Music Cork - bringing music’s international top brass together for a chat

Shane Dunne of ambitious new industry showcase Music Cork explains how it all came together

Jim Lawless, Willie Ryan, Stephanie Rainey, Shane Dunne and Alexis Vokos. pictured at the launch of Music Cork, a new three-day international music industry event taking place in Cork on May 10th-12th

Jim Lawless, Willie Ryan, Stephanie Rainey, Shane Dunne and Alexis Vokos. pictured at the launch of Music Cork, a new three-day international music industry event taking place in Cork on May 10th-12th

 

It was a combination of a WhatsApp group, Ireland’s worldwide status in the music industry and, of course, a chat over a few drinks in a pub that lead to the establishment of Music Cork, a music industry showcase and conference weekend taking place for the first time in Cork City in May.

Organisers Shane Dunne (Indiependence), Willie Ryan (music lawyer and previous How Music Works interviewee), Jim Lawless (manager with The Coronas also a previous HMW interviewee ), Alexis Vokos (Delphi Label) and Ger Kiely (Cypress Avenue) would often find themselves hanging out together at international music industry events such as Eurosonic, The Great Escape, and SXSW and thought they could do something back home.

Discussing the current focus on Ireland in the music industry at large, the idea of bringing some top brass to Cork for a weekend of music-related activity was developed.

12 of the best
Taking place in Cork City on May 10th-12th, Music Cork aims to showcase 12 of the best emerging acts in Ireland to visiting and local industry alike (DOI: Nialler9 is a curator of one of those gigs) and pairs it with a limited programme of daytime conferencing, keynote speakers and pub crawls.

Dunne was keen to think beyond his festival Indiependence, which he has run for 11 years and is likely to sell out again this year. It was a decision spurred on by the birth of his first child.

“I became a father for the first time last August and it changes your perspective a little bit,” says Dunne. “You don’t want all your eggs in one basket. Music festivals are medium to high risk, and you can sell out every year and then have one year when everything goes pear-shaped. If you do it long enough, that’s likely to happen.”

Having been involved in the organisation of the Night Summit at the Web Summit in Dublin and Lisbon, Dunne says the Irish reputation for chats is key to Music Cork.

“We do lots of things well, but one thing we do really well is the Irish pub, and moreso than the music history and the culture we have here, there’s a great history of talking informally over a pint.”

Eyes on the scene
Taking that idea into its programming, Music Cork aims to draw in an international industry with their eyes already on Ireland’s music scene – a gaze that has been more constant since Hozier and as Dunne points out, the likes of Picture This, Kodaline, Gavin James, Walking On Cars received recognition, label deals and agents abroad.

The added attraction of Cork as a host city, as opposed to Dublin, has meant that Music Cork has confirmed some high-profile industry names such as Mike Smith (Managing Director of Warner Chappell), Geoff Meall (Head of Music UK, United Talent Agency), Rob Stevenson (Executive VP, Universal Republic), Darcus Beese (President of Island Records) and Steve Zapp (agent with ITB).

“A lot of these guys, you can’t pay them to come,” says Dunne. “They’re successful in their own right. If they want to go on a trip to see a band, they’ll go on a trip to see a band. They like the idea that it’s Cork and a lot of them haven’t been before.”

By capping the showcasing acts at a small number and fully curated, Music Cork aims to present a small selection of the best of emerging acts in Ireland including Ailbhe Reddy, Lyra, Stephanie Rainey, Eve Belle and Le Boom, with more to be announced.

“They’re expecting to see signable talent,” suggests Dunne of the visiting industry expectations. “Maybe these acts just need a publishing deal or an agent or someone to help move an avenue along for them in order to become a bigger type of act.”

That thinking also applies to the smaller acts and band representatives still finding their feet and looking to release on a label, sign to a publisher, get a European agent.

“At an event like this, you want to talk to the other delegates because maybe the band you manage could tie in with this publisher that you’ve met, or maybe you’ve got a new EP and it’s not ready for Sony Music but it might be ready for an independent label.”

A pub crawl with Rob
The programme of Music Cork provides time and opportunity for delegates to talk to each other, whether that’s in a pub, between panels, which dispenses with multiple-room programming in favour of a single-room offering.

“If you are someone on a small independent label, how good would it be to be on a pub crawl with Rob Stevenson an hour or so?” asks Dunne. “If you’re an manager and have an artist who writes really good songs and publishing is where they’re going to go, how good with it up be get to chat to Mike Smith?”

For the panels themselves, Dunne promises that they are “going to throw a few grenades” by putting agents and promoters on the same panel.

“So there’s both sides of the coin,” he suggests. “They might have very different answers to questions and it’ll make things much more interesting. Things have changed so much, if you’re discussing developing an artist, that used to be all managers on that panel. But the landscape has totally changed so you need managers, labels, a digital person familiar with Spotify and streaming services because it’s all interlinked.”

Only a good thing
Dunne and the team are hoping that Music Cork can also provide a service to the Irish music industry that doesn’t get a opportunity to meet too regularly. More outlets for people to share advice and network is only a good thing, reckons Dunne, who cites the organisers’ Whatapp group as a simple example of block-building industry networking.

“We have a Whatsapp group between us where we can ask – who manages this band? How did that gig go? When did they last do a support slot? I can find out very quickly if I’m offering too much for an act for Indiependence for example and that’s just promoters. It’s real simple stuff but it’s so helpful. We really want to focus on that networking element of Music Cork. A lot of the great interactions happen in person between the delegates and our job is to make that as easy as possible.”

- For more, see musiccork.com

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