Generating Northern Talent

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Finance, Law & Music Business, Music Training & Careers

Tucked away in the heart and soul of Newcastle’s thriving hub for live music, down in Ouseburn Valley, Generator has always been somewhat of a mystery! The name is well-known in the area amongst those involved in music and there is a strong association with local live events and competitions. So to dispel any myths and achieve a little clarity for us all, I caught up with Al Smith, an integral cog of the teamin Newcastle.

Can you give us a little background on Generator?
Sure yeah, Generator was formed in 1991 as a music development agency. There are two sides to the agency, looking after music businesses and musicians themselves. So basically our main aim is to provide support! For example we are not a funding body but we can provide information on that for people if they need it.

In what other ways do you provide this support?

We run regular seminars for a network called Plugged In which is a network of businesses, and we also have sister network in Yorkshire. It’s free to join and we run regular events on different subjects ranging from topics like promotions to album artwork to putting on live events. We have guest speakers like SJM Concerts and the guys who have people like Coldplay and Green Day on their roster and designers who have worked with the Pixies. About 80% of businesses are small businesses with fewer than 5 employees, so the vast majority may have a limited skill set and experience, so it’s about trying to get people together to share their experiences and pass on their knowledge. The whole music industry can’t really survive without the support of one another, if you take one part of the equation away it just doesn’t work. We want to help create sustainable music industries in our regions, we want businesses to thrive.

So that pretty much looks after the business side, how do you support musicians specifically?

On the artist side we run a programme called UMT, which splits into three strands. We have UMT:VOX for vocalists, which covers anything from singing to MCing, where people work with producers to develop their vocal style and on creating new tracks. UMT:BEATS, is DJing and production and UMT:PLAY which is for a younger audience and happens in the school holidays. We put people in groups who have different music tastes and are from different backgrounds and get them to make music, do photo shoots and at the end of it put on their own gig. It’s very focussed around creating and performing new music.

How do you feel you offer support to more established or developed acts?
We have great contacts with bands across the North East. We actually run music clinics so if there is something specific bands want to talk about on a one-to-one basis we can arrange that as well. That could be with us at Generator, or bringing in a specialist. We have a good network of musicians and businesses. We are a voice to and from the industry providing that link for musicians. We try and help as many people as we can and that’s mainly because artists today have to have a very wide skill base. Not everybody has management or teams around them to help so it’s about giving them the skills they need to be where they want to be.

You guys get associated with organising Evolution festival, but that’s not quite right is it?

No! There is this myth that we only run the Evolution Festival which we don’t! We run a few things around the festival and our Chief Executive is also the Festival Director, so we do get associated with it quite heavily. We have a stage at the festival where we put emerging talent on and we also run Evolution Emerging which is the night before Evolution Festival. On this night last year we had 6 venues and over 25 bands, all in the Ouseburn Valley and all free. Leading up to the event we get a panel in to listen to entries and then devise a bill with the best emerging talent in the North East. It’s a big night for us and it’s a great opportunity for bands. It’s a mixed line-up too, we try our best to have different genres and get people to watch bands who they wouldn’t see every week.

Finally, how do you feel about the strength of music in the North East at the moment?

I think the range of what’s going on with bands and artists in the North East is brilliant. There’s a massive breadth of talent and I don’t think there is a North East sound at the moment, so people are paying attention because everyone is so different. It’s really diverse. One of the advantages the North East does have is that Generator is there to speak up about it.


North East bands, Generator, unsigned Bands, unsigned Gigs, north east music


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