Off the Record Manchester

Last week, the 3rd year and MA Music Industries students ventured away from Birmingham City University for a rare field trip to Manchester for the first ever Off the Record Conference, a multi-venue industry event featuring speakers from across the country and hand-picked emerging artists performing across the Northern Quarter (and free coffee!).

I began the day with Summer of Love, a panel discussing the incubation of new artists at music festivals, as well as how to maximise your minutes when playing on a big stage. The four panellists had backgrounds in some of the country’s largest and most innovative festivals, including Bluedot, Kendall Calling, Sound City and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. Considering this is the sector my career aspirations lie in, I found this talk to be extremely interesting and useful. Festivals don’t necessarily have an obligation to develop new acts, but the panellist’s reasoning behind their dedication to talent incubation was very enlightening.

Another interesting panel featured local mayoral candidate Andy Burnham and Liverpudlian labour politician Steve Rotheram. Whilst the industry talks were interesting, it was refreshing to hear about the music industry and its development from local politician’s perspectives. Both were very good speakers and showed a knowledge of the creative industries both Northern cities house, and spoke of their plans to highlight our musical culture and support and expand it.

The event also featured workshops – slightly more interactive and usually led by just one speaker, these were more intimate than the panels – a welcome variation. The first I attended was presented by CMU’s Chris Cooke about how to make money from music. As a young adult in his last year of education about to enter the job market, this was significantly important to me. Featuring a breakdown of the available revenue streams for performers, as well as costs this talk was very informative and connectable to the material I’ve been learning for the last three and a half years. Another of the workshops was ran by Ditto Music’s Matt Parson. He told his story of getting his business off the ground and the sacrifices he had to make on the way – it was truly inspiring to see someone talk so frankly about the journey to his current position. In addition, the industry-related part of the talk was very informative, particularly based around independent record labels and starting your own label. Starting a record label is a future ambition of mine, as well as something we do in our first year on the BA Music Industries course, so both the information given with regards to logistics and finance, as well as the services Ditto offers that can assist in label activity was very interesting and useful.

I attended several more panels and workshops during the day – too many to write about in one blog post (especially considering the amount of work I still have to do), but all were both entertaining and informative – credit has to be given to The Charlatan’s own Tim Burgess, who spoke about his label Ogenesis Records with Camille Bennett. The panel also spoke briefly about the beginning resurgence of cassettes as a physical music format, a topic spoken about the previous day in our lecture.

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