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Off The Record Festival & Conference Preview

Now only one week away from Manchester's biggest live music festival & conference, Off The Record, our very own Charlie Dancer gives his top tips for the event, which panels he thinks are a must-see and his top five acts on the line-up.

Returning to the city’s famous arts and cultural area The Northern Quarter, Off The Record boasts is biggest line-up yet as well as largest wide-spread industry involvement with curators including the likes of BBC Radio’s Huw Stephens & Abbie McCarthy (who has recently nominated for Music Week’s Women in Music Award), Sony Music’s Julie Wier & Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard among a host of other fantastic speakers and music professionals.

Attending the event last year, I was overwhelmed by the buzz of the event, both throughout the day at Manchester’s Central Methodist Hall and in the evening across several venues in the area. Seeing so many young and hungry musicians gaining inspiration from some of the industries top tier delegates is always a pleasant sight. Being at the forefront of my own work up in Newcastle, and overhearing many attendees swapping notes and tips for progression was heartwarming to say the least.

Thinking about this years event, it felt fitting to compile a micro list of what I believe to be the must-see happenings of both conference and the festival. So…

Conference – Manchester’s Central Methodist Hall

In no particular order, these panels seem the most fascinating to me, covering the ever-changing landscapes of the music industry as well as featuring some rather excellent speakers.

DIY vs. Indie vs. Major
I absolutely love a chat about record labels, the evolving methods and strategies implemented as no conversation I’ve had has ever been the same which is down to the very fact that there is no one way of doing anything in music these days. More and more now we see artists releasing music independently and coming up with incredibly unique ways to create content and market their brand – this for me is probably the most exciting part of seeing artists grow. How are they going to differ from everyone else? Is it purely a sonic difference or are they disregarding the usual social media models of promo entirely? Who knows!

Speakers: Jennifer Otter Bickerdike (RocknRoll Historian, Author), Julie Weir (Sony Music), Mark Orr (LAB Records) and Tony Ereira (CPWM/Hatch Records).

Northern Revival
As a Geordie, I sometimes feel that the North East lacks the industry attention it deserves for the serious amount of talent that emerges from it. This, of course, is not always the case, with bucket loads of acts rising through the ranks at the moment, including one of Tyneside’s own, Sam Fender, becoming a bit of a national treasure as time goes on. I could witter on for a while about this, however I think Off The Record’s website put it more eloquently:”The North/South divide is a lot more complex than whether you’re a fan of Oasis or Blur. Over the last 10 years bands such as Arctic Monkeys, The 1975 and Blossoms have began to break down the musical border that has been segregating the North from the South. The North in particular has proudly become an A&R hotspot with more successful emerging acts continually breaking through. However, how can these acts go from selling out the Apollo right down to Brixton all without leaving their Northern abode?”

Speakers: Dave Haslam (DJ, author), Sally Dunstone (XRay Touring), Chris Hawkins (BBC Radio 6Music), and Emma Zillmann (From The Fields).

Make Money From Your Music Outside of The UK
Money is certainly a talking point for artists. It’s stressful for new artists just kicking off their journey to comprehend how exactly they can generate income, however this thought is often limited to city, region or country. The UK has a massive music market that exports globally and if you can navigate this to your advantage, then you (friendly artist person) are onto a winner in my eyes. This panel will be exploring how to break into those international markets, touring, publishing, distributing and those all important best practices for seeking out opportunities that will generate income overseas.

Speakers: Nina Condron (Horus Music), Deborah Smith (Anara Publishing).

Exploring The Relationship Between Artist & Manager
This for me is such an important panel for new artists to attend – the relationship between artist & manager is one greater than any other working relationship that I have ever come across in the music industry so far. Interdependent & symbiotic in equal measure, many artists can go far without a manager but without that honest opinion in the right corner of the ring backing the artists decision, you can’t land those haymakers. Terrible analogies aside, this panel will surely be interesting to witness.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike (Author/RocknRoll Historian) with Jeremy Pritchard (Everything Everything) and Peter McGaughrin (Red Light Management).

Festival – Spanning 8 Live Music Venues

As a fan of music in general (music is just a bit great isn’t it??), I found it quite hard to narrow the choices down to just five acts to recommend watching here. I tried to consciously avoid picking acts I have seen before but then went back on myself because, well, 3/5 acts of below that I’ve seen live before are just really very good live bands.

I’ve been a fan of Avalanche Party for some time now and wholeheartedly believe that they are still one of the best live bands I have ever seen in my life. Utterly explosive and ear-rattling in sound, whenever I see them live I’m filled with this monumental urge to do something rebellious and angsty like take a slightly longer route to work or pay for the bus with a £20 note or something else equally as marginally inconvenient as to stick it to ‘the man’ or ‘the system’ or whatever. In reality I’m made of much fluffier stuff than this but the point I’m getting to is that Avalanche Party are a raucous beast live and possibly the best garage rock band I’ll ever see.


TEAM PICTURE – Castle Hotel
Leeds seems to constantly produce a high standard of bands, from Pulled Apart By Horses to I Like Trains, the Yorkshire capital is never short of boasting creative quality on a national level. I consider Team Picture another one of those bands, pushing the boundaries of what indie or alternative means, lyrically assassinating the modern age we live in and generally just being all-round cool peeps. The first time I saw them live in Hull for Humber Street Sesh Festival they had four old television sets on stage with them and this random figurine centre stage. Great band.

THYLA – Castle Hotel
I’ve never seen Thyla live before but they certainly aren’t short of riffy bangers. Based in Brighton, Thyla create ‘firey post-punk’ which is an awesome (and absolutely correct) summary of their music. Their track ‘Candy’ opening vocal line just cuts right through me. Lush.

Olivia Nelson – Jimmy’s
Truthfully, I hadn’t heard of Olivia Nelson until delving into the line-up for this year’s festival a couple of weeks back. My attention was immediately caught by Olivia Nelson’s utterly sublime voice, blending so nicely with summery R&B production. We tend to be a little starved of quality R&B up in Newcastle, so any opportunity for me to soak it up – I jump at it (and I think you should too).


The Old Pink House – Night & Day
This lot are one of the regions shining, up-and-coming stars right now. It’s an exciting scene to witness grow and develop and The Old Pink House I feel are one of the dominant front-runners with their own brand of ‘cosmic-pop’. Full of rocky grooves and delicious synths (not to mention Christopher Brown’s mad falsetto vocals), these guys for me are a must-see.







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