Doing the Motherland proud: MusicNSW at the Great Escape - MusicNSW

For the The Drum Media 29/5/12 by Meg Williams

This week’s edition comes from all the way from Brighton for the 2012 Great Escape. The Great Escape is a showcase conference and is known for launching new music to the UK and European markets. Dubbed the UK’s answer to SXSW, this humble (only in comparison) but impressive conference kick starts the summer festival season, attracts nearly 15,000 music lovers and industry representatives and houses 300+ bands in nearly 30 venues across 3 days. This is the core programming and with the addition of club nights, the ‘alternative’ escape, pop up gigs, label parties and collaborations mark an exhaustingly amazing couple of days on a cold pebble beach.

The concentration of the Great Escape is conducive to new partnerships, Brighton is known for it’s number of small venues, which is great if you can get in. At no other conference I’ve attended were there more opportunities to simply meet people. However the concentration is also a weak point – I missed out on a number of bands in my stubbornness to see them all. It’s just too hard to jump between venues to see different bands – the lines are too long. For a showcasing artist, getting as many people as possible to see you is the key – don’t count on one big showcase but a number of smaller ones will work.  Oliver Tank played each day for example, 2 -3 times is pretty standard. The Great Escape also programs bands during the day, which is sometimes an easier way to see bands.

Each year TGE has a feature country – this year the Catalan and Balearic Islands – and despite Australia not being an official focus, we definitely took over the town. A whopping 17 bands took flight to showcase and an impressive bout of Aussie delegates including labels, publishers, agents, managers, bookers and festival promoters were all present, – if it weren’t for the quaint townhouses, vegan hotdogs, antique shops and pebble beach I swear I could have been in Fortitude Valley for Big Sound.

This is an important comparison, as for any band looking to showcase abroad – Big Sound is a great place to start, and actually a starting point for a number of conversations I had at TGE. The amount of European and UK representatives I spoke to who mentioned or wanted to know more about Big Sound was impressive and definitely helped QLD band Inland Sea have such a successful trip. They scored a review of their 2011 Big Sound Showcase on the BBC, which lead to a London based booking agent who was able to assist them to set up a mini tour around London, TGE and Liverpool Sound City this year.

There is a welcoming attitude from the UK towards Australian bands, this was evident at the “Meet the Aussies” luncheon organised by Sounds Australia.

The delicacy behind this event may not be clear – it’s just a lunch, but much like a seating plan at a wedding, this was intricate and carefully thought out. Positioned as if we were all on the singles table and implied to be set up, international delegates were placed next to their most appropriate Australian manager/label/publisher/booker. I’m sure this lunch alone started a lot of successful partnerships for those attended. This is the detail that Sounds Australia put into their projects and they are recognised for it when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Yearly Music Conference Awards.

Then the bands; Sounds Australia staged two showcases for some of those who travelled over. They took over the Festival Hub – an outdoor mini stage at the centre of it all and the infamous Aussie BBQ on the beach. Showcasing bands included Jinja Safari, Oliver Tank, Emma Louise, Inland Sea, Husky and Ben Salter.

Back in London the hype for Australian bands continues with an expectation that the next Temper Trap or Cloud Control will pop up at any minute. As an export focused event, the variety of bands reflected the sheer mass of a music market and showed it couldn’t be a better time for Australians looking to export there. A gateway to Europe and a launching pad for new music, the Great Escape would be an ideal jump into the international conference circuit and any young band looking to export. Just be wary, 3 days at the conference will take up 8 months planning.

-The Drum Media 29/5/12