Brighton Music Conference – Brighton Dome – 14th – 15th April 2016

Brighton Music Conference (BMC) has well and truly cemented itself as one of the fundamental industry events for dance music and all that goes with it. With a musical history that boasts so strong, it is remarkable that the UK has only just established itself with one of the core annual industry events alongside the likes of the Amsterdam Dance Event, the Winter Music Conference and the International Music Summit.

In 2014, the BMC became the UK’s first annual dance music conference to be run by the industry for the industry, providing a relaxed yet professional environment for both industry professionals and consumers to meet and network. Building off the successes of last year’s event, we were treated to the best in new tech, organisations, showcases, Q&A’s, talks that covered all areas in dance music, and of course a whole host of different networking parties.

BMCIt is easy to see why Brighton, of all places, was chosen as the host for an event that is so vital for a blossoming genre to move forward. As well as Brighton being a forward thinking place in itself, musicians such as Norman Cook, John Digweed and Cristian Vogel made Brighton a dance music stronghold in 90s. Now with a revitalised pulse of new acts and companies in the UK’s dance music industry, every spring Brighton entertains the genre’s glitterati and fans who converge on the Brighton Dome.

With so much happening over the two days, it’s hard to know where to start; the exhibition room in the Corn Exchange with masses of different equipment and businesses on show, the upstairs bar of the Dome where Native Instruments had workshops, or the four conference rooms (Dome Studio Theatre, Corn Exchange, Igloo Theatre, Dome Founders Room) holding interesting talks. On the Thursday I decided to immerse myself in all the insightful talks held by the industry figureheads about education, trends and issues within dance music, then delve into the fantastic array of different technologies and showcases on show.

No better place to start than with the first talk of the event, a subject that effects every aspect of music; Key Note – Save Our Clubs. At the tail end of last year, figures were released reporting that 50% of the UK’s nightclubs have closed since 2005 – a startling fact. Is it because young people are not going out anymore? Being a young person, I can safely say it isn’t. A panel of some of the world’s best club owners discussed that it is due to the UK’s old narrative on clubbing laws. Why not take note from the majority of Europe which have found a happy mediun, with the likes of Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich leading the way by introducing a “night-time mayor” (a role that bridges the gap between businesses, residents and the council).

With local venues diminishing and festivals becoming the new superclubs, the next talk fitted in nicely; Club, Festivals & Grass Root Venues. A panel of agents, bookers and promoters debated what the reason is behind the 18% explosion in festivals last year and how clubs and grass root venues have to adapt to the changing trends.

Every year, technology is affecting more and more how we consume music. Distribution: Label Services & Direct To Consumer brought up some interesting ideas on how you turn your fans into consumers – bearing in mind that streaming and music on mobile are the future primary revenue streams. Also, how do you make the most of emerging territories (such as Asia, China, South America and India), discussing that it is better to work with the music culture that is already in place than just try and push your “product” on them.

Nowadays with acts being immediately judged on their social media numbers, Your Brand Is Everything! was an important subject that any aspiring musician should take note from. The panel of managers, A&R reps, labels and agents discussed how a good logo goes a long way, being true, consistent and clear in how you want to be perceived is a must, and to take someone like Richie Hawtin as an example who has made himself a worldwide headliner by clever branding.

A fantastic day one came to its end with a fascinating talk by label managers from Hospital Records, Critical, Intec, Skint and Mobilee; It’s All About The Music! …Or Is It? Commenting on whether it is important to have a musical figurehead at a record label, is it always about the social media stats, does a label have to focus on one type of music, can a label just do A&R or does it have to cover all corners nowadays, and how they make money (asked by a bold audience member).

The day doesn’t by any means stop there, as there were a whole host of evening events to get involved in. A BMC Networking BBQ at Neighbourhood, the BMC Academy live at Deadwax Social, Wunderground bingo on Brighton Pier (with Russ Yallop and Enzo Siffredi), DJ Mag live at The Hub (with Critical Sound, Kasra, Foreign Concept) and the official BMC Afterparty at The Arch (with Seth Troxler).

Understandably, the majority of people at the BMC were a little worse for wear on day two after a night of “networking”. I found myself a seat at the Deadwax Social where the Toolroom Academy (a new suite of online production courses) had just been launched in the UK, for what they were calling the Producer Track Construction Seminar. We were able to get a fascinating close up view on how Pork & Fitch build a groove and Funkagenda finishes a track, demonstrating live how they previously constructed their tracks.

BMCAfter an incredibly in-depth insight into how the pros work their magic, I caught the Gender Equality In Music Talk – Next Steps talk in the Dome Studio Theatre. With only a handful of panellists being represented by women at last year’s BMC, Lucy Blair (Motive Unknown / BMC board) took it on herself to try and get at least one woman on every panel. Carly Wilford (IAmMusic & Sister), Alison Wenham (AIM) Halina Wielogorska (Clintons), Ralf Kollmann (Mobilee) and Lucy Blair shared a conversation about whether gender quality is still a thing? They discussed how views of gender equality are decided at such a young age and ways to combat that, how it’s not necessarily men’s fault and that women need to take it on themselves to move up in a company instead of holding back, that equality goes both ways and that men don’t always know how to handle or talk about gender equality. Unfortunately, the fact that gender equality is still a subject means there is still a lot a progress to go, but the overriding feeling is that it’s definitely in a positive place at the moment.

With the BMC in full flow, I spent some time in the bustling exhibition hall with some of the best tech and equipment in the business, surrounded by recognisable figures in journalism, promoters and world renown DJs all learning and networking with all the other attendees. The floor featured an incredible collection of lights, lasers, speakers and gadgets from Korg, Element 5, Yamaha Music, Nex Audio Lab, Eve Audio, Warm Audio, Chandler Ltd, Dreadbox and Fredenstein on display, as well as Brighton’s Gak Audio showcasing products from Focusrite Novation, Native Instruments, Steinberg, SCV and Pioneer. Like that wasn’t enough, Native Instruments had a workshop of all their latest devices for you to lose hours playing around with.

After a full couple of days immersing yourself in everything that is current within the dance music industry, the BMC closed its doors in emphatic style with four incredible after parties to choose from – DJ Mag hosted Yousef and Lauren Lo Sung at The Hub, Wiggle & On The House presenting a night of deep house and techno at Al Duomo, Mute hosting a night at Patterns with Mala and Commodo, as well as English Disco Lovers taking over the Komedia with Crazy P Soundsystem. What a way to finish another successful year at the BMC.
Iain Lauder