Unconvention Belfast: Live updates

I’ll be live blogging from Unconvention Belfast today. There’s plenty of interesting stuff happening up on the #UnConBelfast hashtag on twitter too.

Panel One: Success Through Failure

L to R: Brett LeBoff, Marty Neil, Steven Houston & Rich Dale at #unconbelfast

L to R: Brett LeBoff, Marty Neil, Steven Houston & Rich Dale at #unconbelfast

First panel of the day is discussing how failure can be useful in the journey to success. Moderated by Rich Dale of Planzai, with Marty Neil (AIRPoS), Brett LeBoff (Monumental Music Group) and Steve Houston.

“If something you’re doing is failing, don’t plod on with it for years. Fail quickly, and move on!”

“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail, as long as you have the passion you will succeed” Brett LeBeoff (via @cittiecait)

“You can’s plan for failure, you can only plan to do something, and that may be a success or a failure” Marty Neil

A lot of talk about technology companies. There seems to be an arguement that technology companies are the ones who can make the money in the new music economies.

“There are two costs of failure, the financial cost… and the stigma of failure”, “Remove the cost of failure: Don’t put your life savings into it. Be realistic. Invest what you can afford to lose…. If you can’t handle the risk of failure, socially, then you just shouldn’t do it”

“If you get knocked down… get up again” (Paraphrase) Bret Le Boff

Marty Neil talking about Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol at the point that they lost their record deal, and Gary was selling some of his vinyl to pay the rent… “Because they had no option, they kept going, and three months later they had Run” The lesson? Success can be just keeping going.

Panel Two: Introducing The End of Independent Music on Radio?

Steven McCauley (BBC Radio Foyle), Shaun Willoughby (The Play Centre) and …

Steven talks about the freezing of the licence fee, and the crippling effects of the transfer of The World Service from being paid for by the Gov’t to being paid foout of the license fee. This has resulted in the BBC cutting 20% of it’s output/size.

What should artists be looking for in a plugger? “Honesty, and being realistic” Shaun Willoughby. (I think though, that there’s a conflict of interest here – a plugger needs to make cash… they may take work that they know/feel won’t make it to radio/TV etc providing it’s paying the bills).

What if there’s a world without the BBC?

The beeb is important because it’s not funded by advertising, so it’s freer to play whatever it wants. [Q: then why do radio one, two, TV play almost exclusively music from the traditional/old BIg Music record biz..?]

Ah, the usual “Spotify doesn’t pay artists enough” arguement. #bollocks

“Why do people care about John Peel? Becasue he listened, and played music he believed in” Steven McCauley

Bit of an aside here about the political economy of radio – what seems to be missing in the discussion is the different pressures on commercial and publicly funded radio. The BBC’s pressures are to attract ratings (to fulfil their Public Service goals of providing a public service), where commercial radio’s job is to attract and construct an audience that it can sell to it’s advertisers. So, radio 1 and the charts have an influence on the music played on commercial stations.

Radio 1 have a motto, ratings by day, reputation by night. So, to stereotype a little here, there’s the standard Top 40 radio playlist stuff during the day (for listening audiences (who are often listening often while doing other stuff, driving the car, doing stuff at home) and the specialist shows in the evening (for the music fans who are willing to seek out new and interesting music). My question here is, if there’s our specialist shows and new-music/intruducing shows are there to play great music, what is it that stops that music filtering through to the mass audience shows? – Possibly more on this (and other garbled thoughts) later.

And now…. Lunch…

Little interview with the awesome Rich Dale of Planzai
RichDaleOfPlanzai by TheHuxCapacitor

And another… with Catherine Morris of hubb.it
Catherine Morris of Hubbit by TheHuxCapacitor

Now it’s the start of the afternoon sessions.

Panel Three: Are the streets of London really paved with gold?

(Opinion: they’re paved with the same stuff as most everywhere else)

Alan Partridge: “Move to London, you’ll either be mugged or unappreciated and ignored”

Brett LeBoff (@boffmeister) – “There’s a benefit to being a big fish in a smaller pond. London is sooo big. I don’t think the streets of London are paved with gold, it’s more pigeon shit and KFC”

Q: In a digitally connected world, what’s stopping us building relationships and doing business with anyone, anywhere in the world?

Conclusions: The streets of London aren’t paved with gold. We can do business anywhere. London is ferhucking expensive.

Panel Four: In Conversation with Keith Harris

I’m recording the whole of this convesation. Soundcloud embed coming shortly.

“The music industry is about relationships” Keith Harris

Here’e the soundcloud of the Keith Harris talk:
In conversation with Keith Harris by TheHuxCapacitor

Panel Five: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

Ed here… I’m going to be being Rich to liveblog the If it Ain’t Broke Break It panel featuring Rich, Mark Orr from Lab Records, Ciaran Ryan (Out on a Limb) and Jeff from Fat Northern Records.

Asking how everyone got involved in their label/business. “I couldn’t even be a drummer” “I wanted to put on gigs in my hometown” “Something to act as a front for a band… Gives legitamacy”

Jeff – world of difference from 2003 when he started his label. “Do we need labels anymore?”

Labels used to be a bank, a warehouse… Don’t need a warehouse anymore. 10 years ago the act of putting a record out used to have weight. It was a THING. No more….

A label can still offer the help of someone outside of the band to make things happen. Still a mark of legitimacy.

Rich – we spannered a loud of cash. (why we don’t have a label anymore) Makes more sense for H&S to interact directly.

Ciarran – we see ourselves as a not for profit label. Don’t even cover all recording costs… Deal is severly pro artist. Run an incredibly tight ship budget wise. Says the cost of doing paid for PR is too much & the timescales too tight.

Jeff – bands still see a record deal as the ultimate tipping point. Has seen quote on label wall “Never ever work harder than your artists…”

Ciarran – artists can be more switched on now… friend laughing about ridiculous demands from major who offered to sign if changed sound.

Mark – got personal investment from someone who worked at Atlantic. Was amazed to find out Lab didn’t offer advances and most artists had day job. 2 biggest expenses and wastes of money – legal and PR.

Jeff – if the PR haven’t heard the record that’s a BAD sign. Good PR will even say no to promoting a record if they don’t like it.

Rich – our audience are our PR. Events and involvement are great ways to encourage audience to promote.

Ciarran – bands they sign come from personal contact. All irish but not neccessarily local… Offered to close label 2 years ago but artists said no. Even those who had other offers.

Jeff – great thing about being an indie label is speed of response. Has signed on spot before. Major consideration – only signs people he likes.

Mark – you will never get to someone amazing before someone else. Signed a 16 year old girl who had been on myspace for 3 weeks. (as fresh as could be) They phoned her up and she immediately said “talk to my manager”

Jeff – they look for a postive friendly professional attitude from potential artists. No time for divas…

Ciarran – don’t make signings drunk. Professional attitude from both sides…

Lessons for others –

Rich – think outside the box in terms of what you can sell. Not just plastic disks and zeros and ones.

Mark – make the songs amazing, matters above everything. Look at alternative income streams (syncs etc) Be clever. A good cover can really sell…

Ciarran – if you are an artist contacting a label DO SOME RESEARCH. Make it personal and real. No massing mailing… make the label feel special. Not just the artist. Also, be realistic as to expectations and plans. Don’t try and put out too much too fast. CD’s are dying for him… Be inventive with formats. If you’re doing stuff as a labour of love – keep it that way. Don’t compromise.

Jeff – don’t do mass mailed cd promos. Be personal with your promo. Do your research. Don’t waste money just cos it’s the norm. Get fans before sales. Be creative again! One of his artists blagged 30 £350 phones from sony to make lo fi bullet time video BECAUSE HE ASKED. Because of this got a phone call from a speaker manufacture “are you guys making the video for sony?” Got sent 30 speakers and got paid to make an ad. Don’t just sit on your ass. \do stuff! Don’t be in a hurry to go to the mainland. Rather than trying to fill empty rooms work out how to play the full rooms with your people. One of his artists sounded like Alabama 3, flyered A3 gig saying that their gig was the offical after party. Got 250 new people who were into their sound to pay in after the A3 gig, A3 found out about it and came over, jammed, gave band some tour dates. AWESOME BLAG. be creative…

(my fingers are tired btw… ed x)

All the label guys are saying that the exciting thing is being creative… the fuzzyness about what a label is now means that you can do anything. It’s up to you…

All done! Back to Rich…

Last panel of the day: Your Band, Your Brand

Missed the first bit of this… catching up now.

Jennie – Is it about adding credibility to the band’s brand?
Rosarie O’Sullivan – it’s also about adding credibility to the brand through association with great music. Try to give your audience something they want to share.

Jennie: When a band is thinking about how to approach a brand, what should they think about?

Lyndon Stephens: With Red Bull for example, they’re generally looking a year in advance. It’s rarer to get something for “next months tour”. Target them at the end of their financial year if you want to pick up on their unspent budget.

Jennie: Before a band can approach a brand, do you need to build your brand first?

Dick Miller: Not necessarily, if you’ve got a great song, that may be enough.

Lyndon Stephens: look for example at Duke Special, with his dreadlocks, his name, his identity if his brand. It’s memorable. It’s his brand.

Dick Miller prefers to use the word Identity for bands rather than Brand.

Thought: I have no problem with the word Brand, especially as with Hope and Social we’re very much about doing stuff as well as the music, Beer, Events, and other people’s H&S inspired art.

Lyndon Stephens picked up an interesting point that it has to be congruent. links between badly matched brands and bands can damage both parties. This links in with an interesting question raised during “If it ain’t broke…” about gimmicks. A gimmick is only a gimmick if it’s incongruent with what an artist/band is about. Radiohead doing this may not work; for H&S it was a simple extension of what we do… but enough about my band. [sorry]

Q from the floor: Northern Ireland has a strong brand in itself, is it coincidence that lots of my fave bands are from round here?

Jennie – Interesting thoughts…

Aaaaaaand that wraps up our panels for the day.

Many thanks to all the Un-Convention team for having us over, and for prganising such an interesting conference. Awesome work all.

Time for a Guinness we thinks. ;) xR&Ed

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