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One band's success story

It's a long shot, but these music conferences can bear results.

Case in point: The Mavericks, a Miami-based country rock band with a Cuban frontman.

Due in part to an appearance at last year's SMC, the Mavericks have signed a record deal with MCA and have an album due out in May.

It happened something like this, according to the band's co-manager Frank Callari of the TCA Group in Miami:

The Mavericks submitted a tape to the SMC talent committee and were given a slot in the showcases. Just before the scheduled appearance, the band independently released a compact disc, arming itself with a tangible promotional tool.

Callari called BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) in Nashville and spoke to Clay Bradley, grandson of legendary country producer Owen Bradley. He invited Bradley to see the Mavericks at SMC, even though the BMI rep had no power to sign the band to a contract.

"Clay loved the band," said Callari, who loaded the BMI guy down with CDs to take back to Nashville, with the request that he spread them around to record company people, song publishers and journalists.

"The angle was to immediately avoid hitting the label A&R people," Callari explained. "It's hard enough to be convincing about a country western band out of Miami with a Cuban singer. The Nashville establishment was skeptical. But by getting insiders talking about the group it started to create a buzz. Pretty soon, some individual record companies got the notion that there was a band down here worth listening to."

The Mavericks signed with MCA's Nashville division and will be looking for an audience base in the country market. In the last couple of years, the country scene has exploded, making room for rock-leaning acts like the Kentucky Headhunters. Five years ago, before the country renaissance, the Mavericks may have ended up in the roots-rock rubric, a niche that has born little commercial fruit.

Either way, an encounter at the Southeastern Music Conference provided a much-needed catalyst.