A Great Escape from Reality?
Considering how forward looking last year’s Great Escape had felt, this year the conference appeared to be a strange mix of looking ahead and much nostalgia. The looking ahead aspect focused on what issues have arisen in an industry still getting over the initial humps of making the future of digital work and becoming monetised.
The first day was arguably one of the most comprehensive in terms of the level and breadth of the conference sessions. The day was organised by the PRS and they really held court at the Pavilion Theatre where a number of panels – including one on the boom in live, streaming from the cloud, digital marketing and fan engagement – really got things off to a good start.
It was a shame that so much was crammed into some of these (as is often the case) that discussion was cut short due to time constraints and thus not developed enough. The challenges presented in each of these areas were positive for the most part, but not everyone was in agreement on just how best progress should be made.
Perhaps then it was only natural for people to be looking back at the rosy (or at least, drug-addled) past and recounting tales of simpler glory days, when the future seems, if not complicated, at least a lot of hard work.
Friday and Saturday saw Gary Mulholland in conversation with John Harris and John Niven, and with Nick Kent respectively. These conversations with ex-editors, journalists and current authors highlighted the current trends for looking back at the heyday of now established acts such as Elastica and Blur, The Stooges, The Rolling Stones and the shape of the industry, during a time when the advances were free and easy, and inspiration was something you put up your nose or shot into your arm.
All of which is thoroughly entertaining, but not a central or necessary angle at a conference about the future of the industry and new music.
Something that resounded with me most fully was the comment during the debate on the future of music radio, made by panellist Clive Dickens from Absolute Radio when he said “…to be honest, it’s not always about new music. People are tired of hearing about 10 new bands each week, who haven’t even got past their first few demos.”
Dave Haynes of SoundCloud added, “It’s the most established bands that had the longest queues outside their gigs last night, [at TGE] because fans want to hear music from acts that have had time to grow and hone their art.”
This also drew comment around the meaning of “new music” where a number of panellists agreed it also referred to new music from established artists, as well as new artists, illustrated by the idea that all music is new to you the first time you hear it.
Thus, perhaps what is tying these two themes of the industry together is the tension between how we nurture, invest in and push forward the new, whilst not overlooking and leaving behind what was either working, or good about the old.
I had high hopes for the conference at The Great Escape after last year’s big networking and ground-covering success. Those hopes were knocked a little when I saw the size of the new venue, the Brighton Dome and Pavilion Theatre, and how few people were sticking around all day for the networking parties.
This year’s conference might have been smaller, with fewer attendances each day, but there were still some high level discussions and a lot more grass-roots informative ground covered.
One of the best features of the event is the networking opportunities available with the panel speakers. It is always easy to catch the speakers after the panels, either to ask a question there wasn’t time for, or to introduce yourself.
I feel that aspect is so important, because if you are making the time to be involved in these industry events, then you need to feel that you have access to everyone you might wish to speak to. And it helps that discussions can be carried on afterwards, so there isn’t such a feeling of having to leave debate up in the air.
Overall, what I took away from this is just how hard every aspect of the industry is going to have to work to meet the needs and desires of the consumer if it wants to get people back into the habit of putting their hand in their pocket.
Other readers also read:
Event Report – The Great Escape 2010 (Brighton, UK)
Event Report: Liverpool Sound City 2010
When Commerce Eliminated Art… (The Story of the Music Industry)
Why Doesn’t the Music Industry Have Answers to the Big Questions?
Event Report – Unconvention: Music and Pies
The Art of Discovery
The Human Recommendation Engine
US Music Biz Hits All Time Low – Future is Bright