Manchester Evening News - November 27th 2009...

Un-Conventional Music Makers

MANCHESTER'S music scene is one of the most influential in the world and now a new homegrown industry conference is winning fans across the globe. Un-convention is a forum for small independent music companies, including record labels, concert promoters and the artists themselves.

The idea was born when Jeff Thompson and his colleagues at Manchester's Fat Northerner records decided there was a gap in the market for the grass roots of the industry to get together, share ideas and do business. The first Un-convention conference was held for around 120 delegates in Salford over three days in October 2008, and it proved so inspirational that many of those who attended were keen to host events in their their home towns.

Already sister conferences have sprung up in Belfast, Brighton, Swansea and Oxford and more events are lined up for as far afield as India, Holland, Australia, Columbia and Brazil. Resonance Jeff said: “The music industry is so London-centric and we wanted to do something for the smaller companies in Manchester, but it was apparent that the idea had resonance all over the country and it quickly became a national event.

“Seventy-five per cent of record labels are outside London, but they are so spread out that there isn't much of an infrastructure. That is why people latched on to it.” The team built a model of how to run a successful Un-convention conference which they can now take anywhere in the world, with the help of some local knowledge. Jeff added: “We can help with the organisation and getting guests for industry panels, but it is crucial to have local people on board to tailor it to that market.”

Conferences are funded by delegates' registration fees and subsidised by cash from local authorities and other interested parties such as the British Council. Un-convention is working on an online hub to act as a forum for making contacts, exchanging ideas and publicising upcoming events. Jeff said: “It is all about building a network and empowering people to achieve success.”