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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.

 

Preview: Output Belfast 2017

 
By on Thursday, 9th February 2017 at 11:00 am
 

The 4th annual Output Music Conference and Showcase returns to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter on the 16th of February. Set up by Belfast City Council in partnership with Generator NI in 2014, the conference has continually grown in size and popularity. Bringing hundreds of artists, businesses and students together each year makes it the leading music industry networking and showcase event in Ireland.

Held primarily at the MAC in Belfast city centre, Output will house a lineup of various seminars and lectures conducted by many of the world’s top industry professionals. Once the evening hits, Output turns its sights on the huge number of home-grown talent through a night of showcase gigs held across various venues within the Cathedral Quarter. Confirmed hosts for 2017 include blogs such as Nialler 9, State.ie and The Thin Air. Voodoo and The Nerve Centre will be among the many local venues used. Organizations such as Smalltown America Studios and PRS will be among those presenting and curating gigs.

Last year’s conference hosted the incredible Steve Albini as the closing keynote speaker of the conference. Having someone who has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry speak at the conference was a huge honour for the city and the event, providing attendees the unique opportunity to learn from one of the most acclaimed and respected figures in the music business.

Closing the conference this year is legendary industry analyst, critic, commentator and creator of the email Lefsetz Letter industry newsletter, Bob Lefsetz. Output will also offer insightful talks presented by Spotify, PRS Foundation, Adidas and Jagermeister’s music teams, Marc Sylvan (Million Pound Drop, Total Wipeout) and creator of Leefest Lee Denny. Speed networking sessions and panel discussions also figure into the daytime programming.

Acts of note appearing at this year’s Output’s music showcasing portion include SXSW attendees from Northern Ireland Jealous of the Birds, Ryan Vail, Silences, Robocobra Quartet and New Portals, among many others. Although specific details on venues have yet to be announced, many other incredible Irish acts playing this year are Callum Stewart, TOUTS (under the same management as The Stone Roses) The Wood Burning Savages, Joshua Burnside, Sullivan & Gold, Scenery, Autumns and Kerrang! favourites Making Monsters.

Output is a completely free event in Belfast next Thursday, the 16th of February. All you have to do is register on their Web site. What are you waiting for?

 
 
 

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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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