In The City 2009 - Day 1 Summary

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Selling & Distributing Your Music

For those of you who couldn’t be at In The City this year, we thought it was only right that we report back to you with what we’ve managed to take in over the 3 days – panels and discussions, not to mention the bands we’ve caught live. We’ve tried to cram in as much as possible, it’s been exhausting at times, but we’re glad to have survived yet another In The City and feel all the better for it! So here it is…our day by day summary of what we at The Unsigned Guide have done, seen, heard and watched…



License To Ill – Digital Licensing, How Do We Build A Future?

‘License To Ill’ was set to be interesting from the get-go; looking behind the scenes at the world of digital licensing with some great panellists contributing their points of view including Steve Purdham from We7, James Healy from Universal’s Digital Commercial Department, and Pete Downton from 39Ventures.

There is no question that the rise of digital music has caused a hell of an issue for record companies and collection societies in terms of managing rights and monetising use of tracks, a message which is quite regularly brought home to us when we read any music-related news article. And quite worryingly, the main conclusion I came away with when this panel ended was that there is a distinct lack of procedures that the music industry as a whole follows to standardise how they ensure the right people are for the use of their music. The panellists themselves were the first to admit this, and claim they need these standards putting in place to help them do their jobs more easily as well, but exactly whose responsibility it is to get the ball rolling on this doesn’t seem to be clear to anyone.

A very interesting point made by Maria Forte of publishing company Maria Forte Music Services was about standardising MetaData attached to musical tracks, which at the moment isn’t happening. MetaData is a digital tag placed on individual songs which should include information about the artist, composer and such like, so when songs are used digitally they can be traced, and ultimately the right person or people involved can be paid. Unfortunately, it turns out that there are still a great many songs out there which do not have all the relevant MetaData info attached, and in quite a number of cases absolutely none at all, which makes it near impossible for artists, writers and composers to be credited in full for use of their work. Quite a chilling thought indeed…

Some other good points were raised by Steve Purdham, CEO of We7, who seems devoted to ensuring artists and composers streamed through the site, receive their payments no matter how much hard work this creates for him & his team. Incidentally, unsigned artists & bands using the We7 service will receive a nice monthly Paypal payment for tracks streamed…now that can’t be bad!

Relatively new to the block, We7 is certainly proving so far to be a successful model, although Steve revealed that they have faced many obstacles in setting up the service; most of which boil down to the same thing – a lack of shared information. Steve admits constantly struggling to find information with regards to paying the right record companies, publishers, composers and so on the right amount of money due to them, and he seems very keen for this information to be made more openly available and shared amongst the music industry to, quite rightly, cut out unnecessary legwork and confusion.

The buzzword of the discussion seemed to be ‘unpicking’, as all panellists seemed to be in agreement that the way the traditional music industry has worked until this point needs to be unpicked and reworked to fit the digital age with existing models being broken down and made more transparent, quite simply so everyone knows where they stand and what they are entitled to. Seems to make sense!

However, it goes without saying that this is much easier said than done, but hopefully the ball can start rolling to bring about some of these pretty basic changes which would ultimately make everyone’s life easier. Let’s hope these panellists and the music world beyond keep talking…

The Seldom Seen Kid – The Unheard Story of Paul Curry & How He Almost Created Web 3.0

The next panel was one I had been really looking forward to, a one-on-one chat with Paul Curry, a 20 year old guy that pretty much no-one had ever heard of before. Except for one small thing…as a 16 year old, Paul created a service called Music Search Plus, in simple terms a Google-esque search engine for hunting down any song you could ever want to download, whether licensed or unlicensed. The site took off and had between 40 and 60 million users a month.

Although Music Search Plus itself had no direct involvement as far as copyright infringement was concerned because the service was purely acting as a search engine, Paul still had grand dreams of finding the elusive holy grail; bringing about a solution that filesharers and music consumers, the music industry and the artists themselves could all agree on. Very grand dreams indeed, and possibly quite unrealistic but Paul certainly does have a point. He hoped to encourage the record companies and filesharers to communicate to truly understand what each side wants, and potentially work together to find an answer that would work for everyone. As Paul repeatedly pointed out during the discussion, it will never be possible to wipe out piracy completely, but there will always be a percentage of filesharers that can be converted into happy, paying customers, and this is what the music industry needs to focus on.

Paul took his dreams very seriously and even ventured on a trip to the US to meet with record companies and music lawyers which, with varying degrees of success of getting his foot in the door to discuss his plans, inevitably ended up with doors being shut in his face. Without any real route forward, in the end Paul opted to shut down Music Search Plus earlier this year, but his insights into what the future may hold for the music industry were definitely valuable, if not quite concerning. His experiences only go to show that the music industry’s attitudes towards piracy are pretty much making the whole issue harder for themselves. Why the music industry isn’t making a point of consulting people such as Paul or the music pirates out there to open the lines of communication and fill in the gaps in their digital knowledge is beyond me!

The Internet Is Not The Future

Anthony Volodkin is the chap behind The Hype Machine, a clever little invention which aggregates music blogs and MP3s from around the world and filters them into a well thought-out selection for any discerning music fan’s eyes & ears.

As you can imagine Anthony has worked long and hard on building and developing The Hype Machine, but the one over-riding feeling that came across was his passion for music, for writing about it, seeking it out, reading other people’s views about it…you get the idea! So the message was loud & clear - to anyone out there hoping to set up their own music website or blog, you’re ultimate motivation for doing it has got to be the love of music.

And for those bands out there desperately trying to get a mention on the vast array of music blogs at their cyber disposal, Anthony shared some nuggets of information about how to best approach them. Firstly, make sure you carry out research into the blogs in question, take the time to read them and see if your music suits their general ethos. You are wasting everybody’s time if you blanket your MP3s to blogs about Metal music when you are an Acoustic Singer Songwiter. Simple, quite obvious, but all the same, very true. Secondly, a personal email explaining why you like the blog in question, why you think your music is suitable…perhaps you could mention some other bands & artists your music is comparable to that have been written about in the blog in the past. All of this will go a long way to someone making the time to listen to your music and find out about you.

The Bands

So, our mission to discover the unsigned gems of this year’s In The City begins! First up we headed to Studio for a band who had caught our eye in the ITC Live Guide, Asakusa Jinta. Several times in previous years at In The City I have stumbled across a Japanese band and each time they have proved to be entertaining, fun, quirky and cool, at the very least. And Asakusa Jinta did not disappoint either! A colourful and energetic Japanese band with a formidable brass section, not to mention a very nice transparent double bass, their oriental combination of Ska and Swing was a winner. They even got the crowd to indulge in some of their crazy dance routines, and I can quite safely say that not one person left that gig without a smile on their face.

Next on the agenda, we headed to the Sentric Music showcase to catch the Chromeo-esque Dirty Goods in action. It took a couple of songs for it to really kick in for me but by the end of their set they had toes-tapping throughout the venue, including mine.

In true ITC yo-yoing style, we then ran back to the venue we had previously come from to see May68, a Manchester band that have been on the receiving end of a lot of praise recently. They were described in the ITC guide as ‘inspired by the New York disco scene, post-punk, Chicago house and classic pop’. Not a bad combination! Though, I’m not sure if the New York tag has come from the fact that their frontwoman is a dead ringer for Karen O. With such a description you’d be forgiven for thinking to yourself ‘style over substance’ - but you’d be wrong. They played an upbeat and catchy set, and although their singer doesn’t really have the pizzazz and stage presence to match Karen O, they definitely deserve to be earmarked as Ones To Watch.

Then... back again to the Sentric Music showcase to see the very hotly-tipped Gallops. Everyone else must have had the same idea as we arrived to a pretty packed-out venue. I have to say without reservation that the hype was definitely justified. No vocals, heavy guitars, powerful stuff. And very good stuff at that! If you get chance to see them live in a venue near you, I would certainly recommend you do so…you won’t be disappointed!

And to end a great evening we literally sprinted across Manchester city centre to the Big Scary Monsters label showcase…surely we must be getting fit by now! But alas, we arrived to hear the final chord of Shape’s last song of the set being strummed. Well, sometimes that’s just the way it goes at In The City…so many bands, and not enough time!



in the city, itc unsigned, itc live, unsigned band, unsigned showcase, music industry showcase, music industry convention, music industry conference


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