Liverpool Sound City 2012: Day 1 Sessions Roundup

By on Thursday, 7th June 2012 at 2:00 pm

Editor’s note: This is mostly for the geeks who are interested in what goes on during the day at Liverpool Sound City, when us delegates are actually ‘working’ and networking on ways to do what we do better. Although by sheer numbers there are a lot less people attending Sound City, I found being surrounded by more students and bands a completely different atmosphere than in Brighton for the Great Escape, and in many ways, preferred these more approachable groups and sessions.

Bright and early next morning (err…9 AM) I rolled out of bed and made it on time to pick up my badges from the Hilton. How nice to not have to wait for hours to get a delegates badge sorted (::cough:: SXSW ::cough::). I stepped into my first delegates session at Sound City and breathed a sigh of relief. Instead of worrying about rammed sessions at the Great Escape, these sessions were full, but not cramped. And I noticed there was definitely a higher proportion of students and young bands to self-important types, which made the whole affair far less pretentious. I sat in on a module being led by Martin Skelly of Uniform, a local Liverpool company that has been developing some interesting ways to merge paper, technology and music. You might wonder what exactly paper can do for music, since most everyone has switched over to digital downloads. Martin gave us two examples; one was an interactive calendar of gigs that one could press different dates and hear a sample of music of the band playing on that night. The other was an actual piece of paper with special inks pressed onto that when placed in a specially designed ink reader could play a track by Oxford band Jonquil. Dubbed ‘smart paper’, I was really impressed by both technologies as a means for bringing music in a physical way back to the masses, and I could tell from the looks on their faces that the students and bands listening in on the session were also pretty impressed.

After my first session, I crossed the street to pop over – admittedly way too late –to try and get a glimpse of the Queen and see the Hummingbirds again. HRH was late and people were definitely getting impatient. I figured I had little chance on grabbing an actual photo of ol’ Queenie (dressed in an orange sherbet outfit head to toe that day, if you were wondering) so I filmed some video instead.


After that flurry of excitement, it was time to grab a bagged lunch costing less than 4 quid (thanks, Tesco Express) and arrived just in time for an informal lunchtime lobby performance by Waa Wei, a Taiwanese pop star, part of a major Taiwanese contingent with the catchy name ‘Das ROCpool’. (More on them on Friday’s review.) It takes a lot of nerve to perform thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by people who speak a language you don’t completely understand and I guess being Oriental, their manager honed in on me and we chatted a bit in the mother tongue. Unusual experience that I doubt will be repeated anytime soon, but have to say it felt pretty nice.

Next, it was back in for a panel session moderated by Amazing Radio’s Shell Zenner, featuring indie label bosses. The more I hear guys like this speak, the more I’m convinced the music business is going to stay alive on the backs of people like them and not the big labels who treat their bands like numbers. Remember readers: support your favourite bands of course, but don’t forget to support your favourite indie labels, because we need them to stay in business so your favourite bands can put out albums! It hadn’t occurred to me that the Line of Best Fit came from a Death Cab for Cutie song (to be honest I’m not a fan of DCFC and just assumed it was an allusion to statistics); either way, it was cool to meet Rich Thane of Best Fit Recordings and have a meeting of the minds with another blog named after a favourite song.

At the recommendation of a new Manchester friend, I stayed around for a tech panel that I thought would not be up my alley. I thought it would go over my head, but I learned about three Web services I’d never heard of: WebDoc, which looks like a whole bunch of social media platforms combined into one but giving you the ability to put your own mark on it; Mobile Roadie, a practically DIY approach to making your own apps, and Rdio, a subscription music streaming service that has had better luck hooking major labels than Spotify has. But what turned out to be most directly handy to the TGTF vision was a chat I had afterwards with David Adams of Soundcloud, who appreciated my feedback on how our blog uses and benefits from Soundcloud so much, he offered me beta access to the Next version of Soundcloud, which if I do say so myself, looks so sleek and cool and has some very useful additions to the original make, I can’t wait until the new Soundcloud is fully realised and available to everyone.

A social media session was rammed yet wasn’t as interesting as I’d expected, so I ducked out of there and ducked into the Taiwan Panel. I don’t speak Chinese fluently, but I get by okay, and I can understand it if it’s not being spoken a mile a minute, so hearing three talks by heavyweights from the Taiwan music scene was pretty fascinating. There’s this whole world of music that we as Westerners know nothing or next to nothing about and it’s definitely a market that Western labels can tap into, while discovering homegrown talent from there. And where else at a music conference will you be served jasmine tea upon sitting down, I ask you? I hope the whole ‘Das ROCpool’ franchise returns to Sound City next year, bigger and better, and I will have more time to see and chat with all the bands they’ve brought over.

The Taiwan folks were also in charge of Day 1’s end of day party, and I hung around for a bit for free drinks (of course everyone was heading there!) and also was waiting around for the Hummingbirds for an interview, which unfortunately never materialised because they had a conflict with their soundcheck. But Day 1 had already been jammed packed with meeting so many new people and finding out about so many new things.

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