Face the Music

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Face the Music


In its third year, Face The Music is flexing its muscles to become that comprehensive, impressive music conference hosted here in Melbourne.

Question: how come Australia’s music capital doesn’t have a great music conference? Answer: It does now.

In its third year, Face The Music is flexing its muscles to become that comprehensive, impressive music conference hosted here in Melbourne. It’s expanded to run across two full days (Friday November 19 and Saturday November 20 at The Arts Centre) and its Project Manager Andrew Kitchen points out that it’s widening its panel topics from how musicians can further their careers, to also discussing some tough music industry issues.

He adds that the panels will be more about “the practical than the theory”, grassroots and accessible – and designed to appeal to musicians and music industry workers of all levels.

Some of the most respected players in Australia will be speaking DIY pioneers as MGM’s Sebastian Chase, A&R legend Michael Parisi, Rubber’s David Vodicka, Mushroom Music’s Ian James, radio plugger Frank Varasso and Brett Murrihy of Artist Voice agency. Artist managers Catherine Haridy, Rae Harvey, Dylan Liddy, Rebekah Campbell and Tom Harris provide the bridge between the talent and the industry. There are also booking agents, media, A&R, radio pluggers, publicists, government reps, association heads and entertainment lawyers.

Sessions will explore stagecraft and songwriting, international festival opportunities, booking agents, touring, independent releases and labels, distribution and publishing, funding opportunities, career models and industry roles and more.

In a coup, Face The Music have also allied with the Australasian World Music Expo. It will use some of the Expo’s 100 global names to speak at the FTM panels. Which means delegates get a particularly illuminating insight to global touring and opportunities from festival decision makers like Malcolm Haynes (Glastonbury), Alexandra Archetti Stølen (Oslo World Music), Warren Smith (Sierra Nevada World Music), Jason Mayall (Fuji Rock), Barbara Stacey (Ottawa Festivals) and Simeon Chapin (Cumbancha).

The list of artists announced to appear is equally as impressive: Jet’s Mark Wilson, Angie Hart, DJ and super-producer Carl Cox, Adalita Srsen (Magic Dirt), Jon Hume (Evermore), Carlo Santone (Blue King Brown), Middle East drummer Michael Haydon, Charles Jenkins and Lapulung Dhamarrandiji. Some more major names are in negotiations as we speak.

“The importance of an event like Face The Music,” explains Angie Hart, “is the networking opportunity for a musician to meet their peers and understand what the industry is made of. You can be in a vacuum when you’re making music. Even if you’re a large band, you don’t get to hear other people’s stories and know that what you’re doing is not unusual – or what you’re doing IS really unusual. It’s valuable to get some perspective on what you do.”

Hart points out that it’s not just a kid in a garage band that needs support from his or her artistic peers. Musicians in multi-platinum acts who seem to live at red carpet social events also need a shoulder to cry or bleed on when they’re wracked with insecurities and pressurized by fame.

Hart was a teenager when she shot to fame with Frente. They turned down an offer from Madonna to sign with her Maverick Records (“too mainstream, too big”) especially after they remixed Ordinary Angels and signed to a small indie instead. The band she formed later, Splendid, worked on an album – only to see the record company collapse under debts just as it was about to be released.

Hart still gets a great deal of sheer joy from making music. But there are days when she feels like giving it up, thinking she’s a fake. Then out of the blue, she says, a great song will come, and it’d give her a bigger high than any drug could. “If I was to give advice to another musician, it would be to just keep going… and how to keep going.”

Patrick Donovan, now CEO of live lobby group Music Victoria, recalls when he started as the entertainment writer for The Age, that “when you’re in the public sphere, it’s intimidating, you don’t have that confidence early on.” He adds, “Obviously the best advice to give is to be yourself and be passionate. But also do your homework and take your time before you commit to a deal.”

Donovan is mediating two panels at Face The Music. One is on the future of music criticism. One of the topics is whether the bloggers are the new black, or if music fans still prefer their information overload from respected mastheads.

The other is ‘Road Stories: The Sublime, The Ridiculous And The Realities’ about life on the road. Adalita is involved, so is John Campbell whose band Lamb Of God open for Metallica later that night at Rod Laver Arena. Donovan is talking to another major indie name and says it will be as light hearted as it is informative.

Andrew Kitchen, who in a past life was guitarist with hard rock band Antiskeptic, agrees it’s a great time to be a musician in Melbourne. The rallying by the community against the liquor licensing laws has given it an outward focus. “We have a lot of great music in Victoria, and we need to get a greater presence of it interstate and hopefully overseas as well.”

The conference will be held over three spaces, and organisers have deliberately allowed a lot of time for people to network.

“There are three sessions on the Friday and four on the Saturday. People can move in between and meet with personnel, plus there are also designated networking times. This is a faceless industry – and it’s good to be able to put a face to people that you deal with.”

FACE THE MUSIC runs at The Arts Centre across Friday November 19 and Saturday November 20. For registrations to attend the conference, head to thepush.com.au .