International music conference organiser Un-Convention has announced the first wave of speakers for its return to Manchester on the 8th and 9th July. This, their 106th event, will be one of the first in-person conferences of its kind in the UK since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. It brings together a host of artists, industry professionals and organisations to reflect on how the independent music sector has reacted to the crisis, the lessons that have been learnt and to explore what happens next.
Speakers include Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, who has spent more than a decade championing artist’s rights through his work with the Featured Artists Coalition, and Mark Davyd and Bev Whitrick from the Music Venue Trust who continue to be instrumental in supporting hundreds of grassroots venues across the country.
Elsewhere panels and keynotes look at how artists and organisations have been able to adapt. Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite will discuss his experiences as a musician and the hugely successful campaign behind the band’s most recent album, whilst organisations such as Driift and the award-winning Manchester chapter of United We Stream (now rebranding as StreamGM) will explain how they connected with audiences around the world for some of the most memorable musical moments of 2020.
Keynote speakers include Manchester’s newly re-elected Mayor Andy Burnham andthere will be in-depth analysis of how the independent music sector is currently holding up, with insights from industry representatives such as Paul Reed (Association of Independent Festivals), Annabella Coldrick (Music Managers Forum), Lucie Caswell (Music Publishers Association), David Martin (Featured Artists Coalition) and Kelly Wood (Musicians’ Union).
The two-day programme will explore everything from the reopening of regional music scenes to the challenges of Brexit, with panellists including artists Laurie Vincent (Slaves), Sara Leigh Shaw (The Pearl Harts), John Robb (The Membranes), Elisabeth Elektra, Steve Lawson, LNA, Stewart Baxter (LIFE) and Andy Carthy (Mr Scruff), as well asmanagers such as Trevor Dietz (Fontaines DC), Shikayla Nadine (Rebecca Garton / Levelle London) and Conrad Murray (Blossoms / The Coral / The Courteeners), plus a host of independent promoters, labels, venues and festival organisers.
The event will also showcase twenty innovative new business ideas for the music sector, covering everything from Virtual Reality to Mental Health, as part of the JUMP European Music Market Accelerator, a Creative Europe funded project which partners Un-Convention with MaMA Festival (France), MIL (Portugal), Nouvelle Prague (Czech Republic), Linecheck (Italy) and Athens Music Week (Greece), along with a team of industry experts and mentors to help support emerging entrepreneurs.
Un-Convention co-founder Jeff Thompson said: “We’re really excited to be bringing people from across the independent sector back to Manchester this July, and we feel very privileged and buoyed by the enthusiasm everyone has shown to get involved. It’s been such an incredibly difficult year for so many, but at the same time we’ve seen a great deal of camaraderie and community spirit throughout and that’s something we want to reflect on during the conference.
“Our hope for the two days is that it gives people a chance to reconnect, to talk about how we move forward, and to discuss what we still need to fix. Our last event took place in early March 2020 and at the time there was a real optimism about the state of independent music, so really we’re hoping that we’re now at a point where we pick up some of those conversations again and see how we can work together to get artists, organisations, music scenes and the wider sector flourishing again.”
The conference takes place in person over two days at the 02 Ritz in Manchester with passes priced at £30 available via the Un-Convention website. Organisers have also set aside concessions for those adversely affected by the pandemic. Details can be found at www.unconventionhub.org
The event will run with a limited capacity and in accordance with Covid regulations and is made possible by the kind support of Arts Council England, Creative Europe, the Musicians’ Union and StreamGM.