As a young, wannabe garage rocker in the late ’80s, Tyler Monks got a dose of reality when he moved from Sacramento, Calif., to Orem, where he says there wasn’t an outlet for rock & roll, merely chorus class and jazz band. “My dad said to me that in Orem, people look up to athletes, not musicians. He really pushed me to play baseball,” Monks says.
Monks has since returned to music—as a producer and engineer—but that story is when the seed was planted for the Utah Music Association, an advocacy organization for Utah musicians and music-industry professionals.
Monks’ career in music hasn’t been an easy road, on which he continues to struggle. Now, the Utah Music Association founder and executive director believes that much change is needed for aspiring and current industry professionals to make a living with music alone. The volunteer-run Utah Music Association formed in April 2012 with lofty goals but a vague agenda. Since then, however, the organization has been hammering out nuts and bolts—nothing sexy to an outsider—and is operating under a tri-fold mission: recognition, community and philanthropy.
This mission needs extrapolation, because many folks who have heard of the Utah Music Association—even a few members of the bands performing at the upcoming UMA Holiday Bash—seem confused as to what UMA is and will be.
Eventually, the “recognition” will be the “buzz and glitter,” Monks says, to help the Utah Music Association thrive. UMA hopes to host a yearly red-carpet, black-tie affair to honor the bona fide of the Beehive State. Monks also thinks this will be the organization’s breadwinner; he cites nonprofit The Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards celebration as its main money-maker.
But for now, and on a more practical level, the highest priority is “community,” which means that Utah Music Association will be a hub for Utah musicians and industry professionals to collaborate, socialize and network with others of like mind and focus at quarterly events and via an online database at MyUtahMusic.org. UMA is casting a wide net to include producers, engineers, musicians, emerging artists, bands, managers, labels, radio DJs, and venue and studio owners.
“We want Utah musicians, who have a lot of talent but don’t want to move to Los Angeles or Nashville, to be able to create a professional project by a scene of producers, songwriters, videographers, etc., that is world-class, yet done right here in Utah,” Monks says.
“This sort of stuff is going to happen organically,” he continues, “but, hopefully, the organization can help expedite it.” He lists acts like Neon Trees and once-Provo-based Imagine Dragons, both of which have scored Billboard hits this year, as examples of the success and networking possibilities he hopes for acts associated with the Utah Music Association.
The “philanthropy” aspect is derived from Monks’ first impression of rock & roll in Orem. He hopes the Utah Music Association, in partnership with other nonprofits, will create opportunities for young musicians in Utah’s school systems. “If you want to be a professional athlete in Utah, there are so many support structures and programs on that career path,” Monks says. “If you want to be a professional musician—outside of a violin player or a chamber singer—there’s really no program in place to help you.”
But all of this might be a ways off. Utah Music Association’s biggest challenge has simply been getting things done on a volunteer basis. Monks puts in 40 hours a month, and the other board members—managing director Matthew Miller, membership director Jonathan Kvarfordt and advisory board member John Baker—work while maintaining full-time jobs. And, of course, local nonprofits with similar goals have come and gone; most never last one year.
“In five years, I’d love to have an organization with 10,000 members, with added value being provided to them, to have a robust sponsor list and an annual award show that actually means something,” Monks says. “And be broadcast to draw the eyes and ears of Los Angeles and New York City.”
UTAH MUSIC ASSOCIATION HOLIDAY BASH
w/ Fictionist, The Moth & the Flame
Infinity Event Center, 26 E. 600 South
Saturday, Dec. 8, 8 p.m.