Go-and-See: Liverpool Sound City 2014

FLUX Liverpool @ Sound City 2014

Grassroots Ambassadors AJ and Creaky ‘Go-and-See’ how a big-budget festival functions from the inside

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Thursday, 11:00am, Leaving the Bluecoat

Having already washed our faces with CEO scrub that morning, AJ and I were feeling fresh and ready for the commercial world that lay ahead of us. There stood the Hilton, the conference flagship – us the wee stowaways creeping in all the way to registration, feeling the eyes of every Suit, Tie and Marketeer upon us. We would spend the majority of the afternoon wired on caffeine and anxiety, but ultimately, Thursday was the most potent experience we could have taken from Sound City.

The first doses of the day were the panel discussions: various industry professionals debating the pros and cons of the digital frontier, and how to prepare for the ever fluctuating future of the music industry. Each panel was moderated by a respected business figure to keep the conversation even, and we left with one good idea or another, for example: ‘once people get on to your [web] page, make it easy for them to navigate – they’ve already gone to the trouble of finding you, so reward them.’ Already AJ and I could sense the prevailing nature of Sound City as the Facebook representatives rounded off the first discussion with the advice – ‘you just need to spend more time on these platforms.’

Do You Follow?

We are already a generation of job-seekers raised on the premise of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, so we naturally jotted down names of VIPs – mostly so we could pounce on them like steam-powered cougars as soon as they were out in the open of the lobby. I won’t bother going into too much detail over the panels, you kinda had to be there… besides, we’ll be compiling a list of People to Pester for the meetings, so get your little black books ready.

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Now, the tip of the spear: meeting Spotify. In what appeared to be an ‘industry speed-dating’ arrangement, we snuck into a room full of round tables peppered with representatives from various companies, notably for us, Spotify’s Artist Services rep Bryan Johnson. You were given an allotted time on each table with the company rep before an unsettlingly loud whistling sliced through the atmosphere and put your pitch to rest. You then had to chaaaange placeeeeees Wonderland style and start again with the next professional who looked just as bewildered as you. I over-exaggerate of course – we ended up having a lovely chat with a group of young producers/artists (while wholly ignoring the whistle), I think it was just the third-coffee-of-the-day effect.

Plonking ourselves down opposite Bryan, I shot a silent ‘OH S*@#!’ glance to AJ who nodded wide-eyed in agreement. This was our chance to get Spotify on board for Flux, and we had to get it right. Perhaps then what felt so wrong about the ensuing conversation was the very nature of this you-have-10-minutes-now-tell-me-what-you-want setup. I say wrong, we didn’t insult his mother or anything like that, but our excitement translated into a puppy-eyed pitch that ended with Bryan giving us his card probably just to be polite. This may sound like a colossal whoopsy, but it was actually the best thing that could’ve happened. Let me explain what Friday felt like in comparison.

Friday, 12:00pm, Striding Into The Hilton

Ahh, sweet rest. A good kip and a slowly brewed cuppa does wonders for the young soul. Yesterday was a bit intense, but the evening reminded us of the one unifying aspect of this conference: love of music. I believe it’s what made Friday’s networking so much more organic. Incidentally, the blog post for the music review will be linked right here as soon as it’s ready. Charlotte and Alex had already given us the following advice earlier that week, but it took a ‘go-and-see’ experience for the lesson to sink in:

Relax, They’re Just People

Creative people! Like Switchopen’s Nick Rhodes; an incredibly gifted, dedicated artist who teaches young people all across the globe – boom! We saw him and Bobby Evans in an inspirational panel exhibit on the relationship between music and artwork, hosted by BBC 2’s Janice Long (who was a fantastic host, and looked brilliant in bright orange trainers). AJ and I swam into the pool of speakers and press, warmly complimenting Nick on his work. With AJ in conversation with Bobby, Nick and I continued our conversation en route to the next panel – and his attention soon turned to Flux. ‘This sounds brilliant, when is it?’, ‘Have you got a website/card?’ etc. This was our revelation.

When we approach people about Flux Liverpool, it shouldn’t be a sales pitch – it’s a relationship-building opportunity. That sounds just as corporate, I know, but if your conversation isn’t organic, the fruit of your labour will be stale. Think of how many people they must meet, or receive emails from on a daily basis – what have you got that’s different?

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Here’s Where It All Goes A Bit ‘Matrix’

And I must apologize in advance for putting on my Morpheus specs here but- the nature of the discussions at these panels/talks is the digital world and how a creative industry can stay on top of it. If there’s only one disadvantage to being a young person at the brink of the social media revolution, it’s that we’re too reliant on our-(wait for it), our Residual Self-Image.

‘It is the mental projection of your digital self’

By that I mean it’s easier to get someone to like, follow, comment on, or share your digital accomplishments than it is to engage with someone in the flesh on a professional level. Maybe that’s just my short-sightedness, but I felt a significant change for the better in the way a potential BigName turned into a potential Collaborator once we’d broken down the barriers together. These are things we need to be considering for Flux; advising our young people on how to collaborate with older members of the industry, how to turn their hobby into their business, and how to deal with the realities of a creative career.

And then oh my days and stars-! John Cale in the flesh! 20 minutes in the Drella Room?! Forget it. Forget everything I just said, my knees just collapsed. As one of The Velvet Underground’s founding members, John Cale was the conference key-note speaker. He was a natural conversationalist, and he glowed in the presence of hundreds of staring eyes and cameras. His stories from the 60s and 70s, including a brief mention of working with Nick Drake, left the whole crowd moved. We left the Hilton shortly after feeling a great sense of self-esteem… and the feel of a fistful of business cards- mwahahaa-

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And We Say Thank You For The Music

I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and I hope I’ve spoken enough for the great work AJ did on her own, but this weekend was definitely a team effort. We’ve still got a lot to do yet, but in the last few meetings we’ve really started to get on it! Flux Liverpool isn’t Sound City; it’s not Glastonbury, Leeds, Creamfields, or anything that comes with a six minute commercial for insurance or shaving cream. Flux Liverpool is a platform, and we have to be the leg-up for the new wave of young creatives.

Let’s find our feet this year first though, eh?

–          J. Crawford

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