LIVE REVIEW: Off the Record 2017

Off The Record is the result of a collaboration between independent festivals Sound City, Kendal Calling, Bluedot and music blog Louder Than War. After a sellout first year, expectations were high with ticket holders travelling from all across the UK for the Manchester music conference and festival, but luckily it did not disappoint.

Attended by musicians, spoken word artists, business students, PR interns and radio show hosts alike; OTR was an informative insight into the modern day music industry. With workshops on merchandise, PR, streaming and social media, they offered practical advice for the DIY musician as well as tips on finding jobs in the business, from a wide range of experts and industry buffs.

First up, Ditto Music CEO Matt Parsons set the bar high in the main hall with an inspiring presentation. Stating that Ed Sheeran played over 1000 gigs in the few years before the release of his hit single ‘The A Team’; he encouraged musicians to work hard and take every opportunity before finishing with a motivational mock video of the ‘Choose Life’ Trainspotting credits.

Throughout the day attendees were given the opportunity to meet and further discuss topics with delegates in an allocated networking room. A nice touch to ease us less experienced networkers into the event.

The next panel, moderated by BBC 6Music’s Elizabeth Alker was entitled “Perception is Everything” with Andy Kettle (Steaming Kettle PR), Shakuntia Joshi, Victoria Turnbull (Silent Radio) and Sarah Jamieson (DIY magazine) discussing the use of social media in creating a positive image and how to make the best of it for networking purposes. An absolute essential for musicians and business minds alike.

Musicians involved included Cabbage, who stopped by to share their journey so far; talking record and publishing deals and inspiring political change to an excited audience, along with some great advice for emerging bands.

Later, Grime artist, producer and mentor Vernon Caisley was joined by Despa Robinson (music entrepreneur and record label owner) to offer an interesting insight into the growth of the UK grime scene, its venture into the mainstream and their perspectives as artist and artist manager.

Professional rapper and manga author ShaoDow also took to the couch in “How to Make Money from Merch” along with Will Spencer (Music Glue), Cimone Fagan (Hospital Records) and Lee Burgess (Century Management). Tackling the subject from all areas of the industry, panellists encouraged the audience to be creative when it comes to merch, look for gaps in the market (with Cimone offering an example of Hospital Records’ new range of female active wear) and how this helps to build your brand and establish yourself as part of a scene.

The afternoon continued with Lucy Wood (Festival Republic), Grace Banks (studio producer), Katie Chatburn (composer and senior lecture at RNCM) and all female band Stealing Sheep discussing the issues female artists, engineers and producers face along with efforts to tackle the gender imbalance in music. This included an interesting look into Festival Rebuplic’s ‘Rebalance’ program which aims to increase the number of female artists progressing to headliners and women working within the industry. With this in mind, it was hard not to notice the lack of female artists outside of the gender imbalance panel. It would be great to see more female bands and musicians involved in the conference next year!

In the final panel of the day UK organisation Attitude is Everything launched their new DIY Access Guide with CEO Suzanne Bull was joined by music blogger Hannah McKearnan, musician & producer Robert Maddison and Richard Phoenix from Constant Flux to discuss how musicians, venues and promoters can be help give access to deaf and disabled music fans. The panel, as well as the guide, broke down simple and cost effective ways to make gigs more accessible and a more inclusive environment.

Panellists and participants gathered in Night & Day after the conference to discuss plans for the night ahead, leaving some difficult choices to be made and the inevitable desire to be in multiple places at once. Chosen by MCR Live’s Jess Campbell, Oxford-based four-piece Low Island kicked the evening off at the venue with an upbeat, electro set. Stemming from a former alt rock band and bearing fleeting resemblances to The xx, the band combines pop melodies and jazz influences to create a more fulfilling style of dance music. Highlights included a performance of their most recent single Hold it Down.

An all female, post-punk three piece, Liines played an outstanding set at Gullivers and set a high standard for the rest of the evening. Championed by Louise Dodgson of The Unsigned Guide as well as Radio X and BBC 6Music, their songs were hard hitting, energetic and to the point; or more aptly put by a fellow gig goer, “short and blasty.”

At the Peer Hat, Elle Mary and the Bad Men captivated the basement venue with their brooding brand of folk noir. Accompanied by Michael Dubec on bass and Pete Sich on drums and armed with an electric guitar, Elle Mary’s sound is sparse and ethereal with wavering vocals and melodies that bring to mind the likes of Nick Cave. Picked by Jo Dudderidge of The Travelling Band and Sideways Saloon, Elle Mary and the Bad Men release their debut album ‘Constant Unfailing Night’ on the Manchester label in March 2018.

Fehm, a five piece from Leeds brought the evening to a close at Gullivers with their eclectic post-punk sound. Put forward by Bluedot Festival, their set was driven by heavy bass and pounding drums with newer tracks like ‘Human Age’ adopting a slight ’80s sound with synths and catchy garage pop melodies.

Featured Image Credit (Control of the Going): Georgina Harrison
Photo Insert Credit (Conference): Elspeth Merry

For more information on Off the Record, visit their Website.

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