With daily events taking place across the festival programme, BIMM managed to make a big impact at The Great Escape this year. Live music, talks, Q&A sessions and interviews made for a varied, fun and illuminating musical weekend.
First up on Thursday was the much-anticipated live showcase at The Hope and Ruin featuring BIMM acts Akcadamy, Liberto Wolf, Indigo Face and Rory Indiana, Joe Dolman and alumni and headliners – Fickle Friends.
Friday brought us the BIMM Student Sessions, hosted by the well-known music and entertainment industry lawyer Ann Harrison and music industry professional Ian Ramage. The panellists were Jeff Smith, Head of Music at BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music; Bryan Johnson of Spotify Artist Services; Mark Bennett, a live music agent for The Agency Group; and James Endeacott of 1965 Records.
The opening session was entitled ‘We Are A&R’ and was full to the rafters. Introduced by Adam Bushell, each of the panellists had the chance to introduce themselves to an audience of BIMM students past and present, and music industry professionals. James Endeacott gave an entertaining opening gambit, sharing his long-standing love of music – he saw his first band, Stiff Little Fingers, aged 13 – and his passion for the business.
In preparation for the session, attendees had been asked to consider the question: ‘What was the last new music that you discovered?’ to open a discussion about the role of A&R. Most audience members cited online resources such as YouTube as the most common way to encounter new music, with live shows considered more of an old fashioned avenue of discovery.
Students also had interesting answers to Ann’s question: ‘What does the old-fashioned phrase, ‘Artist & Repertoire’ mean to you?’ Responses included: ‘Someone believing in the artist,’ ‘People buying into people’, ‘Talent-spotting’ and ‘Selling talent’. Ann mentioned the value of courses such as the ones offered at BIMM for learning about A&R in today’s music industry.
From a radio professional’s stand-point, Jeff Smith stressed the point that:
‘It’s not radio’s job to A&R a record. I do not consider myself an A&R person; I’ll leave that to the professionals!’
Ian Ramage described A&R as ‘finding and securing new talent, but there is more – after you find the talent, you develop it. Helping them to realise their potential is vital. It’s like finding a diamond in a sea of mud.’
James Endeacott shared his story of signing The Libertines and compared it to discovering The Beatles:
‘I lived and dreamt The Libertines, I believed in them. A&R is falling over and learning how to get up. It’s our job to make the record for the musician, not for the radio. Some artists are not made for radio and don’t achieve those playlists, so don’t try to change them.’
This enlightening and detailed A&R talk was immediately followed by Everything Everything with their manager in conversation. The band are currently on the publicity roundabout for their new album, Get To Heaven, so were primed to talk about their relationship to marketing, A&R, press, airplay and more. They explained that finding your best work team is one of the hardest things to do.
Returning to the live music portion of the festival, the Alternative Escape ran at Latest Musical Bar, hosting BIMM acts and staged by BIMM students. Written in Waters, Mindofalion, Patchwork Natives and Atlas Wynd all took to the stage providing a choice alternative to the main programme.