June 06, 2009

Unconvention Manchester... Friday Morning Fun!

The day kicked off on a very different level to yesterday's panel. Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies is moderating a panel of artists and label owners with the topic: Outside The Box.

Thinking outside the box should not just be interpreted as inventing a crazy publicity stunt to sell more records. The 'box' in this case is what is left of the traditional music industry. The one that was lining the pockets of many non-musicians for the last 70 years. Diverting away from the box, means taking advantage of new technologies and access that is available in the modern digital world. There is no 'new model' that artists follow; just because The Arctic Monkeys were discovered via Myspace doesn't mean that you should operate that way. Sure, Myspace can be part of your arsenal, but being aware of productive and popular sites in general can help you create your own plan of attack. Of course, tying it all in with a good OFFline strategy, be that touring, printed publicity, giving away CDs outside other concerts, creating a buzz so that your fans partake in word of mouth, or all of the above.

It was very interesting, encouraging, and somewhat indicative of a new generation of musicians, to hear the whole panel's interpretation of success: making a living from music. Not trying to sell 100,000 records and go on a 50-date tour of the US, but being involved in music, being happy, composing, sharing and creating ways to draw income from their passion. If they draw enough to pay rent and eat, they will be satisfied. Of course, there's nothing wrong with building on this and working hard to move further forward /upward /onward (/inward? /outward?), and Abigail Seabrook commented that she constantly re-evaluates her connotation of success as her career moves forward. Indeed, it should be a fluid thought, and the idea of an ever changing business plan, with no finite date was put forward as an example of the extreme.

The panel discussed some of the advantages of not being 'in a box', with many artists loving the control that they have over their own career paths. If your next album wants to be weird and wonderful, you can do so, because you are not trying to regurgitate your last works or re-create *insert popular band here* for your major label puppet-masters. Steve Lawson points out that being unique and pioneering your own sound, style and character can lead to many opportunities. If no-one else plays 18th Century popular music live on harpsichord and cello, then Lady Georgianna are in a strong position for anyone involved in that market. Choosing your niche has always been an important part of finding your musical sound, and now it is just as important to consider that when presenting and promoting yourself - not least so that your target market can discover you.

Does the internet favour the remarkable? A great question from Dubber, and one that brought out many an adjective from the panel. The internet can certainly favour the industrious, the cheap, the curious and more. Conversation favours the remarkable (Stef Lewandowski) and with the internet being many ever-evolving conversations, there is an element of 'yes', there.

A certain amount of overexposure in the online world can possibly deflate the 'Rockstar myth' of artists (read part of my Berklee Music assignment "Internet Music Promotion" for more), but at the same time, people crave authenticity; new media is a great way to create that. Prioritising what works for you and finding your own median is the key to help you connect with effectiveness.

Where does the 'fun' part of Friday morning kick in, I hear someone at the back ask.... Well, being at such a positive and intimate event means that I have met many people that are willing to share, offer and possibly most importantly, ASK for information. Connecting with people (some I'd previously 'known' online, others never before), has been a great influence and motivator. Top marks to the whole team at Unconvention Manchester for just about everything to do with the event. Heading outside for some sunshine (yes, sunshine in Manchester!), some great acoustic bands and a BBQ added to the 'extended family' feel greatly.

I also saw one of the most fun bands I've ever seen at the lunchtime Graveyard BBQ; Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam Six. The afternoon food and music was a really nice touch to the event, and a nice informal place to further network or unwind with new friends.

The afternoon panel was a heated debate, engaging representatives from the PRS/MCPS and the PPL, as well as many audience members. I'm still writing that blog ;)

Check back for the rest of the show soon!

Lee Jarvis.

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