Music and Technology – Talks and Discussions from the Berlin Music Week conference 2013

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newthinking and all2gethernow together have curated the conference programme of this year’s Berlin Music Week conference, in particular the thematic focus on Music + Technology. The conference took place on September 5/6, 2013.

Some impressions and pictures of the event are published here and here.

Some selected talks and discussions in English are published online. The talks provide a resource on current debates in the music business, with a particular focus on the impact of digital media on the music business.

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CREATIVE COLLABORATION IN BERLIN – MUSIC TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC

Berlin is one of the most important centres for electronic music in the world. The city’s extensive network of producers, DJs, clubs, labels and record stores attract thousands of people from all over the world. At the same time, a thriving music technology scene has developed in Berlin that has produced Ableton and Native Instruments, two world leaders in the field. This rich environment has also spawned several smaller companies and projects that have done their part to establish the music-tech scene.

Why is the scene for music technology and electronic music centred in Berlin? How do music tech developers and artists work together here in Berlin? Where and how do they find mutual inspiration? And how can people maybe improve their collaboration locally? And can local politics in Berlin make a contribution?

Moderation: Sascha Kösch (de:bug)
Speakers: Dennis DeSantis (Ableton), Florian Schneidmadel (Native Instruments), Peter Kirn (Create Digital Music), Sasha Perera (Jahcoozi), Jan Werner (Mouse on Mars)

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MUSIC STREAMING – FUTURE STRATEGIES

In this industry expert discussion, three leading streaming services will open up their desk drawers and give a glimpse into their strategies for the coming months and years. Streaming is increasingly becoming people’s first choice for listening to music, in many places of the world. Therefore, the way streaming services are designed is important to musicians, labels and publishers, to all music content providers, but also to app developers and companies providing add on services. Aspects to look into range from the streamers’ business models, to their technological design; their way of communicating with listeners and clients, to the interfaces they provide to app developers.

What are the strategies of some of the main streaming companies on the market? How will the market differentiate? What can content providers prepare for?

Moderation: Andrew Dubber (Birmingham City University)
Speakers: Stefan Baumschlager (Rdio), Laurent Billion (Deezer), Andy Chen (WiMP)

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IN CONVERSATION WITH VEVO – MUSIC VIDEOS, HOW DOES THAT WORK NOWADAYS?

Digital music journalist Andrea Leonelli engages in a conversation with Eric Mackay of the Major label driven, online music video channel VEVO.

Topics on the agenda will be:
Making music videos available on a global scale – VEVO aims to make their music videos accessible worldwide, quite naturally on the Internet, however difficult with the different national licensing peculiarities. How does the company approach international expansion? And how does it deal with local content?
Cooperations and negotiations – In the process of making copyrighted content available worldwide, VEVO engages with different players in the field. How do they cooperate with YouTube and Google on the one hand, and how do negotiations come out with the local collecting agencies on the other. How is VEVO dealing with GEMA and is the channel going to launch in Germany? What can be learnt from VEVO’s negotiations with GEMA?
Commercial interest in music videos – What’s the business model behind a music video channel such as VEVO? What is to be learnt from this for independent musicians and labels who are publishing their videos on YouTube and other video platforms?

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DAFT PUNK, JAI PAUL AND THE DEATH OF MUSIC JOURNALISM

Now more than ever before, the music world in 2013 is entirely focused around well executed and sensational PR campaigns that are planned down to the smallest detail – bands such as DAFT PUNK, BOARDS OF CANANDA or KANYE WEST immediately spring to mind. It seems PR companies and record labels are determined to set the agenda for music journalism.

This raises the question: What’s the state of music journalism today?

Given the apparent necessity to achieve ever-more clicks and increased circulation, it is essential to clarify how much scope still remains for reviews and contextualization in order for journalists to maintain real separation from the increasingly wide-scale marketing strategies of the music industry. Vice-versa, it also needs to be asked what the other side of the music industry can expect from reviews.

Moderation: Henning Lahmann (No Fear Of Pop)
Speakers: John Doran (The Quietus), Alexandra Droener (DJ, Promoter), Francine Gorman (The Line Of Best Fit), Ruth Saxelby (Dummy), Melissa Taylor (Tailored Communication)

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COPYRIGHT COLLECTING SOCIETIES AT THE EUROPEAN LEVEL – An evaluation of current developments

A movement is sweeping through the European music scene and its copyright collecting societies. With newfound confidence, musicians from Europe are not only having their voices heard in Brussels; organisations, such Younison.eu or the UK’s Featured Artists Coalition, are now in constant attendance at hearings alongside well-known copyright collecting societies.

The latest draft makes new demands on existing collecting societies and proposes new models with regards to those established in SIGA (Portugal) and C3S (Germany/Europe).

The panel puts forward two key questions: Are the new collecting models accommodating the needs of European musicians? And if yes, how? And how can European policy, music culture and new copyright collecting societies travel this path together?

Speakers: m.eik Michalke (C3S), Paulo Manuel Mesquita Leite (SIGA), Kelvin Smits (Younison), Shigs Amemiya (iMusician), Roxanne de Bastion (Featured Artist Coalition)

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FROM PIRATE BAY TO SPOTIFY AND BEYOND – THE STRUGGLE WITH THE DIGITALIZATION OF MUSIC IN SWEDEN

Adam Svanell will tell the story of Sweden’s struggle with the digitalization of music. How governmental IT projects in the 90’s helped create a generation of young music lovers with expertise in hacking and programming,some creating legal services, some creating illegal ones. And how the biggest enemy of the music industry, The Pirate Bay, actually forced Swedish record companies to find a new, sustainable business model. Today the country who used to be the black sheep of the music industry is becoming a poster child.

Adam Svanell is a Swedish journalist, currently working as editor for the Sunday arts section of the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. He was the producer of the documentary film Press Pause Play (http://www.presspauseplay.com/).

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OCCUPY MUSIC – Making a documentary about the music collective Fora do Eixo in Brazil

Andrew Dubber, lecturer in Music Industries Innovation, has just returned from researching and filming a documentary about independent music collectives in Brazil, the Fora do Eixo in particular.

The network connects a wide range of cultural producers, festivals, record labels, artists and other small, local music enterprises through open source online tools and a range of different collaborative methodologies that range from distribution systems to gig swaps. They have together developed a separate economy outside of the mainstream music industry… to the point of working with their own currency inside the collective. So far so good – when looking at the scale of the operations, it gets really interesting. Today, the Fora do Eixo incorporates 200 cities, 30.000 artists, 6.000 shows a year, and turns over a value of around $44m within Brazil.

Although the movement is not above criticism, it’s fair to say that through collaborative practice and a rejection of the corporate structures of the traditional music industries, the overall economic value of music activity in the country has been enormously lifted. The network was initially both inspired and enabled by the innovations of Brazilian Culture Minister Gilberto Gil, who revolutionized Brazil’s approach to culture by moving the focus outside of the cultural and economic ‘axis’ of Rio and São Paulo.

Andrew Dubber shared his findings and analysis from interviewing people engaged in the music business all over Brazil.

Andrew Dubber, Birmingham City University

all2gethernow: Training activities for Musicians and People they work with

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all2gethernow is a German association founded in 2009 with the objective to work on new strategies in music business and music culture, through bringing people together for discussions, exchanges of perspectives and experiences, and mutual learning.

With newthinking, we have collaborated with all2gethernow in producing various events for musicians and people they work with. Some examples are documented here:

November 2011: a2n Unconvention Factory At the a2n Unconvention Factory, all2gethernow in cooperation with Un-Convention, converted the Kater Holzig gallery in Berlin in a recording studio, and produced an album in a day, with 9 tracks by different artists. Designers, photographers, web developers, producers, musicians … who didn’t know each other before, came together in the morning – and had jointly produced an album together by the following day. The event was open for everyone to pass by, engage, ask questions. The album is available on CD in screenprinted CD cases alongside with posters, and as digital download (finetunes, iTunes) and stream (Simfy, soundposter): http://all2gethernow.de/a2n_doku-factory-foto-story/

September 2012: #a2n_werkstatt – The #a2n_werkstatt is a training event for musicians and people they work with, with various workshops, coaching sessions and hands-on experiments. all2gethernow has produced #a2n_werkstatt events over several years. The 2-day #a2n_werkstatt in 2012 is documented in German and with pictures here: http://all2gethernow.de/resumee_all2gethernow_werkstatt_2012/, http://all2gethernow.de/fotogalerie_all2gethernow_werkstatt_2012/

New Music Strategies

New Music Strategies is a pan-European strategy group for music culture, creativity and development created by Andrew Dubber, Professor of Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University. The members of the NMS group are based in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, and represent a wide range of expertise in the music and cultural industries.

NMS initiates ideas and projects, and work in partnership with organisations to make the most of music in response to transformative media technologies. They use their creativity, curiosity and expertise to make a difference and simplify the new music environment.

As their website states,”We work with people we like on cool projects about music and culture – and help bring more music to more people in more places.”

Some examples of the work NMS undertakes:

  • Help music businesses make strategic decisions about innovative projects.
  • Work with NGOs to use music to achieve their objectives.
  • Generate new ideas with music organisations.
  • Create information products and run workshops within existing industry events.
  • Combine our expertise to initiate innovative projects that enhance and celebrate music culture.

For more information about New Music Strategies visit their website: http://newmusicstrategies.com/

UK Music launches Skills Academies

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Some interesting news from the world of Vocational Education and Music Industry Training here in the UK.

UK Music, an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry, from artists, musicians, songwriters and composers, to major and independent record labels, managers, music publishers, studio producers and collecting societies, have joined forces with Creative & Cultural Skills to launch The UK Music Skills Academy, the first industry-led effort to improve recruitment practices in the music business.

Music Week, the leading Music Industry trade publication in the UK, has more here: http://www.musicweek.com/news/read/uk-music-skills-academy-launches-to-bridge-gap-between-education-and-music-industry/055330

Andrew Dubber’s “20 Things You Must Know About Online Music”

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Andrew Dubber is Professor of Music Industries Innovation at Birmingham City University. He’s a member of the Centre for Media and Cultural Research, and is Award Leader for the MA in Music Industries (which can be studied online via distance learning from anywhere in the world) and also runs the MA in Music Radio.

He is the founder of New Music Strategies, a pan-European music consultancy and strategy organisation focusing primarily on non-commercial and social projects that use music to improve lives. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors for Bandcamp. He can be found online at http://andrewdubber.com

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His 2007 eBook, “The 20 Things You Must Know About Online Music“, has been downloaded thousands of times and has been made available in several different languages, including German, Chinese and Portuguese. The book is a prime example of how research activity at BCU is translated into practical engagement with the music industries. It’s currently being updated and incorporated into the much bigger and more comprehensive book, Music In The Digital Age.

Download the free eBook – The 20 Things You Must Know About Online Music

Varna, Bulgaria Mobility, May 2013

In May 2013 Matt Grimes and I were part of the BCU delegation that went on a mobility to Varna, Bulgaria as part of the IMMHIVE project.

Matt is the Degree Leader for Music Industries here at BCU, whilst I am a visiting lecturer on the same degree course. Our task for the 3-day visit was to undertake an investigation into the music scene in the city, and in particular to explore vocational education, music heritage and tourism, and the music industries.

We were fortunate enough to meet a few people from Varna who were heavilty involved in the independent music scene in the city. They were kind enough to sit and be interviewed.

Maria Grozeva is a music journalist with experience of working in Varna and elsewhere in Bulgaria. She is also a university graduate and had some useful insights into vocational education in Bulgaria.

Kobo Tsetkov is a musician who plays in a number of bands, most notably the Ska-Punk band High 5. In the video he talks about the local music scene, and also how he was taught to play guitar by a famous Bulgarian jazz-man.

As well as being kind enough to talk to us at length about their own experiences, Kobo and Maria also took us on a tour of musical points of interest in the city. This short video is an edited version of what was a fascinating and often very funny tour.

Maria, Kobo and others we met reported feeling ‘outside’ of the dominant culture in Varna. So much so that different sub-cultural groups (punks, Hip Hop fans, metal fans) often grouped together and acted as one larger group, which is interesting if you consider the often tribal nature and behaviour of sub-cultural groups in the UK. The Metal Shop in the city also served as the only dedicated outlet for Hip Hop, which would appear to support this.

Varna is located on the Black Sea and, along with being a port, is a popular seaside resort. Along the beachfront there are numerous nightclubs and bars offering various forms of music-related entertainment. By far the most popular, it would seem, is a form of music known as Shalga. A Bulgarian student here at BCU advised us ahead of our trip that Shalga had taken many of the visually prominent images often associated with certain types of US Hip Hop (expensive cars, jewellery, semi-naked women, etc) as it’s basis. This would certainly seem to be born out in the way in which Shalga is promoted around the city.

Matt and I also had some time during which we explored on our own, and we managed to take a lot of photographs between us. Hopefully these, along with the videos above, convey a sense of what we found during our visit.

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Independent Music Innovation from Birmingham City University

The Independent Music Innovation course is a 2-day programme designed by staff of the School of Media at Birmingham City University aimed at individuals and organisations operating in the local independent music industries

The 2-day course will address concepts surrounding the operation of independent music businesses in the Digital Age, with the aim of aiding participants in the creation of a new online business tool, product, or service that will enhance the performance of their operation and help make their businesses more sustainable.

This course is suitable for people working in one or more of the following areas and organisations: Record Production; Record Labels; Artist Management; Live Music Promotion; Music PR; Bands/Artists/Musicians; Sound Engineering; Music Journalism; Music Photography; Music Video

During the course attendees will:

  • Evaluate their own business activity in relation to the wider music industries
  • Examine the present industrial and economic landscape as it relates to their business activity
  • Explore concepts regarding sustainability, productivity, and entrepreneurship
  • Identify new opportunities and areas for growth
  • Create a new online product, service, or business tool that will aid the operation of their organisation.

For a more information about the course visit the Independent Music Innovation website

Vocational Music Education in Birmingham

Here is a round-up of the Education Institutions in Birmingham, UK, offering vocational music education courses:

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Birmingham City University

Website: http://www.bcu.ac.uk/

“As the driving force behind the creative provision at Birmingham City University, the Faculty of Performance, Media and English comprises four distinctive centres of creative excellence based across the city: Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham School of Acting, the School of English and Birmingham School of Media”

Undergraduate courses include:

BA (Hons) Media and Communication – Music Industries

BSc (Hons) Music Technology

BMus Popular Music

BA (Hons) Music Business (offered in Partnership with Access to Music)

Post-graduate courses include:

MA Music Industries

MMus / PGDip Music Technology

MA Music Radio

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Birmingham Ormiston Academy

Website: http://www.boa-academy.co.uk/welcome.html

“Birmingham Ormiston Academy is an independent state-funded 14-19 Academy specialising in Creative, Digital and Performing Arts.

The Academy is now open in a brand new landmark building, geographically placed in an area at the hub of the digital and creative industries. It has superb facilities for academic, vocational and extra-curricular activities and will be at the forefront of the development of creative and digital arts.

Outstanding teaching coupled with constant support and guidance will underpin your personalised learning experiences. The curriculum is designed to develop the specific identified talents, gifts and potential of each student.

Performance, performing, production, creativity and excellence will be at the centre of your experiences. You will be taught by a combination of excellent teachers and skilled industry professionals. Admission to the academy will be via aptitude workshops within the key specialisms.”

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South & City College Birmingham

Website: www.sccb.ac.uk

“South and City College Birmingham is Birmingham’s newest and biggest college. Formed on 1 August 2012 through the merge of South Birmingham College and City College Birmingham, we provide vocational education to around 25,000 students.

With outstanding facilities, excellent pass rates and the only college in Birmingham to be awarded with Beacon status – recognition of excellence and innovation, South and City College Birmingham offer 100’s of courses from Level 1 to higher education for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Our music and performing arts courses in Birmingham are perfect if you want a career on, or behind the stage. Learning in our outstanding facilities and meeting industry experts will make you stand out from the crowd. We have a range of performing arts courses, music technology courses and music production courses in Birmingham from level 1 right up to higher education. We also have short and part time music courses and performing arts courses.”

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Access To Music, Birmingham

Website: http://www.accesstomusic.co.uk/centres/birmingham

“Learning with Access to Music is an exciting and unique experience which is refreshingly different to being in a big school or college. We are 100% dedicated to music and we work with people who are equally passionate about music.

Access to Music Birmingham runs from a commercial rehearsal and studio business which means that your place of learning is at the heart of the regional music scene.

Our staff are all experienced musicians and they get to know who you are and what you want to be. We have a proven track record of students going on to university and into the industry (e.g. EZ Rollers and Lady Leshuur).

Access to Music Birmingham benefits from being part of the UK’s leading popular music college which has pioneered popular music education in this country for 20 years. This means your education and training is quality-assured by our national team. Access to Music designs is own music qualifications in partnership with Rockschool so our courses are the most up-to-date and relevant for 16-18s looking to get into the music industry.

Finally, Birmingham is a great place to study music with a really vibrant music culture and we offer plenty of opportunities to get out and perform or work at venues and festivals. You’ll also benefit from the amazing industry opportunities provided by Atom Live.”

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Bournville College

Website: http://www.bournville.ac.uk/

  • Mission statement: To be the education and training provider of first choice
  • Bournville College was established in 1913 (then known as Bournville Day Continuation School) by George Cadbury.
  • The function of the school was ‘to provide young people with a sound general education which will fit them to meet the demands of life and work in the best possible way’.
  • In 1973, Bournville College relocated to a new campus on Bristol Road South in Birmingham, which it occupied till 2011.
  • In September 2011, Bournville College relocated to a new £66 million purpose built campus in Longbridge, kick-starting wider regeneration of the area after the collapse of MG-Rover in 2005. Click here to find out more about our new campus.
  • The new campus features state-of-the-art facilities which include Mac suites, motor vehicle maintenance workshops, music studios, training kitchens, over 1000 computers, Wi-Fi internet access, 3D cinema room, online learning material, conference centre for 200 delegates and much more.
  • The new campus also offers commercial facilities available to everyone, including: Urban Elegance hair salon, Urban Serenity beauty salon, Urban Flavours restaurant and Urban Fitness.
  • Bournville College offers courses for school leavers, adults, employers and international students.
  • Qualifications include A Levels, BTECs, NVQs, Apprenticeships, Higher Education and bespoke training for businesses.
  • Bournville College is committed to ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of all students and to providing a positive environment where everyone can learn and work together.

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Academy of Music & Sound, Birmingham

Website: http://www.academyofmusic.ac.uk/locations/location.php?id=6

“The Academy of Music & Sound’s oldest centre opened in Birmingham in 2001 above the then music retail giant Sound Control; later taking on the whole building when Sound Control and its successor Reverb ceased trading.

The Academy of Music & Sound originally offered just Music Technology courses and lessons, only moving into instrument specific courses in 2004. Since then the offer has grown significantly and Birmingham now offers private lessons, short courses, BTEC programmes, Foundation Degrees and an Honours Degree programme.

Having outgrown the old premises the Academy of Music & Sound moved into modern premises just up the road in the summer of 2012 – a truly 21st century music centre. The new centre offers students their own venue, music shop, recording studios, Mac Suite, drum studio, rehearsal rooms,  various teaching rooms, keyboard facilities and a student lounge.”

Dublin Mobility, June 2013

On 19th June I took a one-day trip to Dublin as part of the IMMHIVE project in order to research the local music scene. I was particularly interested in finding out about vocational music education opportunities, music heritage and tourism and digital culture.

With only a few hours in the city, I had to work fast. I made a whistle-stop tour of various locations and interviewed a number of people involved with music in Dublin along the way. I also took a number of photographs.

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My general impression of the city is that the music scene is very vibrant. Live music and music retail in particular seem very strong. Lots of bars and restaurant seemed to offer some form of music, whether that from DJs or live bands and artists. I also saw numerous buskers on the street, no doubt buoyed by the large amount of tourists that visit the city.

I was also able to visit a number of excellent record shops, ranging from those which sold traditional Irish music, outlets serving the contemporary chart market, and specialist shops dealing in 2nd hand and new music in a variety of genres. The staff in the shops were more than happy to give me information about my areas of interest in the city and my interviews below provide some interesting insights into what goes on in Ireland’s capital city. I hope you find them useful.

First of all, however, I visited Brian Carty at The Sound Training Centre. The centre offers vocational courses in Audio Production, Sound Engineering, Music Technology, and Live Sound, Lighting and Stage Production. As well as these longer courses leading to a qualification the centre also offers short, weekend courses to people interested in learning more what the centre offers.

Next I spoke to Robert Curly, a music fan and publisher of Comic Books who works in SubCity Comics. Robert gave me his perspective on what it’s like to be a music fan in the city. We talked about attending gigs, music heritage, and buying music in the city. I also asked Robert about training opportunities for musicians and music entreprenuers

After meeting Robert I took in a few of the city’s many record shops and put many of the same questions to staff. Here I am speaking to Owen Davies, who works in Claddah Records, a shop selling predominantly traditional Irish music. In an illuminating interview, Owen gave me some interesting and alternative views on the manner in which vocational music training is delivered in Ireland.

Next on my tour was Spindizzy Records, a shop selling a mixture of new and 2nd hand vinyl in a variety of genres. Whilst there I spoke to Enda and posed the same questions. Enda was too shy to appear on camera but was happy for me to film the interior of the shop whilst we talked

My final video interview was with Dennis Cassidy, an employee of Rage Records, a shop that sells second-hand vinyl and computer games. We spoke in the shops excellent vinyl basement, where all genres of music were represented and where I could easily have spent quite a lot of money. The interview with Dennis was particularly interesting. Not only was he able to give me an insight into the workings of a Dublin Record shop, but he is also a drummer in a band that tours the country and a drum tutor at a local college.

My final visit of the day, which I didn’t record on video, was perhaps the best. I went to First Music Contact and spoke with Angela Dorgan. The small First Music Contact team work considerable magic with a very limited Arts-funded budget and I was incredibly impressed with what they have put together. Essentially their activities can be viewed as a process through which bands pass, which they have organised into a pyramid structure. Working from the bottom upwards, the FMC pyramid is organised as follows:

First Music Contact: Offers advice and assistance to bands and artists, and also management and record companies, via online tip sheets, regional clinics, one-to-one consultancy, and a series of podcasts, and all free of charge. Bands who interface with First Music Contact in this manner are invited to create a profile on the next level in the pyramid, Breaking Tunes.

Breaking Tunes: Is an online portal that allows Irish bands to upload music and information in order to create a dymanic EPK. The portal is free to the public, online and via a Smartphone app, who can then stream music, view upcoming live shows and send messages to the band. Music Industry workers, such as labels, management companies and so on, have a different level of access (after first being vetted by First Music Contact) that allows them to contact bands with opportunities. There are currently 7000 Irish bands on the portal, with over 5000 having been active (by adding new music, gig dates, etc) in the last month.

Hard Working Class Heroes: An annual, 3-day showcase event in Dublin where bands from Breaking Tunes are invited to submit music in order to be considered for a slot. Music Industry workers active on the Breaking Tunes portal are invited to attend and run A&R and Industry panels. From 2013 onwards the showcase will also be open to Tech Startups as well as bands.

Music From Ireland: The HWCH event has already led to several bands securing deals with record labels and publishers, but the support from First Music Contact does not end there. Music From Ireland attempts to build a brand around Irish bands at International music festivals. From 2013, Tech Start-ups will also be supported in a similar fashion at events such as SXSWi

FMC Tour: Currently in development, this latest level in the FMC pyramid will provide assistance to bands benefitting from the work of Music In Ireland as they plan, book and then tour in overseas territories.

If my flying visit to Dublin revealed anything it is that there is so much more to explore there in terms of vocational music training, music heritage and digital culture. I’d love to spend a couple of days there really getting to grips with what is going on.

Roma Café, Tampere

During my visit to Tampere on 7 June 2013, I was walking around Finlayson , the rehabilitated cotton mill factory area, now home to cafés, restaurants, offices,  museums, galleries and other creative spaces.

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I had just visited the fascinating, cleverly arranged Media Museum (see my separate blog post for photos) and a neighbouring gallery featuring an environmentally conscious exhibition centred around the theme of waste, when I spotted a large tent being pulled up in one of the open-air squares within the complex. I found out from the couple of young people setting up the tent that a Roma cultural event with music, dancing and food would commence in a few hours’ time, at 3pm. So I wandered off to town, visited the Klubi venue and Epe’s Music Store (I had already purchased my ticket for the Sauna Open Air Metal Festival the next day in Swamp Music earlier in the morning –  I had a brief chat with the staff, they assured me that there was quite a vibrant local music scene, even if most of the acts are not known outside Tampere) and returned to the Roma Café location. It wasn’t extremely busy, about 25-30 people were present while I was there, but the atmosphere was very pleasant; the Roma guests performed and taught dances, while those who weren’t brave enough to participate ate cakes and drank coffee.

I chatted to Elina Niinivaara, one of the organisers, who told me that the Roma had come from from Romania and were travelling around Europe trying to find jobs;  most of them have children and other family back in Romania, and they are trying to earn something to send back to them. This year the Roma involved in the event had come to Finland because they had heard there might be jobs for them  – which turned out to be not quite true.  Since finding a job remains so difficult, the travelling Roma remain economically and socially marginalised.  Elina explained that in Finland, they mostly stayed only for the summer months, when it is possible to sleep in cars or outside without freezing.  In the autumn they go back to Romania or to other countries, and many already  leave during the summer – many are disappointed when they find out the miserable work situation in Finland and try to collect money for the trip back home as fast as they can.

The purpose of this event was to actively facilitate the social involvement of this population, and besides raising awareness about the issue, to enable this minority group to assume a position whereby they have the opportunity to share their own culture and knowledge (e.g. through the teaching of dance and sharing their cuisine) and thus, so to speak, reverse their passive political position. Elina also invited me to the evening event that would follow, with a live music performance at a local bar. This proved to be much busier and livelier than the afternoon event; the first performance featured three musicians performing mostly popular Roma songs, and even some rock and roll; the second act was, interestingly, sitar music.

Of the group that performed  the evening club, at least some had been in Tampere the year before as well, but the Roma people at the café event were there for the first time, as far as the organisers know.

I wanted to record an interview with Elina but she was too busy; however, she and her colleague Stina Riikonen were kind enough to send me responses to my questions via email afterwards, so the following is based on the responses of both.

The organisers are a working group of 5-6 persons (plus several helpers). Some of them are visual artists, some students, some have been working in the social sector. The initiative had come from two of them who had met through a network working for migrants’ rights – they wanted to do something with the traveling Roma. As there was only two of them, and as they had started to think about some kind of a café event, they contacted a their friend Stina Riikonen, a visual artist who had been developing and organising a series of multicultural café events with changing cultural themes (http://kulttuurienkahvila.net/). Together they began to develop the idea further.

They contacted the Roma in the streets, in collaboration with a church-based centre that had opened a place for the Roma this spring where they can have a shower and get some clean clothes. They advertised this place for the Roma and at the same time created contacts and talked about their plans. They had an interpreter working with them a few times, which they found extremely helpful – it probably wouldn’t have worked without.

In the end they had more people willing to participate than they were able to take. They were trying to make sure that the selected participants would all be from different families, so that the payment would be equally distributed among the groups; and they were also looking for people with different kinds of skills and ideas.

They had several goals, including the following:

1) “to give some Roma a decent job for at least one day”

2) “to turn around the everyday situation so that at the event the Roma would be the guests of honour and the ones who teach and perform to the audience”

3) “to create contacts with the Roma and get to know their situation better”

4) “to break prejudices by creating interactive and intimate atmosphere where people can meet the Roma”

5) “to show that we see that all people are truly equal.”

In terms of evaluating the event, they have been very satisfied with the results: they feel that they mostly reached our goals and in some cases even achieved more than they had expected to. It is, however, difficult to determine how exactly the participants evaluated the event. But it is telling that they all spent the whole afternoon together (this was not expected from them, they could simply have performed their bit and left with the payment), danced and laughed. Several also asked if they were planning to continue, and at least one hoped for a common private party. The most touching evaluation for the organisers came from somebody who said that the day reminded him of his childhood, when they used to travel around in Romania with his family and work together, dance and play together and eat together.

To the question of whether they were planning anything similar for the future, the answer was yes and no. It was a lot of work for them to organise the event, and none of them got paid for it. However, they have been talking about possibilities to continue working with the Roma. The multicultural café event series will continue, but most likely with a different theme.

The event was financed through small grants from different sources: NGOs, the city of Tampere, the Social Forum etc.  Roma Café was organised in collaboration with Tampere Social Forum – it was not exactly part of it but a parallel event. They got a lot of help from the Social Forum and also visibility. The Forum was organised in the museum in the square at Finlayson, which explains the location for the afternoon event. For the evening club they looked for a place for quite a while and ended up in Artturi after some compromises regarding money, space, equipment etc.

(Tampere Social Forum is connected to other Social Forums – see Wikipedia)

The organisers thought multicultural events were quite commonplace in Tampere and there was quite significant interest in them, but the culture of travelling Roma was definitely not among the popular ones. Indian food, African music, or South American art sells well, but no-one would organise an event about the culture of travelling Roma (Finnish Roma minority, on the other hand, does interest quite many people). So in this sense this was also a political act: to invite and give stage to the people “most despised in our society.”

My many thanks to Elina for her company throughout the event, and to both her and Stina for the informative responses.