Music industry hopefuls inspired at Off The Record showcase

(Originally published on Quays News, November 5, 2016)

THE INAUGURAL Off The Record Conference and Gig Showcase hit Manchester’s Northern Quarter yesterday. Our reporters Natalie Rees and Will Stevenson went along for an inspirational day.

The day began with a quick trip to the foyer to receive a complimentary cup of Tim Peaks coffee. This set the relaxed tone that continued throughout the event.
At 10:30am, Quays’ reporters saw their first panel: If You’re Gonna Do It, Do It Right. 
This saw Jay Taylor, the promoter for the Ruby Lounge discussing live music with Tom Lovett (Sofar Sounds), Lucas Wilkinson (Fiesta Bombarda), Jeff Thompson (Off Axis) and Miriam Rahimov (When In Manchester Festival).
They talk about raising awareness of local gigs, how to attract and expand an audience and how to make a gig ‘a diary event’ rather than ‘just another gig.’ Jeff Thompson runs Off Axis, a ‘gig swap’ system, where acts with similar sounds come from all over the country to discuss.
Next up at 11:00 was time for a workshop: Thinking Beyond A Chart Position.
Elory Powell is a singer, actor and social entrepreneur. He is in the room today to speak about balance between career and life.
He encourages the room to “write, write write” and “create their IP.” He discusses the feeling of having a number one hit and the hunger that creates to match it again.
Yet Powell never achieved his second #1 and he doesn’t consider that a bad thing. It has allowed him to “think outside of music” and he encourages the audience to do the same.
Finally, he speaks about “burning out” and learning when to take a step back and take a moment to breathe. Powell encourages finding a hobby outside of a career and spending time on that to clear minds.

Everyone leaves Powell’s talk refreshed and excited about the opportunities ahead of them.

At 12:00, it was time for the Summer Of Love.

The brains behind some of the UK’s biggest festivals take to the main stage to discuss their involvement in showcasing emerging talent and the best ways for upcoming artists to get noticed.

Jim Mawdsley (Association of Independent Festivals) was joined by Andy Smith (Kendal Calling), Becky Ayres (Sound City), Craig Pennington (Liverpool Psych Fest) and Yaw Owusu (Liverpool International Music Festival). Rebecca Ayres explained the importance of upcoming bands and artists for Sound City, “It’s in the heart of what we do”.

Jim agreed, describing festivals as “incubators of emerging talent” before discussing the value of new bands, not just cheap line-up fillers. Their tips for getting heard? “Content content content, keep promoting yourself.”

Next up was the Label of Love panel – Dave Haslam (Hacienda DJ and Author) in conversation with Tim Burgess (The Charlatans, OGenesis Records, Tim Peaks) and Camille Bennett (Tear).

Dave Haslam chatted to Tim Burgess and Camille Bennett about the relationship between label and band.

Burgess, who manages OGenesis Records, explained that partnerships are based on friendship.

He doesn’t use contracts, instead having the brilliantly named ‘nontracts’.

Dave described OGenesis as a place for new music from new bands and new music from old bands, before Tim explained their championing of spoken word, “OGenesis is a platform available for however long people want to be with us”.

Camille told us about her professional relationship with Tim, before he confessed his priorities for the label, “I just want them to be cool and break even.”

Next up was Jen Otter Bickerdike (Music historian and author) in conversation with Brian Canon (Photographer behind Oasis’ ‘Definitely Maybe’ and David Drake (Photographer behind The 1975’s ‘I Like It When You Sleep…)

The conversation started with how the pair started out in their careers, with Brian parting with a brilliant anecdote after realising the dream of being a rockstar wasn’t realistic.

Where he was stood in a lift when who he shortly after found out was Noel Gallagher, asked him where he got the rare pair of Adidas trainers he was wearing, “Noel asked me to design his band’s sleeve once they were signed, he stuck to his word and that turned out to be Definitely Maybe”.

David’s journey started out a little different, after winning a photography contest, he had the chance to shoot with The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas.

He moved to London and worked in a bar where he met designers who put him in touch with a certain Matty Healy, of The 1975.

Brian gave some advice as to how to progress within your craft, “You’re only as good as your last job. Be as nice and as cool as you can.”

Brian admitted that the best work he had done was with bands he was closest too, whilst David draws inspiration from fiction and Hollywood movies from director Steven Spielberg.

Brian got emotional after admitting how thankful he is that he has a job he loves, whilst David offered advice for budding photographers, “take risks and be driven”.

Next up was the most serious discussion of the day, a Q&A With Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham.

Andy is the MP for Manchester and he has his sights set on becoming the areas mayor and increasing devolution of powers to the North, whilst Steve Rotherham is the MP for Liverpool Walton and is running for the mayorship of Liverpool next year. Both are Labour party members.

The topics discussed have a focus on music, with the two MPs somewhat jokingly talking about the cities rivalries.

Though Rotherham claims that “Liverpool is the city with the most #1s” Burnham insists that Manchester has birthed better talent overall.

Thankfully, there’s only one mention of Brexit and the panel manages to stay mostly on track. Burnham does find the time to launch a scathing attack at the Conservative government, however:

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From 3:40 to 4pm was the slightly-delayed My Generation panel;, an incredibly inspiring panel with Jess Nash (Notting Hill Music), Brendan Walsh (Sunday Best), Chloe Abrahams (CODA), Lee Burgess (30th Century Management, Pinky Swear) Hannah Mee ( SJM Concerts) and moderated by the founder of Factory Records, Phil Saxe.

The panel discuss breaking into the industry in a variety of roles including concert promotion, artist management, running a label and more.

Each of the panel had been to uni, though not all finished. They talked about different ways to break into the industry but each agreed that one of the most important aspects is to be as enthusiastic as possible around any and everyone you work with.

Hannah Mee brings up the “importance of buying someone a drink,” as it is an instant connection and topic of conversation.

The panel also agree that, at the very least, anyone breaking into the industry should have music in common.

Wrapping up, Off The Record has had an extremely successful debut year, with a host of fantastic speakers each raising interesting points.

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