Dance music is now a multi-million-pound industry, and like with other multi-million-pound industries it needs conferences and trade fairs in order to keep the wheels turning. BMC in Brighton grew out of this tradition. With the Miami Winter Music Conference (WMC) — or Miami Music Week, as it's now just as commonly known — now more like a series of events than a conference, global attention has shifted to the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). This is now the primary place where the international dance music industry does business.
However, there are a fair few localised conferences and conventions as well, such as the Rio Music Conference in Brazil and others in other continents. These are important for the different global clubbing territories, and similarly it's helpful to have conference/networking events country by country too.
The UK tried this with trade fairs such as London Calling, but until BMC there hasn't been one solid conference-type event that's gained traction. Shows such as the now-defunct Plaza and BPM in Birmingham, still very much alive and kicking, have been all about the equipment — a crucial part of the scene. But there hasn't been the type of successful dance music industry conference that the UK merits — until now.
“I’ve felt like the scene in the UK has needed a place where we can do business,” BMC co-founder John '00' Fleming tells DJ Mag. “The UK has historically been a global powerhouse for electronic music but it has never really had a conference where it brings together the nation's industry to foster new ideas, come up with new ways of developing technology, networking and all the great things you get when an industry comes together in one place.”
John feels that there was always a disconnect between various UK conferences and expos, and that BMC's mission needed to be to bring everybody together. He also felt it important to have an event that was passing on skills and knowledge. “From the Academy side of things, for years I’ve written tutorials and educational blogs for various magazines,” he says.
“Off the back of this I get a massive amount of personal messages, with people contacting me wanting more in-depth help about how to get into the music industry. It’s impossible for me to help all these people individually, so I wanted to do something on a much bigger scale and get my like-minded industry friends involved — so that we could get hands-on giving the next generation the tools and knowledge they need to get a career in the music industry.”
What started out as an idea in a pub expanded into a fully-fledged enterprise after John went into business with Nicola Gunstone and Billy Mauseth, the pairing behind Brighton's Eco Technology Show. With their experience of running conferences and trade events, plus Billy's many years running club nights in Scotland and DJing himself, they had the sufficient experience to bring the idea to life.
John, also a successful trance DJ, thinks events such as BMC are necessary in order for the industry to progress and learn from its peers. “The business model of the music industry has dramatically changed over the past decade due to illegal file-sharing and torrent sites,” he says. “For example, in the past record labels could afford to pay a wage to an A&R guy who overlooked every angle of an artist's release.
The track would get guidance from start to finish and wouldn't get released until musically correct, mixed properly and mastered — along with a full PR campaign. There would also be guidance about publishing, help getting a DJ agent and so on. These days, artists are largely left to fend for themselves and it's surprising how many of them have no idea of the mechanics behind the music industry.”
As the Great Escape Festival in Brighton is to indie-rock, so BMC is with dance music. John believes that Brighton lends itself to hosting music conference-type events due to it being a smaller city, yet still culturally rich.
“Everything is within walking distance, making it easier to get to networking events and the evening shows,” he says. “It’s easier setting up a meeting as that person will only be 10 minutes away, and of course there are also those important chance meetings as you bump into each other in the street.”
STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Co-organiser Nicola Gunstone tells DJ Mag she is delighted with how the first BMC went. “The industry just got behind us, and I think even they were surprised as to how good it was in year one,” she says. “We had over 6000 people descend from all around the world on Brighton for two days and three nights of networking, learning, showcasing talent and partying — it exceeded all our expectations.”
Along with business partner Billy Mauseth, her experience of putting on big shows definitely helped BMC get off the ground. “Like any event, you are pulling a lot of people together in one place at the same time, and so it's ensuring that everything gets set-up correctly — and on time — and stays up,” she says. “It takes a full year to put together an event of this size, and so ensuring everyone works together is imperative.”
Explaining how BMC has split the ticketing this year into Professional and Academy passes, with the more expensive former having greater access to networking opportunities, Nicola outlines how BMC has added more networking evening events and daytime panels this year for professionals. And when it comes to the Academy side, with standard tickets set at just £15 for two days, BMC have added more masterclasses, talks and tech showcases this year — led by some of the most successful people in the business.
“Perhaps more than any other music genre, electronic music relies on new blood,” Nicola says. “Fresh ideas, exciting new talent and ground-up industry innovation are all fundamental drivers of dance and club culture. The importance of the next generation is at the heart of the BMC ethos — after all, every established DJ, label owner or management guru started out somewhere in the music industry once.
In an overwhelmingly competitive and noisy modern world, it can now seem harder than ever to find that lucky break. That’s why this year BMC has extensively grown its Academy programme, aimed at offering the next generation of artists, DJs, promoters, managers and engineers everything they need to know to break into the industry and make their mark.”
In conjunction with their education partners — including YouTube, Ableton, Native Instruments, Sennheiser, Novation, Point Blank and more — BMC have embarked on a nationwide series of student focus groups, where they conduct in-depth interviews with students at some of the UK’s premier music colleges.
“These have been covering everything from the hottest tracks and artists of the minute to career aims, technical challenges, production tips and tricks, and obstacles faced when you’re just starting out,” Nicola explains. “Our focus groups have enabled us to construct a truly worthwhile programme of over 30 masterclasses and talks at BMC2015, aimed at giving up-and-coming talent all they need to find their way in the sometimes tricky world of the music industry.”
DJ MAG PARTY
DJ Mag recognises the important to the UK scene of events such as BMC, and so we got behind the project from the start as the exclusive dance music media partner. We hosted panels with industry cats such as DJ Pierre, Eats Everything, Bill Brewster and Jono Grant from Above & Beyond last year, and this year — as well as being involved in panels again and having a presence all weekend — we're also throwing a special BMC party. Being DJ Mag, we've pulled out all the stops and are throwing a 12-hour club-night at Patterns on the seafront — formerly Audio, one of Brighton's top clubs.
Techno don Dave Clarke headlines, ably assisted by Hypercolour's Tom Demac, DJ Rebekah from CLR, Ralf Kollmann from Mobilee, Dave Beer from Basics and loads more. See the flyer on this page for the full line-up.
The party starts out as a networking event from 5pm onwards on Friday 5th June, the first day of BMC, before rocking on well into the night.
John '00' Fleming hopes that delegates will learn important info from the weekend, as well as have a useful time for networking. “We would like to help give people the knowledge and tools to survive and succeed in this ever-changing music industry — not only the next generation, but the current industry too. To give the UK a home to network and undertake face to face meetings to stimulate business in the industry. We also want to provide a platform for showcasing young talent that wouldn’t normally get played, to give them the best opportunities to get their music out there.”
Check here for line-up and ticket info: www.brightonmusicconference.co.uk
DJ Rebekah on BMC
“I am super-excited to play and visit Brighton once more. I've been asked to speak on a panel on both days of the conference, and it's always an honour to be asked. It takes me back to my college days, hearing Goldie and how inspired I was after his talk about his creative careers. Flipping it around and being given the opportunity myself to encourage the next generation of DJs and producers is great.”