Maha and Big Omaha: Why the merger? Palehound, Weaves, See Through Dresses tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:11 pm February 27, 2018

Maha is now running Big Omaha.

by Tim McMahan,

Things have been busy around here and I’m just now getting around to the big announcement from last Thursday, which was that the Maha Music Festival is expanding to two days for their 10th Anniversary edition.

The annual concert at Aksarben Village is slated for Aug. 17 and 18, that’s a Friday and Saturday. All of you folks who work day jobs, you have plenty of time to get that request in for the day off. We still don’t know who will be playing this year, but something tells me it’ll be someone big and special along the lines of Arcade Fire or LCD Soundsystem — we’ll find out soon.

The other half of the Maha announcement was that the Big Omaha conference is now being run by Maha and is being held in the run-up to the weekend, Aug. 16 and 17. Said the press release: “Attendees will have several options to purchase passes: a dual festival-conference pass will be sold as well as festival tickets to Friday or Saturday only, or both festival days combined. Pricing, artist and speaker lineups, and ticket sale dates will be announced next month.

First question you might have: What is Big Omaha?

Well, I’ve been scratching my head for years about that question. It’s marketed as “an annual conference that brings together the nation’s most passionate members of the entrepreneurial community including founders, investors, and emerging leaders to build community, start conversation, and provide inspiration.” Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News co-founders Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson started the conference in 2009. Omaha’s AIM Institute has owned and led Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News since 2015. Silicon Prairie News will stay with AIM as Big Omaha changes hands to Maha, according to this SPN article.

Anyway, Big Omaha is supposedly wildly successful. I have no idea because I’ve never been to one. I went to to find out more, but it’s already redirecting to Maha. However, you can read about the 2016 event here and watch the Big Omaha video. BO conference tickets cost upwards to $600, but anyone who’s ever been to a business conference knows that’s peanuts — most national conference registration charges are well over $1,000.

On first blush, the merger of Maha and Big Omaha seems odd, so I sent an email to Maha’s Lauren Martin and asked, “I’m curious as to how Big Omaha will play into all this. I’ve always thought of BO as a sort of private gig for small businesses and start-ups. How will the general public be involved in BO and what role does the Maha audience play in it?”

Lauren replied:

For Maha, the addition of Big Omaha is a first step in using our platform to unite events, or cultural aspects of Omaha that support our community’s overall effort to attract and retain young talent. If we can utilize the conference as a means to further connect individuals to networks and/or resources that will help them pursue their passions and be fulfilled here, we’re all about it. 

Recognizing that BO has potentially appealed to a particular demographic of tech start-up types in the past, we hope to broaden the appeal while still maintaining a much smaller audience than the festival, and reduce the cost of entry.

Ultimately, there may not be a ton of overlap between the conference and 2-day festival attendees, but hopefully the promotion of the two events as one experience will expand the idea of what’s possible here.”

Fair enough. I keep hearing how the addition is similar to the launch of Austin’s South by Southwest tech conference. Maybe so, but Big Omaha ain’t a tech conference. It’s really targeted toward entrepreneurs and start-ups, whether they have a tech bent or not. In fact, I once suggested a looong time ago to one of the Big Omaha folks that they should reach out to larger industries who could be possible buyers of these new start-ups’ products and services. The idea was met with crickets.

A few years ago I attended the SXSW tech conference, which leads up to the annual music conference. There was virtually no overlap between the two. The only impact might have been in the ability to find lodging. One benefit for the SXSW event is that people going to the tech conference could ask their employer to pay for their conference travel and lodging, then hang out for the music portion, saving travel costs. I can’t see that happening for Maha, but who knows…

In the end, I can’t see how this merger will impact the Maha Festival except to possibly keep a few of those Big Omaha folks in the city an extra day. Nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, I can’t imagine your typical Maha festival-goer being interested in taking part in Big Omaha (especially at last year’s price point)…

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s an indie rock double-bill with Palehound (who you read about yesterday) and Weaves. Frankly, it’s the Weaves part of the headline I’m most interested in, along with the opener, our very own See Through Dresses. $12. 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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