID, who’s worked with such artists as Chicago native Common.

Austin native Mary Datcher, founder of On the Street Promotions, used her extensive influence and more than 20 years of experience in entertainment to draw participants. 

“Having grown up in this industry and watched others grow just as prominent and also seeing the growth of what we’re trying to do here, it makes our case a lot easier when we ask them to come to Chicago for a couple of days,” she said. “For the first time, we’ve gotten a really great response with the panel. I’m thoroughly impressed with the turnout and support that people have shown today.” 

Legendary Chicago retailer George Daniels, owner of George’s Music Room, 3915 W. Roosevelt, on the West Side, served up some old-school wisdom during the panel discussion: ‘Music Meets Politics.’ Daniels recalled that the music of the past told stories about what was going on at the time, but not so with today’s songs.

“With current music today we don’t have an opportunity to express our feelings, thoughts and goals like we did in the past,” he said. “We don’t have access to the type of radio programming we did in the past. In the run of a day, on one station you heard gospel, blues and jazz. So our young people are being disenfranchised in the lack of diversity in the music they hear.” 

Daniels argued for politicians to create a platform for major radio stations to promote more variety in urban broadcasting. During the marketing and branding panel, rapper M.C. Serch, CEO and owner of Serchlite Music, urged aspiring artists to think outside the box. A founding member of rap group 3rd Bass, Serch advised artists to travel and make connections to increase their earning power.

“Take a trip. See the country. Go get a passport,” he said, noting many independent artists achieve greater success overseas than in the United States. One artist, Detroit rapper Phat Kat, for instance, has sold 50,000 albums in Europe. “He makes a quarter million dollars every year in Europe alone,” said Serch. “Get out of this city and go do some shows. Figure out who your audience is.”

Renowned Hip Hop and R&B producer No ID gave a candid synopsis of the rigors of a career in entertainment. The Chicago artist encouraged artists to educate themselves on the business in order to have longevity. 

“This industry is designed to chew you up, make money off you and spit you out. This is real life,” he said. “Pay your dues, humble yourself, and put yourself in the place where you don’t have to learn through bad experiences.” 

No ID recalled frequenting similar music conferences more than 20 years ago as a newcomer himself. But, he added, there were fewer mentors readily available to him then. 

“We didn’t have anyone to ask. We just had to take lumps and learn,” he said, cautioning artists to, “learn enough to feed your family and keep a real living going, instead of just pipe-dreaming.”