Music Gateway sent music blogger Holly Iles to Manchester’s latest music industry convention. She shares with us her insights from Off The Record festival 2018.
Until now, music blogging has been the only contact I have had with the music industry. I studied fashion communication at university, so began my blog as a way to transition my training from fashion into music. My passions have always been in writing and photography, blogging allowed me to do both.
Through blogging I’ve established connections with various PR agents and promoters, interviewed emerging artists and photographed a number of live events. Now looking to take the next step in my career and expand my knowledge, I attended Off The Record Festival with the aim of gaining insight from those at the top of their field.
I was able to attend the renowned music industry convention with the support of Music Gateway who granted me access to the event. I have attended fashion conventions before, but never one relating to the music. To be honest, I was surprised by the large number of young, aspiring artists present; I anticipated meeting more people in a similar situation to myself, but it was encouraging to see so many young people taking their music seriously.
When at the conference, I mainly attended the panels which were lead by prominent figures at the forefront of the industry. The discussions covered an array of topics relevant to the way we create, circulate and consume music in contemporary culture, as well as exploring potential game changers to the industry.
One of my favourite panels was ‘Thinking Outside the Box: Getting Creative With Gigs’ panel with Ade Dovey (Mission Mars), Steve Vandy (I Love Live) and Ben Robertson (Kendall Calling/Bluedot). Even though festival planning and venue management isn’t particularly in line with my skill set, I was fascinated to hear how they stay one step ahead of their competition. The key is to put on shows and festivals that provide conceptual, one of a kind experiences, rather than simply a good line up. When discussing the renowned, space-themed festival, Bluedot, Ben explained the best method is to “create a strong a strong concept that excites people, now it curates itself”. Steve agreed that if an event is cool and cutting edge, then you will attract more people.
One of the pieces of advice that came through at a number of the panels and workshops, was identifying the right place and the right time for you and your music. It came into discussion during the ‘Northern Revival’ panel, broadcaster Chris Hawkins noting that as an artist it’s important to build a loyal fan base in your home town as a foundation, then inspire more fans by touring. He followed this by adding “quality is everything, have a good sound and fans will follow”. Steve Vandy referenced the importance of the right place, right time as he talked about artists playing rooms that were realistic for their size and the number of people they could draw to an event.
I heard this phrase repeated again and again throughout Off The Record Festival, it was applicable to every conversation. It was heavily discussed during the ‘Getting Your Music Heard: Streaming vs. Radio’ panel, Nina Condron of Horus Music advising the artists in the room not to stream their music without a clear plan; distributors can help you market your music and stream strategically to boost exposure. CD Baby’s Steve Cusack, later added that when hiring a radio plugger timing is crucial; is this track good enough to captivate audiences? You must choose the right time in your career; do you have more songs that new fans can also discover when they go looking for you online?
Also taking place at Off The Record, was a workshop by Music Gateway’s Head of Operations, Sophie Small, titled ‘Managing Your Music for TV & Film’. I attended Sophie’s workshop with no prior knowledge of sync licensing, but left with a clear understanding of the best approaches for how to get your music on TV, as well as including the necessary rights information. Research and relevance is key to targeting the right people who are looking for exactly what you can offer them; focusing your approach will increase your chances of success dramatically.
Sophie also linked to the idea of right place, right time; not only in contacting relevant film producers, but in hiring music supervisors when is appropriate to your career. The same principle can be applied when pitching your tracks to people within the film industry; they want polished, finished tracks, not demos. Give them something of a high quality that is ready to be immediately placed into TV, and be ready for fans to find your track online should you secure a sync license.
If you’re looking to get your music heard, find a new career path or make a contact, then music industry conventions are a fantastic opportunity to do so. The speakers have been invited there because of their expertise; go out of your way to talk to them, its a lot easier to make an impression there and then rather than over email. Be human and have a genuine conversation; making an authentic connection will make you far more memorable and that contact could come in handy one day. Get their contact details and contact them after the event, giving them your card is great, but don’t wait for them to contact you, demonstrate your commitment.
You should also make an effort to talk to your peers at conventions, they might open collaboration opportunities that allow you to harness their strengths and open new fan bases. A simple conversation can lead you to unexpected connections that could make all the difference.
No matter your aspirations, music festivals are full of potential competitors all looking to make industry connections. That’s why its important that when you are networking you have a clear, short pitch about who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re important. Give them a flavour of who you are, be authentic but make yourself stand out. Remember not to be pushy, you don’t want to turn people off, be respectful and polite, make a positive impression.
If you have time, take the opportunity to learn about something new even if it seems unrelated to your path. It’s not often that you’ll get the chance to learn from industry leaders, and it could give you a more rounded perspective. At the panel for ‘The New Power Generation’, Kali Bradford, label manager at Distiller, told the audience to “always keep learning, it makes you more marketable”. It’s never going to hurt you to know more about your field.
Using all the knowledge that I’ve gained from Off The Record Festival, going forward I will make the most of every opportunity to network and continue to pursue projects that interest me. I’m going to investigate my local music scene to build relationships with artists and PR agents, looking to collaborate on press and promotional content. I will also use the contacts I made at Off The Record to investigate internship opportunities so that I may learn more about different practices within the industry.
If you missed Off The Record Manchester this year, do not fret, there are still plenty of ways you can make use of the advice given at the convention. Harness the power of Music Gateway’s Marketplace to connect with live projects and make global connections. There are also a number of music industry conventions held around the UK each year, do your research now and mark some dates in your diary for 2019.
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