Over a half dozen openly LGBT artists convened inside Harlem Nights Ultra Lounge in downtown Atlanta on Feb. 27 for the first ever International Music Conference (IMC): LGBT Special Edition.
The five-year-old conference, which is held annually in Atlanta, is one of the only conferences of its kind to provide a massive gathering of artists, songwriters, sponsors, music industry executives and music fans from the UK, Europe and North America.
“The IMC prides itself on providing a platform for emerging artists, songwriters, producers and the like from all backgrounds,” said IMC founder, Julia Huie-Martin.
Huie-Martin tells Georgia Voice that she saw a missed opportunity among mainstream industry executives and IMC to bridge the existing gap for LGBT artists.
“I am honored to be tapping into the musically inclined LGBT community and can’t wait to provide them with the same resources and opportunities available to all at the IMC,” said Huie-Martin.
Miko Evans, founder of Atlanta based Meak Productions, served in partnership with IMC. Evans’ company is the nation’s first talent agency and production company exclusively created for the LGBT community. He also moderated a panel discussion featuring out artists Tim’m West, DJ Doseville, Keever West and music producer and straight ally Ian Burke. The artists didn’t hold back on sharing the hurdles LGBT artists consistently face due to the pervasive homophobia in the music industry, specifically as it relates to hip-hop.
“The music industry is a reflection of society at large, so I don’t necessarily feel like the music industry is going to be any less homophobic than society at large is,” said West.
“The hip-hop industry is tough. When you’re battling another MC the worst thing you can call another guy is gay. In hip-hop we still have a long way to go,” he added.
Ian Burke says mainstream acceptance of openly gay artists is contingent upon how gay artists are packaged and presented.
“There’s certain imagery that still makes people feel uncomfortable,” said Burke. For me it should always be about the music and the artistry. I don’t care who you’re sleeping with as long as the music is good.”
And there was good music abound during the LGBT artist showcase, especially from singer and showcase winner Kim Joyce who brought down the house with her soulful track “Feeling.” Joyce will receive free studio time and an interview in KONTROL Magazine among other prizes for her win. It was one of those performances that will be remembered by those in attendance as the moment a star was born, which was obvious as the judges clamored to be a part of Joyce’s rise to stardom.
Memo to all LGBT artists: next year it could be you.