Emma Lyttle, one of our good friends at Bruised Fruit Promotions shares below her experiences of this year’s Liverpool Sound City Festival and Conference. She highlights her music highlights including Django Django and shares the most useful sessions from the conference elements of the event. Emma gives honest feedback on bands she was disappointed in and overall how she found her first experience of Liverpool Sound City.
What to Expect
Sound City is a 3 day international music, media and technology conference and live arts and music festival. You can expect a wide range of events that will appeal to everyone with an interest in the music industry. The conference hosts panels, workshops, seminars and keynote speeches from experts in various fields creating a platform for networking and learning opportunities. The focus on the event is to bring together the creative and digital industries to chart the future of the music business. The festival boasts an impressive and eclectic line up of both established and up and coming bands and artists. This year their were a few more mainstream acts taking to the stage such as Professor Green and The Temper Trap, although when taking the whole festival bill into account Sound City is far from being commercial. Now in its fifth year, this was the biggest Sound City to date welcoming delegates from 23 countries around the world.
Liverpool is a fantastic city, with a musical heritage that makes it the ideal place to host such an event. The conference is held at Liverpool’s Hilton Hotel, which is located in the city centre’s Liverpool One. The gigs take place in multiple venues in the city centre, all of which are within a short walking distance from each other. The only two exceptions to this are the Echo Arena and O2 Academy which are a little further out. There are some fantastic being used to host gigs throughout the festival, my favourite being St Luke’s Church (locally known as the Bombed Out Church) where bands and artists performed in the ruins of the church which was bombed during the Second World War.
On the whole the organisation for Sound City is pretty good. The staff and volunteers at the conference were very helpful and gave you all the information you need, with regular announcements being made to tell you when panels were about to start and updates on whether there were any delays.
In terms of organisation with regards to the other side of the festival things could have been a little bit better. I was disappointed to miss out on seeing some bands on the Thursday night, surprisingly not down to my poor navigational skills, but because their set times were incorrect in the festival programme. However, this is only a slight criticism as I didn’t have this problem on the other two nights and got to most of the bands I wanted to with a few extras. As always with festivals clashes on the bill are to be expected but with the venues being quite close to each other you can easily nip in and out to catch bits and pieces of different bands sets.
As this was my first time attending a music conference I must admit I was a little nervous and unsure as to what to expect. I shouldn’t have worried; there is a real relaxed style and friendly atmosphere to Sound City making it less intimidating. For example, the Roundtable Sessions held throughout the conference give you an opportunity to rotate round tables discussing various areas of the industry and was a great way to meet people and network in an informal setting rather than trying to force conversation randomly. I also got the chance to take part in my first panel during the Thursday conference about Social Media and how best to use it. I mainly talked about our involvement with Starboy Nathan’s social media and trying to increase fan engagement using platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. The main points that came across in the session were:
- Don’t post too much about yourself or your band.
- Have a personality online.
- Engage fans as much as possible.
- Have good content, mainly access to your music and don’t make us “like” you before we can listen to it.
- Use clever hash tags.
I found the panels to be very useful and have a few highlights from across the weekend. The first of which, being the Women and the Music Industry panel in association with The Women’s Organisation. In such a male dominated industry it’s sometimes easy to get disheartened when trying to start your career but attending a panel made up of women who have been successful in music PR, management and events I found rather inspiring.
Another panel I found very interesting was about Music Discovery, I was surprised to find that, statistically, the most popular way of discovering new music is from radio in TV. In even a digital age with the popularity of social media at an all time high it is still these traditional mediums that people pay attention to, which I suppose when you think about it isn’t all that surprising as they are appealing to the mass market. The trouble is that with so much music in the world not everyone is going to get airtime, the next best way to discover new music is via recommendations and word of mouth. The advice given was to build your fan base locally, play lots of gigs and create a buzz as a great live act.
Other highlights included Digital Derry’s Start Up panel which generated a lot of interest from the audience and the Open Session for Artists with networking drinks with the lovely Keith Harris from PPL.
The line up for Sound City is bursting with brilliant music, and with so much on offer it’s hard to decide what to go and see never mind pick the best from each day but I’ll give it a go. Here are my personal favourites from each day:
Highlight from Thursday night for me would have to be Django Django in The Garage. A band that has been much hyped in recent months but I actually hadn’t taken the time to listen to and I must say after their performance I can see why they’re causing such a stir. The band took to the stage in the disused car park to a rapturous response from the crowd, which only intensifies as their set progresses. It’s hard to box this band; many have drawn the comparison to The Beta Band but their sound crosses many musical genres, its modern psychedelia with a hint of cheesy electronic then at times you get Stone’s like riffs and harmonies that could be seen as reminiscent of The Beach Boys. They are definitely a band worth seeing live and I imagine they will do very well on the festival circuit this summer.
A real stand out performance from The Lake Poets in the Shipping Forecast as part of the North East Invasion, the reason it stood out is because based on this gig I’ve probably discovered one of my new favourite bands. Frontman Martin Longstaff really bares his heart and soul to the audience letting them into the stories behind his songs, including his grandmother’s fight with Alzheimer’s, getting through a hard time in your life and little insights into life in Sunderland. All sounds a little depressing I hear you say? Whilst the subject of the songs may be rather melancholic, they are wonderfully tuneful and at times rather upbeat with current single City by the Sea being a clever crowd favourite. The set ends with the wonderfully moving Shipyards the room is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, to me that silence spoke volumes of an audience captivated by pure talent and honest, beautiful song-writing.
Another highlight was in the packed out Kazimier for an incredible set from White Denim, a real throw back to 1970s rock with a soulful vibe.
I made a great discovery in the form of singer-songwriter Jamie Lawson who played The Bombed Out Church on Saturday afternoon. Not only was the music wonderful but this is also a brilliant venue which makes for a very atmospheric experience, so if you ever have a chance to go and see a gig there then I would highly recommend it.
Yet another recommendation for Sound City is the Aussie BBQ in Heebie Jeebie’s courtyard, a must visit on a Saturday afternoon for a beer, good food and some even better tunes. A surprising favourite of the weekend for me was found here, the electronic/hip hop soul duo Sietta. Vocalist Caiti’s voice is astonishing, powerful with a real bluesy tone and the girl knows how to bust a move, whilst multi instrumentalist and producer James drops the beats and is simply too cool whilst doing so.
Dan Croll has been making waves on the Liverpool music scene for a while now and rightly so, his performance opening for James Vincent McMorrow was very impressive. He lists Sufjan Stevens, Beirut and Fleet Foxes as influences and is currently being championed by Communion who have included his song Marion on their 2012 sampler CD. Croll is quite charismatic and is very at ease with the crowd in the beautiful Epstein Theatre, the most touching part of his set being him dedicating his closing number Home to his guitarist who had sadly lost his mother recently. Dan is certainly one to watch giving the buzz there is surrounding him in the city.
As much as it pains me to say this as I am a huge James Vincent McMorrow fan, I was particularly disappointed with his headline show at the Epstein Theatre. I’ve read many people on Twitter speaking of how fantastic it was and normally I would agree McMorrow’s music is spellbinding; however I felt that this gig could have been really special but didn’t deliver. A number of factors contributed to this, one being that particularly in the opening moments of the show the crowd showed a real lack of respect by chatting whilst he was playing and the people shushing didn’t help matters. Secondly, the sound was pretty poor with the monitor speakers buzzing along with McMorrow’s awkwardness on stage and constant apologising for things that were going wrong. A real shame that little moments like this can take away from the enjoyment of the music.
Overall Opinion of Liverpool Sound City 2012
As a first timer I would definitely recommend Liverpool Sound City to anyone who hasn’t experienced it before whether it be for business purposes or simply as a music lover. The conference offers great networking opportunities in an informal setting and I also noticed there were a lot of students in attendance which gives them a chance to learn a little bit more about the industry. The festival will have something for everyone due to the array of bands and artists from various genres and with the emphasis being on promoting new and up and coming talent it’s certainly a festival where you could get all hipster and see the next big thing before they were big!
Bruised Fruit is a creative agency based in Belfast City Centre.
Set up in 2005 by Jennie Wallace the company has always offered a high level of service to clients from all areas of the creative industries.
Bruised Fruit specialise in Marketing & Business Development for SMEs and start-ups. Largely working in the music industry Jennie has helped shape the careers of many young bands in Northern Ireland