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SXSW 2018: Wrapping up with a final conference session and Saturday evening showcases – 17th March 2018

 
By on Thursday, 3rd May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor Mary and I started our final day at SXSW 2018 with a leisurely brunch, but we both had a full schedule of options for Saturday afternoon and evening. (You can read Mary’s Saturday recaps here and here.) I decided in the moment to play the day by ear, and my rather uncharacteristic spontaneity paid off in the form of several new-to-me acts, which I very much enjoyed.

Metzer internal

Before I set out to hear any live music, I did attend one last conference session at the Austin Convention Center. As a connoisseur of the singer/songwriter genre, I couldn’t pass up University of British Columbia musicologist David Metzer‘s discussion titled ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’. Here, Metzer explored the ballad’s changing role in popular music from the 1950s to the present, highlighting listeners’ growing desire “to experience feelings in bigger and bolder ways” and performers’ stylistic tendency to emote in increasingly virtuosic fashion. The presentation was necessarily brief, and Metzer used a simple but effective comparison between Whitney Houston’s iconic performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’ and Dolly Parton’s original version to make his point. True music nerds like myself can find a more expanded discussion in Metzer’s book, ‘The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé’, which I promptly ordered when I returned home from Austin the next day.

Harry Pane internal

After a quick walk around the Trade Expo and a celebratory green cocktail for St. Patrick’s Day, Mary and I both had time to check out SXSW’s Second Play Stages, which feature official Showcasing Artists playing acoustic “happy hour” shows in the lounges of downtown Austin hotels. These shows are casual and quite intimate, with small crowds gathered in close and passersby stopping to listen at the fringes. I chose the Hilton’s Cannon & Bell lounge, where English singer/songwriter Harry Pane was playing his final set of the week. Pane was both relaxed and engaging on the small stage, and his songs were candidly emotional in this stripped back setting. His performance of ‘Fletcher Bay’, written after a trip to New Zealand with his late father, was particularly moving. You can have a listen to a similar live performance courtesy of London Live Sessions just below.

After a quick post-show interview with Pane (which will publish on TGTF in the coming days), I headed to Barracuda, whose two stages were hosting the combined Artist Group International and Xtra Mile Recordings showcase. While there would undoubtedly be a larger crowd later in the evening, when British folk-punk artists Skinny Lister and Frank Turner were slated to play the outdoor stage, the mood was mellow in both venues when I arrived for the beginning of the night’s set list.

Many Rooms internal

First on the outdoor stage was Houston singer/songwriter Brianna Hunt, performing under the moniker Many Rooms. The audience was thin at this point in the evening, and Hunt’s muted demeanor on stage didn’t attract the punters’ attention straightaway, but as her set continued, the fragile beauty of her songs gradually drew focus to the stage. Many Rooms’ debut album ‘There is a Presence Here’ is available now on Other People Records; you can listen to album track ‘which is to say, everything’ just through here.

Non Canon internal

Between sets on the outdoor stage, I peeked inside to catch a couple of songs from Allman Brown, who had caught my attention earlier in the week, while I waited to hear English folk singer Non Canon. Non Canon is the mildly pretentious stage name of singer/songwriter Barry Dolan, who describes the term as “anything [that] exists apart from the story we know and love”. His music is true to that description, pairing obscure literary allusions with pop culture references in an odd, but ultimately thought-provoking way. Though his set here was stripped back to voice and guitar, his recordings feature a fuller array of instrumental sounds and unusual harmonic variations, as evidenced in ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’.

The remainder of the Barracuda lineup included The RPMs (who Mary saw the previous afternoon) and Will Varley, as well as the aforementioned Skinny Lister and Frank Turner. As I had seen the latter three recently (Varley and Skinny Lister in February at Phoenix’s Valley Bar, and Turner on Thursday evening), I decided to head to the Parish, which was hosting British indie label Bella Union.

Field Division internal

As we’ve mentioned in the past, Bella Union is a sure bet for high quality songwriting and musicianship, but also for music that is a bit off-the-beaten-path. Their Saturday night showcase at the Parish was no different. I missed indie pop songwriter Ari Roar, but arrived in time to catch American folk duo Field Division. On the surface, this pair, comprised of Evelyn Taylor and Nicholas Frampton, is yet another in a long string of Laurel Canyon-influenced artists, but on closer listening, their powerful lyrics and sharp instrumental arrangements create a deeper and more tangible sonic presence. Keep an eye out for their debut LP ‘Dark Matter Dreams’, which is due for release on the 22nd of June and features the propulsive motion of ‘River in Reverse’.

Hilang Child internal

More subdued but nonetheless hypnotic, electronic dream pop artist Hilang Child (aka Ed Riman) took the stage next and dazzled the growing audience with his effortless vocals and deftly textured instrumental layers. His carefully crafted soundscapes are replete with splendid dynamic and harmonic colour, which fill in and expand beautifully upon his delicately poetic lyrics. Hilang Child’s standout track ‘Growing Things’ will feature on his upcoming debut LP, which is due out later this year.

Tiny Ruins

New Zealand folk band Tiny Ruins has evolved from the solo work of frontwoman Hollie Fullbrook into a full four-piece ensemble, though they were represented in Austin by only two of their number, Fullbrook and bassist Cass Basil. Their thoughtful folk songs were mesmerising with just the pair of them, but they added another dimension of rhythmic interest when drummer Jim White joined them on stage midway through their set. Tiny Ruins’ third album is due out on Bella Union later this year; in the meantime, take a listen to the subtle yet exquisite ‘Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens’, courtesy of Flying Nun Records.

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Jim White took only a brief hiatus from the stage after Tiny Ruins’ set before returning for his main show as part of avante garde folk-rock duo Xylouris White. Xylouris White finds the virtuosic Australian drummer joining forces with equally skilled Cretan lute player and singer George Xylouris to create a musical experience that is best described as “intense”. Any words I write here will undoubtedly fail to convey the awesome power of their live performance. The unlikely but fluidly-synchronised pair released their third LP ‘Mother’ back in January, and it’s not to be missed for anyone excited by the idea of dynamic jazz-rock-folk fusion.

Ezra Furman internal

The final act on the Bella Union bill, and the final act for me at SXSW 2018 was Ezra Furman, whom I’d seen on Thursday at the Luck Reunion. The late night atmosphere of the Parish on Saturday night was an entirely different context for Furman and his band The Visions, and the dark drama of songs like ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ took on a new level of depth and potency in this set. Here, Furman combined his intellectual, heavily metaphorical lyricism with a visceral musicality to create a full gestalt that was somehow greater than the simple sum of its parts. In this regard, he fits in nicely with his Bella Union colleagues, who all made a positive impression on this showcase, and who made my last night in Austin a uniquely memorable one.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Industry track

 
By on Wednesday, 21st February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo of Shakey Graves by Greg Giannukos

SXSW Music Conference programming under the umbrella of the Music Industry track is intended to guide artists and other industry professionals through the promises and potential pitfalls of everyday business in the music world. This year’s Music Industry programming includes panel sessions on a variety of current trends and topics of interest, as well as touching base with the basics.

Music Industry Culture
Carrying on from programming at SXSW 2016 and SXSW 2017, this year’s music conference continues its meta-examination of music industry culture, starting with a question that digs down to the very root of the investigation. On Wednesday the 14th of March, a panel session titled ‘Is Culture Change in the Music Industry Possible?’ will consider “whether it is possible for such a complex, fragmented [industry] to develop a common culture, what an ideal music industry culture might look like, and most importantly, how we actually get there.”

A continued emphasis on feminism in the music industry manifests in several conference sessions, including ‘Women in Music: Break the Ceiling + Bridge the Gap’ on the 14th of March and ‘Sexual Misconduct in the Music Industry’ the following day. The former panel promises to “explore the challenges women face in negotiating and share tactics to become a better negotiator” as well as assessing “the current status of the gender and wage gaps and the impact these barriers have had on women in our industry.” The latter panel will specifically address sexual misconduct, with focus on “the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct and how this aggression affects the psyche of women working in music in regards to performance, promotions, equal pay and influence.”

Music Curation and Experience
‘Barriers to Innovation for New Music Experiences’ will begin the week on the 13th of March with a panel set to examine “current hurdles and roadblocks that face those building a new generation of music services and experiences”. In the spirit of an evolving music experience, a historical session titled ‘Curation, Collaboration & Community’ on the 14th of March “will outline the journey of Tileyard Studios and the revolutionary transformation of a dilapidated area of London to one of the most exciting music creators’ hubs in the world.”

Conference programming also reflects a continued interest in the ways modern listeners prefer to consume music, with topics ranging from terrestrial radio to digital playlist collaboration on the table for discussion. On one end of that spectrum, ‘Measuring What Matters in a Playlist-First World’ on the 14th of March will dive into the data on digital playlists with discussion about “how to understand and measure them” as well as what those measurements might reveal about “music consumption, marketing, and music creation”. At the other extreme, a session on the 16th of March called ‘Is This the Golden Age of Alternative Radio?’ finds that medium inexplicably “on the rise” and will examine how best to take advantage of its current popularity.

On the related topic of music curation and discovery, Pitchfork founder and editor-in-chief Ryan Schreiber will lead a panel on the 15th of March titled ‘Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era’, with discussion on “navigating new challenges, providing crucial context, and how to evolve as [music streaming] services threaten to push into the realm of content creation.” The following afternoon, ‘Stop the Scroll: Creative Strategy in Social Media’ will help online curators “learn how to make a creatively driven social strategy . . . [and] deliver campaigns that keep fans coming back for more.”

Artist Issues
Professional issues facing artists in the current music business atmosphere are, as always, at the center of this year’s Music Industry track. Early in the week on the 14th of March, ‘Beyond the Band: Shakey Graves’ will take a look at the “many different elements that comprise a successful career as a musician” in the context of Do617’s Beyond the Band partnership with Berklee College of Music and LATW Group. The featured artist on the panel is Shakey Graves’ Alejandro Rose-Garcia, pictured at top.

In the same vein of cooperation and collaboration, ‘The Band is With Me: The Art of Team Building’ on the 16th of March will talk about how to assemble a strong team of professionals behind a career artist, in the areas of “artist service platforms, PR, development/management, and marketing/touring.” More specifically, ‘What Does an Artist Manager Do and How to Get One’ on the 17th of March will find artist managers sharing “practical, concrete steps every artist can take to go about obtaining management” and ways for “up and coming managers . . . to help grow their clients’ careers exponentially.”

Financial issues are always at the forefront of an artists’ career, and there are many scheduled conference sessions surrounding the delicate topic of money. On the 15th of March ‘New Ways to Finance a Music Career’ will discuss artists’ “options [and] tools to self-finance their career outside of the traditional label/publisher system.” On the 16th of March, ‘We Will Rock You: Make a Big Noise with the Brands’ promises helpful tips on “how you can win that brand and help the brand tell a story [that will] come alive with your music.” In the same time slot, ‘Paid in Full: Fixing Music Rights for Artists’ covers the difficulties of “connecting billions of global streams to the right parties” and “how smart minds are working to find solutions.”

Mentor Sessions
A large number of Mentor Sessions with music industry professionals are listed under the Music Industry track. These sessions require RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed as having Primary Access. Featured mentors include record label executives, public relations professionals, artist development managers, marketing specialists and attorneys.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: this year’s conference programming on Activism and the Arts

 
By on Friday, 10th March 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

If you follow any of your favourite musicians on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen them post to social media about causes that are near and dear to their hearts. Many artists, like recent SXSW alumnae Natalie Prass and Lissie, go a step further and elect to donate proceeds from their work to charitable causes, contributing to both fundraising and awareness. Conference programming at SXSW 2017 has taken notice of this kind of artist activism, recruiting an eclectic variety of speakers and panelists to highlight the trend.

For a bit of background, the SXSW 2017 Music Conference and Festival officially begins on Monday the 13th of March but the Interactive and Film portions of SXSW start ahead of the weekend on Friday the 10th. The intersection among the three conferences, where participants from all three disciplines come together, is known as Convergence. One of the seven Convergence tracks at this year’s SXSW is titled Social Impact, and its conference sessions are intended to “highlight innovative ideas from the creative industries that are contributing to a better, more equitable world.”

Cecile Richards press photo

On Friday the 10th of March, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards and Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp will start the Social Impact proceedings what will likely be a heavily attended conference session called ‘Activism, Allyship and Where We Go from Here’. Another popular choice will likely be ‘The Celebrity (Activist) Industrial Complex’ on the 13th of March, in which panelists Anne Helen Peterson of BuzzFeed, Elisa Kreisinger of Refinery 29 and Glen Weldon of NPR will tackle the question: “Do celebrities have a responsibility to use their power and privilege for good?”

Two sessions more specific to music activism will happen on Wednesday the 15th of March. ‘Creating For a Cause: Music for Action & Awareness’ will “discuss currencies and methods of giving to communities, organisations and nonprofits”, as well as building philanthropic partnerships and creating cause awareness. In a session on the ‘Healing Power of Music’, Chris Funk of The Decemberists will join a panel which focuses on delivering music therapy alongside medical services to hospitals and vulnerable patient populations.

Chris Funk press photo

Under the auspices of the Music Conference proper, sessions in both the Music Industry and Music Influencers tracks take aim at artist activism. In the aptly-titled Talk 20 session ‘Artivism’ on the 17th of March, artist, educator and activist Malcolm London will engage audiences by sharing original poetry and discussing his work with community arts organisations and social movements. Management teams for Usher and Panic! At the Disco will appear on the panel ‘Cause Marketing for Musicians in 2017’, scheduled for the 16th of March, where they “will share how entertainers are building measurable support for amazing charities while growing their brand affinity.” Extravagant Records founder Weldon Angelos, joined by rapper Snoop Dogg and attorneys Vikrant Reddy and Mark Holden, will comprise a panel titled ‘Artist to Advocate: Fighting for Criminal Justice’ on the 18th of March. Angelos will talk with members of the music community gathered in Austin about his unjust prison sentence for a minor drug crime and will also discuss “how artists can work together to achieve lasting reform.”

Weldon Angelos press photo

Activism and the arts have evolved from a fringe concept to one of the key components of conference programming at SXSW 2017. Given the current political climate here in America, we expect to see a variety of in-person examples of social activism during the music conference and festival in Austin next week. Keep an eye on TGTF for our ongoing coverage; as always, any information we bring to you about SXSW 2017 is subject to change. You can stay up-to-date on the official SXSW schedule by clicking here.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: this year’s conference programming on Music Cities

 
By on Thursday, 9th March 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

The idea of developing so-called “music cities” became popular in the music industry following Sound Diplomacy Music Cities Conventions in Brighton and Washington, DC in 2015. Our own editor Mary attended the Music Cities Convention in DC that year and was impressed by the breadth of expertise among the convention attendees, as well as their universal dedication to keeping music alive and well at the community level.

Though Austin certainly already fits the definition of a music city, the SXSW Music Conference picked up on the idea in 2016 with a pair of conference sessions, ‘How To Build A Music City’ and ‘Why Every Music City Should Have A Night Mayor’ specifically geared toward further development of music cities in America. The sessions examined the roles and interactions between “musicians, entrepreneurs, and innovators” and city government representatives in encouraging curation and maintenance of vibrant local music scenes.

PARTYBABY at SXSW 2016

This year’s SXSW Music Conference takes the music cities concept a step or two farther, expanding its offerings on the subject to build upon the foundation laid in last year’s sessions. Two main sessions in the Music Industry track focus directly on building music cities, while a number of other sessions deal with peripherally related topics relevant to supporting music within a city’s infrastructure.

On Thursday the 16th of March, leaders from established music cities will present ‘How To Build A Music City – The Launch’. Their aim is to follow last year’s discussions regarding advocacy and resource management with advice on specific planning processes for building successful music programs and fostering thriving local music communities.

The next day, Friday the 17th of March, expands the music cities concept to a broader global vision, taking on the idea of a vast, worldwide ‘Music Cities Network’. According to the official Conference schedule, “This session will talk necessities, goals, agenda and benefits of a global music cities network. It will focus on knowledge exchange and policy, city development and city marketing.”

JoJo Abot at SXSW 2016

Also in the Music Industry Track are a handful of sessions focused on more specific aspects of local music culture. On the 15th of March, ‘New Nashville: The Evolution of Music Publishing’ will look to Nashville as an established music city to “give examples of current and past ideas that have shaped the industry; what’s working, what’s not working, and what does the future hold?” A condensed Talk 20 session on that same day titled ‘Music Industry Development for Diverse Communities’ will tackle questions such as “How well do we do at supporting and representing the full spectrum of diversity in our communities?” and “How do we balance championing the artists best positioned to have success in the market with the full diversity of the region we represent?” An even more specialised session on the 17th of March called ‘I Remember That Band: Preserving Local Music’ talks about how local music archives get started, how they impact the music scene, and what kinds of information they can provide about their local communities.

More peripherally, the Touring & Live Experience Track features several panel sessions relevant to music culture in smaller cities. ‘How to Sell Your Event to a City’, on the 15th of March, encourages formation of “positive, mutually beneficial, and long lasting relationships with the host cities and their respective tourism boards and local government, by concentrating on increased local economic growth”. Music festivals, specifically, are addressed under topics such as ‘Rethinking the Future of Music Festivals’ (17th March), ‘Families at Music Festivals’ (16th March), and ‘The Definitive Profile of the Festival Superfan’ (16th March), while community-level events in smaller spaces are discussed in ‘Intimate Spaces: Programming Small Venues’ (16th March) and ‘Saving Small Venues & The Independent Music Scene’ (18th March).

The Spook School at SXSW 2016

With their 2017 programming, the SXSW Music Conference is getting behind Sound Diplomacy and the Music Cities Convention’s overarching goals of “improving urban planning, quality of life, city policy and development strategies through music” and exploring “the role and impact of music across education, employment, community building, placemaking, licensing and regulation.” And after 30 years of playing host to SXSW, what better city is there to illustrate the challenges and successes of cultivating a local music scene than Austin itself?

As always, the SXSW Music conference schedule is subject to change; for complete, updated information on Music Conference tracks at SXSW 2017, consult the official SXSW schedule here.

 

Output Belfast 2017 Music Conference and Showcase Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

To read the first half of my roundup on Output Belfast 2017, click here.

Between the daytime seminars and the evening gigs was the perfect time to grab a bite, and head over to the Oh Yeah Centre for a drink and a chat. Networking is key at these events, so why not spark up some conversations and elaborate further on some of the points made throughout the day The speakers were done for the day, the bands were getting ready for the evening shows and everyone else had time to kill. If you found yourself at a loose end, you could have popped to a little room to the left of the front door to the Oh Yeah to catch a stripped back set from Beauty Sleep ahead of their gig at The Dirty Onion.

At 8 PM, the evening’s events kicked off, and with some truly amazing acts. Ryan Vail was one of the first to showcase his fantastic new bespoke live, audiovisual show, which he created in partner with Plume Studios, AVA Festival and Generator NI. Enclosed in what looked like a cage of coloured vertical lights, Vail stood alone on a backlit stage, casting a dark and ambient silhouette across the venue like a physical representation of Vail’s heavy and intricate music. A huge overhead screen projecting real-time outdoor scenes of forests and skies Plume Studios shot themselves, altogether creating an incredible performance made possible by a great network of contacts only found at Output.

The great thing about Output is the wide variety of eclectic artists they book each year. If Ryan Vail lighting up the MAC isn’t your thing, you could also catch theatre pop artist Sullivan & Gold at the Black Box Café, “decent folk” singer/songwriter Robyn G Shiels upstairs at the Duke of York, or indie rockers Junk Drawer at Voodoo. At any given time, there was always an incredible selection of artists to choose from, including some of this year’s SXSW artists New Portals, Silences and Jealous of the Birds. Belfast’s own Robocobra Quartet, another SXSW 2017 showcasing band, landed a play of their song ‘Correct’ on Daniel P. Carter’s rock show the following Sunday night, off the back of their show in at Output.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-SfI3WC0iA[/youtube]

In the midst of running from venue to venue, trying to catch as many bands as possible, I managed to score some personal highlights, dark, electronic pop outfit Hiva Oa being one. They took the stage following Junk Drawer’s grungy, fuzz-infested rock and gave all that they had. Hiva Oa produced a huge sound consisting of tight drum grooves, experimental synths and melodic vocal melodies, which presented a interesting blend of electronica, hip-hop and alt indie that kept the crowd moving from start to finish. The band left their first single ‘A Great Height’ until the end of their set, which was close to shaking Voodoo to bits. Chris McCorry’s heavily distorted synth entered like an approaching stampede, before Christine Tubridy’s pounding drum groove acted like a pacemaker that could set everyone’s hearts to the same beat. Unfortunately, it was harder to make out Stephen Houlihan’s topline; however, as he swayed and stumbled around the stage, it all made for an equally engaging aesthetic performance.

Joshua Burnside was another highlight of the evening. I had caught him 2 weeks previously in Derry. when he played with a full band. His stripped-back set in Black Box Café was equally as astonishing, if not more as when I first seen him. Burnside beautifully serenaded a room filled with people with just his guitar and the exceptional Rachel Boyd on violin. Aside from the cheers between songs, the place was silent, which only added to the fragile atmosphere Burnside created with his songs. One song in particular that I felt hit home to a lot of people that night was the recent, unscheduled release of the politically-orientated ‘Red and White Blues’. Although it is a political song, it speaks from a deeper place relating to Burnside’s own upbringing and family history, with the idea that politics – particularly Irish right- and left-wing politics – is adversely affecting the way some people think and their freedom of speech and abstract thinking. When he performed this track at Output, he had complete attention of his audience, as if the whole conference’s attendees stopped to hear his words and melody. As he strummed the last chord, the room once again erupted in awe and approval. No matter what your views are, it is a beautiful song.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r14gjSvy8ZI[/youtube]

As it was my first year attending Output, I admit it was a little overwhelming. From the minute, you enter the MAC for registration, there is an awareness of being surrounded by top industry professionals. However, once I understood that everyone was there for the same reasons, mainly to network and grow their relationships within the industry, I felt a true sense of community. It helped that the importance of relationships and support in the community was often touched upon in many of the seminars, and in Bob Lefsetz’ case forced onto many of the attendees this year. For musicians/bands, PR and management companies, producers and even a few academics, Output Belfast is without a doubt the perfect place to be for anyone involved in the Northern Irish music industry.

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 

Output Belfast 2017 Music Conference and Showcase Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 27th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

As the dust settles on the 4th annual Output Music Conference and Showcase event, I’m taking a look back over my experiences at the event. This is to give you, the readers, insight into the important messages and valuable lessons I acquired throughout the day, as well as outstanding performances. This was the first covered by TGTF; in the past, TGTF’s words on Northern Irish acts was mostly restricted to showcases at other festivals, such as in Carrie’s coverage of the Output Belfast afternoon showcase at SXSW 2016. Like that event, this year’s Output Belfast was sponsored by Generator NI and Belfast City Council.

This year, Output was held within the oldest part of Belfast city centre, the Cathedral Quarter. It’s a small area in the southeast section of the city packed with fantastic architecture, cosy pubs and underground music venues that lace the narrow cobbled streets and alleys. Named after St. Anne’s Cathedral that still stands here, the Cathedral Quarter was once home to trade and warehousing particularly within the linen and shipbuilding industries. Now it is the cultural hub of Belfast, with a rich music and arts scene that attracts so many people that the bars, venues and even streets are always thriving. No better place to hold Ireland’s leading music industry networking and showcase event, if you ask me.

Throughout the day, seminars and master classes were held in The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) and the Oh Yeah Centre. If you’re an attendee, the daytime programming offered a chance to soak up any and all information, advice and personal points of view from the abundance of industry professionals assembled. Before 1 PM it was possible to catch Crispin Hunt (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and cowriter with Florence and the Machine and Jake Bugg), Lee Denny (founder of Kent music event Leefest) and Amy Lamé (London’s first ‘Night Czar’) during the opening address. Moving to another floor of The MAC, you had the option sitting in on either a pitch and sync talk with Simon Pursehouse of Sentric Music; a production seminar with Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey), Liam Howe (Ellie Goulding) and Rocky O’Reilly (Start Together Studios); or a meeting with the performance rights organizations PRS, PPL, IMRO, MCPS and BASCA.

I opted for the Metal Machine Music talk on artist and business development in rock and metal hosted by Daniel P. Carter, host of BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show, promoter of famed Belfast venue The Limelight Joe Dougan, Head of Marketing at Red Essential Ali Tant and artist managers Ian Rendall (Making Monsters) and Ally McCrae of Two Up Management. The speakers discussed matters relating to the development of the rock and metal scene, what it takes to break into the scene and maintain your success, the importance of hard work, supporting one another and being in control of your work and career. The speakers painted a picture of a tight-knit community within the rock and metal scene by sharing the understanding that being supportive, genuine and respectful of the people in the industry, as well as applying honest hard work with belief in your art, will do more favours than anything else.

These became overarching themes throughout the day. In other sessions and even in the lobby of the MAC where people gathered between talks, a sense of community and support was evident and hugely encouraged. For example, during the Country 2.0 seminar Milly Olykan (Festival and Events Director at The O2) Stuart Banford (Downtown Country, Northern Ireland’s only 24/7 digital country music station), Lynne McDowell (Country Music Association) and Iain Snodgrass (Universal Music Group) discussed similar topics but instead in relation to country music. It seemed no matter what genre of music you listen to, or what area of the industry you work in, the key messages about the pathway to success are the same.

This year’s keynote was an hour-long discussion with esteemed music commentator and analyst, Bob Lefsetz, presented by Mark Gordon of Generator NI. Lefsetz has been an active member of the music industry for over 30 years. Though he began as an entertainment business attorney, Lefsetz slowly moved into the field of analysing and commentating on the music industry. He created and published his own magazine called the Lefsetz Letter, which he eventually put out online for free. He is renowned for his forward-thinking ideas and rational statements towards music, the industry and those within it, and at this year’s Output all those present witnessed this firsthand.

Listening to Lefsetz speak on the music industry sounded as if he was expressing his hatred towards it. He delivered a passionate and intriguing discussion about his beliefs in regards to the music industry: his comments could have been mistaken as negative, but in fact he was purely being realistic. In his own words, “don’t sugarcoat it”. Through his work as an attorney and the Creative Consigliere for heavy metal band W.A.S.P, Lefsetz knows the music industry is a cutthroat business where artists often get taken advantage of. He was able to give advice by relating to his own experience by pointing out the errors a lot of people make and even provided solutions to difficult situations. Throughout his discussion, he covered a wide spectrum of important topics including the use of social media and its algorithms to assist in driving PR and advertising campaigns, the importance of and differences between Spotify playlists vs. top chart playlists, niche marketing, targeting specific audiences and energising those who can spread the word. He said he accepts and confirms sexism and racism exist but that neither should matter, and that hard work and hustle is more important and that bringing up a person’s gender or race is an excuse for “not being great”, clearly something that can be a bone of contention. Similar to the guiding principles presented in the Metal Machine Music session, Lefsetz expressed the importance of relationships in the business and how he believes they are more powerful than money. With a lot to say and a very charismatic and expressive personality, Bob Lefsetz was an intriguing, engaging speaker. He was an excellent conclusion to the daytime schedule, and next up was the evening events.

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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