The inaugural Upstream Music Fest + Summit, the brainchild of billionaire music fan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, kicked off in Seattle Thursday morning.
The focus of the event, running for three days throughout the city’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, is all about music discovery. Upstream is made up of a summit, with keynote speakers and discussions and workshops centered around the modern business of music, and a festival, with hundreds of emerging acts from the Pacific Northwest.
With more than 25 stages at a variety of venues and 300 artists representing diverse musical genres, Jeff Vetting, executive director of Upstream, called it “a snapshot of Pacific Northwest music in 2017.”
The Summit started Thursday with a keynote address from legendary producer Quincy Jones, titled “Making Hits For Every Decade: How The Music Industry is Adapting to The Streaming Model and Beyond.”
Jones was celebrated in opening remarks by King County Executive Dow Constantine, who told his own stories of how music influenced his upbringing in Seattle, and how Jones, or simply ‘Q,’ was and is “the coolest Seattleite ever.”
Ahamefule J. Oluo, a Seattle-based musician, composer, writer, and stand-up comedian, interviewed Jones in front of several hundred Summit attendees.
Jones called Paul Allen “the best” and said “he looks like a tech nerd, but he can play” guitar. “Anything Paul asks me to do I’m going to do. We hang out all the time.”
Addressing the modern economics of music and streaming, Jones, 84, said he’s not one of those “back-in-the-day guys” and said he’s always out in front, but said it’s “immoral” to take something and not pay for it.
Oluo asked Jones how he sees artists moving forward in this economy. But Jones, with his decades of success with artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, didn’t have a concrete answer.
“Slowly,” Jones replied, before waxing about being a big fish himself in a small pond coming up in Seattle.
Jones said that when computer scientist and jazz guitarist Alan Kay told him about a newfangled device called the computer, Jones said his response was, “You must be smoking Kool Aid or something.” He then segued into a tale of how his own daughters are now regularly face down on their smartphones.
Beyond music, Jones touched on another industry involving some of Seattle’s biggest names and companies. But mentioning the race to commercialize space travel, Jones said, “Man, I’m staying right here.”
Other keynote speakers during the Summit include Seattle hip-hop star Macklemore; Portia Sabin, president of the independent record label Kill Rock Stars; and Ron Jones, the TV and film composer.
Check back with GeekWire for more coverage throughout Upstream.