Musicians, like all artists, need feedback. Without the insight of others, songs may remain uninspired, stagnant, or worse — incomplete. But even in Minneapolis’ rich music scene, spaces for constructive criticism are sparse.
The Diverse Emerging Music Organization, DEMO, is working to fill that void.
On Wednesday, the organization is hosting Writer’s Night, a songwriting workshop held at the new DEMO Center for Music in Seward.
The idea for the event came from Ozzy Dahlstrom, DEMO’s executive director. Dahlstrom wanted a space where musicians could meet and discuss the craft of songwriting in a safe and supportive environment.
“[Musicians] will help each other finish songs, try songwriting exercises and play new material before they play it for a paying crowd,” he said.
Dahlstrom also enlisted the help of Doug Collins to host the event. Collins is a local Americana singer-songwriter and frontman of the Receptionists.
Someone as experienced as Collins on board is a huge benefit, Dahlstrom said.
“[Collins] plays a lot of shows; he is very good about supporting new artists … and he knows everybody.”
Having experienced the craft firsthand, Collins recognized the benefits of workshopping.
“There are a lot of times where you have songs that you are just not sure of — that you don’t want to play in front of people. Or you just don’t finish that song, so you don’t exactly know what to do with it,” Collins said. “Sometimes you just need to play it in front of somebody — other people who have had the same experiences you have.”
To have ample time available for all performers, Collins planned for six to eight people to attend. “We are going to try and keep it small, so it is intimate,” He said.
This event is not a one-and-done for DEMO. It is a part of the organization’s larger purpose.
DEMO is a nonprofit organization founded by Steve McClellan, the former manager of First Avenue for 32 years. After leaving the venue in 2005, McClellan used his skills and experience in the industry to give back to the community.
The organization’s mission is mainly threefold: to promote, support and educate emerging independent musicians.
In its first years, DEMO focused mostly on promotion — helping smaller artists book shows at local venues.
“We were all about putting bands on stage for a long, long time,” Dahlstrom said.
However, in today’s Minneapolis music scene most artists no longer need help booking shows, Dahlstrom said.
In the past couple of years, DEMO switched its attention to the latter parts of their mission: education and career support.
With this transition came the need for a space dedicated to creating community. After a robust fundraising campaign, the organization finally opened the Demo Center for Music on East 28th Street in Seward this past September.
The center has made it possible for DEMO to function as, what Dahlstrom calls, “a clubhouse” — a space to organize music lessons, classes for young children, panel discussions and live performances.
“One of the reasons we created the DEMO center is to have groups,” Dahlstrom said. “I would love to have groups of all different types: a guitar group that meets every month, a book club, a documentary club.”
Writer’s Night is meant to fulfill that desire. It serves not only as an extension of DEMO’s programming but encompasses the commitment toward creating a safe community for all musicians.
“What we are trying to do is just bring people together in different ways, and that’s what Writer’s Night is about — we are trying to bring songwriters together.”