Over 200 musicians, promoters and entrepreneurs came to Preston on Friday, for a day of conferences and Q&As for those in the alternative music world.
The Un-Convention, the beginnings of which took root in Salford in 2009, has had events held in such places as Buenos Aires, Brisbane and Mumbai, but for its 22nd event, landed in Avenham Park.
The day started off with a forum chaired by Blackpool-born journalist, broadcaster and punk veteran John Robb, who praised its “grassroots” ethos.
He said; “I like the international angle of it as well, I like the way it connects all different countries up, and musicians in different countries. For me it’s a very punk rock kind of idea, about how to make music and how to get into it.”
In his session, John led a panel speaking on how musicians could build sustainable careers in music, in the age of the Internet and The X Factor.
He summed it up afterwards, saying; “It’s really difficult. For a start, everyone’s in a band, which is a cool thing, everybody should be creative. But if everyone should expect that they’re going to make any money out of it, it just wouldn’t work, would it.”
“But I think most people in underground bands know it’s about the graft really. There’s a lot of graft involved in it. A lot of people get into music because they don’t want to get a proper job, but it’s actually a harder job than a proper job, cos you’re spending all your day and all night just trying to find a little space to make your music.”
“I think it’s important to know that, to actually think that, to actually understand that’s the way it works, you know. To actually create is part, only a small part of what you do most of the time.”
“But the more independent you are, the better really. The less you’re going to get pushed around. I just learnt these as you go along, and ask people, get advice off people is really important as well. Nobody knows all the answers.”
Friday’s event moved on to a forum on the importance of live music, in which cult Bolton indie-metal band To The Bones and Londoners Real Fur shared their experiences.
There was later a discussion on how towns like Preston could build their local scene, with a panel including BBC Radio Lancashire’s Sean McGinty and Frazer Boon, landlord of Preston’s Mad Ferret – shortlisted by the NME as one of Britain’s best small venues.
Unlike most other Un-Conventions, Preston’s event was a joint venture between themselves and Sound Bytes, Creative Lancashire’s own music initiative.
Ed Matthews-Gentle, project officer for Creative Lancashire, outlined how important it was to bring such events to Preston.
He said; “The thing about Preston is that, unfortunately we’re not Soho, we’re not the Northern Quarter of Manchester, we’re not Hoxton. We don’t have opportunities where influential figures in industry can actually rub against people who’re actually in bands, and who’re actually trying to make a living out of it.
The event ended with a free-entry gig that night at The New Continental, which saw sets from Real Fur, singer-songwriter Kirsty Almeida, Manchester “dirt-swing” band Louis Barrabas & The Bedlam Six, and Macclesfield rockers The Virginmarys.