The upcoming Gay Games and Republican National Convention have received plenty of hype in the local media, but Alternative Press Magazine's inaugural music awards deserves some attention too. The line-up for the event, slated to take place on July 21 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, features a who's who of bands in the emo/screamo/metalcore/pop-punk world.
"Our state of mind is that there's a lot of work to do," says AP publisher Mike Shea one recent afternoon from the AP offices on Cleveland's near west side. The event was a mere 10 days away, but Shea appeared cool, calm and collected. "We're not feeling as overwhelmed as we were about a month ago because so many major decisions have been made. We just want everything to run smooth. You have 1,100 VIPs coming to town for this and I don't think the city is aware of it. It's a very big event. It's bigger than what we thought it was going to be."
The original concept for an awards ceremony came up about two years ago after bands and industry types pointed to the fact that AP has been around for nearly 30 years and told Shea he needed to put together something special.
"They were like, 'This needs to be the Oscars or Grammys,'" he says. "The bar was raised on us before we could get our foot out the door and we knew we had to make it a bigger event and a larger show."
At that time, Shea had thought about holding the event in Las Vegas.
"We thought that we had to have some sort of connection to some major hip town so people would take it seriously," he says. "This shows you how far Cleveland has come in the past year. Pittsburgh and Cleveland are beautiful towns but have horrible PR. It was difficult to do it in Cleveland and get people to take it seriously and we started talking to the people at the Rock Hall and realized we didn't need to do it in Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Cleveland ended up as the perfect spot for everyone to be in the right spot at the right time."
So Shea checked the schedules for Warped Tour and Mayhem Festival and realized he could have an event take place in Cleveland on an off day for both tours. Acts already scheduled to perform include Fall Out Boy, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (who'll receive an Icon award), the Misfits, A Day To Remember, All Time Low, Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, Asking Alexandria, twenty one pilots and Sleeping With Sirens. Cleveland's 115-piece Contemporary Youth Orchestra will also perform, and guests to appear include Smashing Pumpkins' frontman Billy Corgan, Korn, Black Veil Brides' Andy Biersack, rapper Ice-T and his wife Coco, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace, Memphis May Fire, Motionless In White, Machine Gun Kelly, Emmure's Frankie Palmeri and I See Stars.
Sleeping With Sirens will play, and their performance will be their only North American live performance all summer. Along with retired wrestler CM Punk, Automatic Loveletter frontwoman and The Voice season two runner-up Juliet Simms will co-host the AXS TV red carpet pre-show. Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, who's coming in from his home in England for the event, will host the awards, and a total of 15 awards will be distributed during the event, slated to be nearly four hours long. Kevin Lyman (founder & CEO of 4FINI, known for creating Vans Warped Tour and Rockstar Mayhem Festival) and Josh Bernstein (Golden Gods creator and producer) are producing the event.
"We don't have anything for our community in the music industry where we can come out and celebrate," Shea says. "We're the misfits. We're the odd table in the lunchroom. We're usually dismissed and not taken seriously. People think we're Hot Topic bands and 13-year-olds. Many of these bands make more on merch than the bands playing Lollapalooza. The whole community is underestimated and that's why we need our own party. It's a huge event. It's bigger than what we thought."
The awards will also represent a major victory for AP, the little magazine that could. Shea originally published a four-page zine that included album reviews and reviews of local Cleveland show along with the occasional rant about whatever hyped act (in the first issue, it was the Smiths) that was bypassing town to play bigger cities. As it approaches its 30th anniversary, the magazine continues to be a staple for the late teen crowd that goes to Warped Tour and gravitates toward underground acts such as Black Veil Brides and Blessthefall.
"We went back to our new alt-rock roots in 2001 or 2002," Shea says. "We found it wasn't about getting the biggest band to be on your cover. It's really about dedicated fanbases. You can have a band that's selling 30,000 records with a dedicated fanbase and they will sell more magazines than a band that has 1 million fans who just go to the concerts and don't care about anything else. We've been part of the community for 13 years now. It's morphed from emo into screamo into a pop-punk revival. It's going to be crazy to see where this whole scene goes."
Shea anticipates the awards will become an annual event, especially as AP, which often sponsors tours, adapts to the changing publishing industry.
"Media companies in general are now multi-functional," he says. "The new thing is events and YouTube channel productions. It's an interesting time now. You compete with YouTube celebrities. It challenges you but the brands that were grandfathered in, it's up to them to blow it or not. It's a challenge but we're doing good. We have a social media impression at 1.2 million across all of our platforms. For the awards show, we'll have somebody on Vine and Instagram and we'll be blowing it out during the show. It's sad to say that we're not just doing old school journalism, but you have to step it up now."
The APMAs are broadcasted by official digital media partner AXS TV, who will have a special red carpet pre-show area. In addition to broadcasting the red carpet pre-show, AXS TV will broadcast the award show itself live, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will feature footage from the official VIP boat party. Viewers can go to axs.tv/apmas/ to watch exclusive behind-the-scenes videos and view photos, as well as take part in live polls and get involved on social media.
Alternative Press Music Awards
6:30 p.m., Monday, July 21, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, 1100 East Ninth St., 888-512-SHOW. Tickets: $69.99, apmusicawards.com.