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Keynote speaker Ruth Daniels
Keynote speaker Ruth Daniel

Ring tones, not something you think about much … unless you hear a lot of them. At Face The Music, a music conference full of tech savvy, success-driven music industry go-getters and knowledge-thirsty wanna be’s, it’s difficult to avoid the La Cucaracha phone tones and text message pings, even during the most engrossing of guest presentations. Who are all of these people and why have they come to this music conference? Face The Music is Melbourne’s annual music industry talk-fest and as usual presents a diverse range of speakers, generating discussion and thought on a wide range of topics, consequently attracting an eclectic group of attendees. Throw the Australian World Music Expo into the mix, which runs at the same time in the same building, and you have the perfect ingredients for an arts and cultural think tank.

Oh Mercy’s Alexander Gow kicked off the event with a performance in the newly established outdoor conference venue, the MPavilion. Melbourne did what Melbourne does, clouded over, thought about raining on the parade but thankfully decided against it. Inside the Arts Centre on level 8, Conference Director Pete Chellew officially opened the weekend before introducing the first panel, which featured Jodie Regan (Director, Spinning Top), Mardi Caught (GM of Frontline labels, Warner Music) and Susan Heymann (GM Touring for Chugg Entertainment). Their session was titled was ‘Our Generation- The Music Industry’s New Leaders’ and focussed on the secret recipe of success in the music industry. Surprise, surprise .. apparently there is no one way, or a magical shortcut. Consensus was that there are some basic rules to follow but really, it’s a case by case situation, depending on the artist and audience. Jodie, who has had much success with Tame Impala spoke of a mutual work ethic with her clients, sharing the same vision. Susan suggested that even the most talented band in the world wouldn’t make it without the ‘right ‘deal’ being struck. They all spoke of a passion for what you do and being prepared for instantly changing scenarios.

Over in the Clemenger building a panel of music journalists including; Fred Pessaro (Noisey USA), Mathew Coyte (Rolling Stone Aus), Bryget Chrisfield,, Brodie Lancaster (Rookie), Marcus Teague (Age, The Guardian), moderated by author, music scribe and sometime contributor to Australian Musician Jenny Valentish discussed the changing landscape in music media. Much like in music, where it all comes down to the song, this group concluded that creating great copy, always falls back to having a good story to tell and presenting it from an interesting angle.

Across the road at the Testing Grounds venue, the lunchtime crowd were enthralled by artist of the moment Ali Barter, playing songs from her AB-EP release. Back inside Ruth Daniel  was the first of many international guest speakers to take the podium. Ruth’s area of expertise is music activism. She related stories of how artists and music fans from countries in Latin America and Africa have been able to create their own grass roots level music events, which have gone on to stimulate rich cultural arts scenes. Ruth told of the South American Hip Hop schools which have sprung up, giving hope to kids that might otherwise be involved in drug related violence. Then she talked about the Zimbabwean artist who proudly stated, “I don’t do hip hop, I am hip hop”, such was the passion instilled in her. Much of the people power she spoke of was made possible by an exchange system or barter system whereby services were traded, due to the lack of money in those areas. So successful had some music advocacy groups become in South America, that the major political parties had contacted them seeking support. Quizzed about whether such activism could be possible in Australia, Ruth claimed that anything was possible but queried whether we had it so good here that it would require a removal from our comfort zones.

Next up Noise 11’s Paul Cashmere hosted a panel of record label personnel featuring; Timothy Janes (Caroline), Sophie Miles (Mistletone), Mardi Caught (Warner Music), and Frank Cotela (OneLove), who spoke of the ever-changing landscape in the record industry. Each speaker had different methods of hawking their label’s music but again, nobody offered a holy grail of answers. While the old guard were coming to terms with a shifting of goal posts, at the same time in the Clemenger building, the new kids in town were talking technology in the Virtual and Augmented Reality session. As I walked in they were discussing the advent of 360 degree videos and being able to experience virtual music festivals at anytime, wherever you are.

There was so much more on offer at Face The Music from legal matters to international management and a bird’s eye view of Bluesfest via an interview with the festival’s director Peter Noble but by 5pm, it was enough of the talk and time to schmooze. There is so much on in Melbourne this weekend with events attached to Face The Music, AMWE and Melbourne Music Week. Face The Music is open again tomorrow and there are plenty of tickets available for anyone wanting to learn a little bit more about the music industry or just rub shoulders with the movers and shakers. And for the small price you have to pay to attend, even if you learn only one thing, it may be a game changer. Get down to the Victorian Arts Centre tomorrow and check it out.

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Pete Chellew opens FTM 2015
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Music Journalism panel
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Jodie Regan
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Happy FTM staff
Ali Barter lunchtime gig
Label talk

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