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What we learned on Day 3 of Beyond The Music

  • By Ryan Moss

  • 16 Oct 2023
  • 8 min read

Last Friday saw up-and-coming artists, managers and industry professionals flock to Manchester Central for Day 3 of the city’s newest conference, Beyond The Music. 

What followed was an engaging series of talks that covered a wide range of topics. We heard discussions on AI, grassroots music and lots more. 

Get the lowdown on what we learned on Day 3 of Beyond The Music below. 

Grassroots and arena-sized venues need to work together

‘Who’s Feeding The Grass Roots?’ felt like the most pertinent talk of the day. Here, the Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd, The Snug’s Rachael Flaszcack, Co-Op Live’s Gary Roden, AO’s Gemma Vaughan and Factory International’s Jane Beese came together for a panel hosted by The Big Issue’s Laura Kelly. 

With a mixture of grassroots advocates and professionals from the arena-sized venue space, this talk was jokingly dubbed a boxing match. 

However, the panellists regularly found common ground. All speakers agreed that the big venues have to support the grassroots ones, with Gemma Vaughan telling us that she “doesn’t think large-scale arenas have done enough to help grassroots venues” post-pandemic.

Rachael Flaszcack spoke about Atherton’s The Snug, which recently became the first venue to be bought by the MVT. She told the crowd that no one from the big arenas has ever come down to The Snug, which means that they don’t know what grassroots venues can do for arenas. 

Mark Davyd rounded up the stats. He told us that 2023 will be the best year for stadium-level tours, but 127 grassroots venues have shut down in the last 12 months. He went on to exclaim that if large venues can’t give £1 of every ticket sale to grassroots venues, “we’ve lost the plot”. He was met with applause from all. 

Overall, we left the talk feeling energised. It was inspiring to see people from all levels of the industry infrastructure come together, agree that a joined-up approach is needed to save grassroots venues and understand that local venues create tomorrow’s stars. We’ll be watching closely to see how the situation develops. 

The want for a UK Parliament for the music industry is palpable

‘Creating a UK Parliament for the Music Industry’ was chaired by The Ivors’ Tom Gray. The panel brought together Andy Burnham, Nathan Clark from the Brudenell Social Club, Liverpool City Music Board’s Cath Hurley, Generator’s Alex Fuller and MU’s Naomi Pohl. 

Tom Gray told the audience that the panel was borne out of frustration and a feeling that things could be better for the industry. The question was: what could devolved powers do for music in the UK?

Andy Burnham felt that the whole industry – big and small – has to find a way to come together and speak as one. This sentiment felt like a common theme throughout the day. 

Nathan Clark called for a “holistic approach”, going on to say that parliament needs more regional and northern voices. Hurley called for a long-term plan, something that all the institutions in the area can get involved with. 

Overall, the talk felt vibrant and ultimately ended with an agreement. Tom asked who favoured a UK Parliament for music, and the whole room responded with “Aye”. 

AI might not be the enemy…

Artificial Intelligence has been one of this year’s hot topics and Beyond The Music reflected that. 

We were treated to insights from the BPI’s Sophie Jones, DAACI’s Rachel Lyske, Sum Vivas’ Denise Harris, SoundCloud’s Hazel Savage, Equity’s Liam Budd and was hosted by Redburn’s Agnieszka Pustula. 

‘Rage With the Machines: Taking Charge Of The AI Evolution’ took an interesting stance on AI. Rather than proclaim AI as the sci-fi style, job-stealing behemoth it’s come to be portrayed as, the panel spoke about it in a grounded context.

Rachel used the example of writing a film score for everyone in the room. On her own, she couldn’t do that. But with AI, it would be achievable. 

Denise’s work involves managing the UK’s first virtual DJ, Dex. She explained her views on the subject, telling the audience how the operation creates so many jobs because it requires talented people behind the scenes to program and ensure it works smoothly. 

Liam felt that we do need to take a pause and think about why we’re using AI. “Creativity isn’t always a problem to solve,” he said, going on to explain that there needs to be a conversation to ensure we move forward ethically. 

The key takeaways of the panel? Educate people so that they can use AI, and make sure creators are being paid fairly. 

The Mayors’ in the North West and Yorkshire want to support music in the UK

Andy Burnham’s second appearance on the panel came in the afternoon. Here, he was joined by Liverpool and Yorkshire Mayors’ Steve Rotheram and Tracy Brabin, as well as Visa La Visa’s Andy Corrigan and Wasserman’s Rob Challice. LIVE’s Jon Collins chaired the panel.

Andy Corrigan spoke about a split in the industry. He told the panel that the acts at the top aren’t hurting on costs, but the small acts aren’t touring due to the difficulty of getting a Visa. 

He went on to suggest a solution: musicians coming into the UK should be able to come in as standard visitors with no restrictions. It could be an olive branch to the EU. 

Rob spoke about the middle-sized venues. He said that they are too expensive to tour in, so bands end up only playing in London. So, if it’s a 2,000-capacity venue and you’ve got 80 people working, that’s employment and money coming into the area. Therefore, a 20% VAT should be looked at for middle-sized venues and lower for grassroots venues. The industry would be energised due to the uptake in jobs. 

We felt the mayors and the other speakers on the panel each agreed that the industry should be given structure. Overall, it was encouraging to see music get that level of backing. 

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