In The City 2009
The clocks must go back soon. I don’t actually know when exactly, but I do know it must be soon as I’m currently sat here staring at a never ending inbox, still shattered following three days of Mancunian shananigans (which my feeble body couldn’t even finish off the last evening of – I’m obviously not as Rock N Roll as I used to be). Oh yes; it was In The City.
My sixth year at the musical conference was my first one where I actually had some input of sorts in the form of a Sentric Music showcase and also partaking on a publishing panel. Both of which, I’m utterly chuffed to say, went rather well.
So here is what was said, what I learned and what I think.
– Rick Falkvinge – Chairman and founder of The Pirate Party – certainly knows how to cause a stir. Giving a presentation to potentially the hardest crowd he’s probably ever had the pleasure to stand in front of, he called the need for change in copyright and intellectual property laws. And despite holding his own and raising a few interesting points by calling up on various historical technological landmarks to support his various cases, he was ultimately undone by one eager member of the crowd who told him to “fuck off” and went further to rubbish his historical references by claiming “what does it matter what happened in medieval times? If we were in medieval times now I’d burn you at the stake”. Although maybe a tad crass his feelings seem to be echoed by the crowd with one of Falkvinge’s points especially upsetting the masses: reducing copyright to five years. A rather obnoxious suggestion that superciliously undermines pretty much everyone in the industry. From what I could gather his only argument for this was in order to allow fans to produce ‘mash ups’… I hope the readers of this blog don’t need me to inform them why the needs of the industry and all those trying to make a living from it are greater than those fans who wish to make mash ups (not that they can’t or shouldn’t; they’re great promo tools at the end of the day, but reducing copyright to five years?!) and I hope over the course of my blog writing history, and indeed the fact I do Sentric Music, I have done enough to prove to you all that I’m all for a forward thinking industry, but this my friends is not the man to vote for.
– Rick Falkvinge also looks a bit like Colonel Stuart from Die Hard 2 (thanks for @StevenOakes for pointing that beauty out)
– The P2P panel agreed that the industry was missing one key thing: Optimism. I’m not sure I agree with this statement, but it’s maybe because I haven’t been in the industry for as long as some of the panel members have been. Granted, the world is lacking a pinch of the stuff at the moment and maybe it’s simply because I’m sooo bloody happy that my middle name could be ‘Rainbows & Kittens’ but it’s really all rather exciting at the moment isn’t it?
– John Webster, CEO of the Music Managers Forum – “The MMF would like to see rights holders take more risks, and mimic P2P services”. He’s clever as well, he help set up the Mercury Music Prize and Now! That’s what I Call Music so he’s worth listening to.
– The P2P panel also argued that the major players in the industry were stifling entrepreneurialism. As I come from an indie company it’d be great for me to wave some paper in the air whilst simultaneously mumbling and shouting something in that way that back bench MP’s do in the House of Commons, but again I don’t think this is true anymore. It may have been as little as 18 months ago but the majors appear to be allowing access to their catalogue to a whole variety of services so far this year. This could arguably be seen as a “throw enough poop until something sticks” tactic, but at least they’re saying yes right?
– 20 year old Paul Curry built a website when he was 16 that was used by over 250 million people and even with that success saw the industry as so backward and difficult to work with that he’s already moved on. That’s quite a sad fact and after listening to him speak he was clearly a very, very clever guy but ultimately he was a software industry entrepreneur rather than a music industry entrepreneur. Not that that’s a bad thing whatsoever of course, but he contradicted himself at one point by saying Radiohead’s In Rainbows was a good example of how ‘free’ can work (which it isn’t) but then suggesting that his websites ‘tipjar’ raised nowhere near enough cash for him to live off. Is that not the equivalent in this case? In the statement: “I like Radiohead so even though I can have it for free I’ll still give them some cash” couldn’t Radiohead be substituted with his website? Still, compared to what I was trying to do when I was 16 (insert your own joke here, but do be kind).
– Anthony Volodkin however appears to be cut from a similar, yet at the same time ultimately different cloth. The creator of the rather influential Hype Machine discussed his story with the editor of Drowned In Sound and his passion for music really shone through. The highlight of the conversation was when he discussed the reason of his love of music blogs and about how they’re written by people who simply love music so much they feel the need to share their thoughts about it with no financial agenda influencing their words (in the majority of cases anyhow).
– The Duty of Care panel took a look at the responsibility an artist’s team has in their welfare. Some argued they shouldn’t care whatsoever; they work with them, they’re not their nanny, whilst others argued it’s in their inherent interest to care; if the artist isn’t well then they’re not producing the goods so then everyone inevitably suffers at the end. It took a surprisingly long time for the word ‘empathy’ to be used and for someone to remove all hierarchical structure altogether; we’re all human after all, shouldn’t we just look after one another anyhow? All aboard the train to music utopia.
– The panel looking into computer games opened my eyes somewhat; now I’m fully aware how much the gaming industry is booming, but it would appear it’s exceeding even my educated estimations at the moment and the future potential is stunning. The panel were keen to discuss the concept of ‘Cloud Gaming’ which they believe will happen in 8-10 years (which probably means it’ll happen a lot quicker). Cloud Gaming sees the complete disappearance of hardware as everything you need will be online and accessible via a high speed internet connection, ergo you don’t need the latest offering from Sony or Xbox in order to play computer games. Take down that initial financial hurdle of having to purchase a console and the industry truly becomes global meaning the level of potential exposure for artists becomes phenomenal.
– On the panel I took part in the topic of conversation was what publishers are doing in the current industry that isn’t necessary traditional and as everything that Sentric Music does is pretty untraditional I hope my ramblings were of use to someone.
– The geekathon panel (I say that in a wholly positive manner as I am also a geek at heart, and even aesthetically some may say) saw social media experts pretty much agree that Trent Rezner is doing everything right so look at what he does and try and apply it to your situation. This, of course will be near on impossible but hey, don’t shoot the messenger.
– John Niven (author of the rather good read ‘Kill Your Friends’) publically invited Ed O’Brian of Radiohead fame to “suck on his balls” due to the bass players recent outspokenness on behalf of the FAC.
– During the final ‘free for all’ panel, the audience was asked to shout out who their favourite band of the festival was and rather brilliantly the majority vote went out to Sentric Music’s very own Gallops! I assure you this is the truth as well; I wouldn’t be so disrespectful as to lie to my dear, dear readers. It’s just that we have some of the best UK talent on board here at Sentric Towers!
This leads me very nicely onto the artists I managed to catch over the conference. Here are the highlights…
MidiMidis (Sentric Music Showcase) – Winners of our ITC 09 competition sent the simplest tech spec I’ve personally ever witnessed: Two guitar amps, a mic and a 3.5mm jack which was then connected to a Sony PSP handheld gaming device. They then performed music that can be best described as The Strokes writing a soundtrack for a Sega Master System game, circa ‘Alex The Kid’. Very interesting and clever enough to disperse any preconceptions of gimmickry, it even instigated BBC Introducing to tweet: “MIDIMIDIS last song rocked. Called Nemesis, out in Nov. Tune.”
Dutch Uncles – One of the three most talked about bands of the weekend (alongside Gallops! And Frightened Rabbit), Dutch Uncles have been causing quite some fuss within the Manchester scene in the past few months securing high profile support slots with the likes of Maximo Park and Bombay Bicycle Club. There lead singer oozes the Mancunian idiosyncrasies of Byrne, Curtis and Morrissey without coming across pastiche and I’m very happy to say we’ll be working with them here at Sentric very soon.
Dirty Goods (Sentric Music Showcase) – Funky Welshman Dirty Goods certainly delivered on one latter part of their name and thankfully appeared well groomed quashing any worries about the former. Their 50 word bio that was submitted to the ITC Live Guide convinced a couple of lovely folks from Sony Pictures in LA to come and catch them opening the doors to potential syncs in the future; a good example of how important a well written bio can be.
Jamie Ley (Sentric Music Showcase) – The former front man of Jamie & The Lionhearts who is now going alone brought with him some actual fans who sang along with the actual words and everything. A lovely voice that has a touch of Nutini about it whilst still staying original, Ley has a few big boys sniffing around him at the moment and rightly so as even though he falls thoroughly into a saturated genre he’s still managing to stand out.
Gallops! (Sentric Music Showcase) – Before In The City began I claimed there will be three phrases guaranteed to be used at some point over the course of the conference, one of which was: “Were you at (insert artist name here) last night?! They KIILED it”. I’m rather chuffed to say that you can well and truly insert Gallops! Into that gap, because they indeed did kill it and kill it good (I should point out to people reading who don’t keep up with ‘Youth Culture’ that ‘Killing It’ in this context is actually a good thing and no, I don’t know either). Instrumental organised chaos with a drummer who caused me to agog my face off. Brilliant.
The Federals (Sentric Music Showcase) – I’ve was looking forward to seeing these ever since they came on board at Sentric Music and thankfully my anticipation didn’t lead to disappointment. I could throw around many buzz words to describe these lads but it simply boils down to good old fashioned dirty rock and roll. I like these, and so should you.
Frightened Rabbit – The Drowned In Sound showcase was always going to be rife with talent thanks to the ears of the sites editor and Frightened Rabbit shone majestically. Scotland is churning out some quality music at the moment alongside artists such as Twin Atlantic and Sentric’s very own Nacional, maybe it’s time I visited that old friend of mine in Edinburgh.
So there you go, that’s enough eh?
What I’m reading this week: Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History Of Nearly Everything‘ Warning – don’t read unless you want to feel rather unimportant.