Five things we learnt at this year's Face The Music summit

Five things we learnt at this year's Face The Music summit

In its tenth year, Melbourne’s Face The Music summit proves that it is still an incredibly important celebration for everyone involved in music.

Header photo and all in-article photos by Michellefish.

Melbourne Music Week is a highlight of any avid muso’s calendar. It’s not just a celebration of this great city, but a celebration of the country’s musicians, its venues and all those important people that work like crazy behind the scenes. Spread over two days across various venues (as apart of Melbourne Music Week) is the Face The Music summit. From dishing out tips and tricks on navigating and surviving the financial stresses associated with the industry, to the ongoing conversations about the lack of diversity among every facet of the music industry, to interaction between newbies of music and prominent industry heads, the summit (in its tenth year) is still an incredibly important part of Melbourne Music Week. For those of you that were unable to attend, here are few key takeaways from this year's event:


Starting with what was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the summit, the Songwriters In The Round panel on day two. Consisting of three of the country's most exciting names, Ali Barter, Gretta Ray and Stella Donnelly, the hour-long panel saw each artist dissect and discuss one song of choice only to then deliver an intimate performance of the number. Kicking things off, newly crowned triple j Unearthed artist of the year Stella Donnelly gave us some insight into the story behind the raw and brutally honest Boys Will Be Boys, while Gretta Ray peeled back the layers behind her single Towers, and Ali Barter charmed the packed St. Pauls Cathedral crowd with her story of her song Please Stay. Being a songwriters panel, the sole focus of the proceedings purely stuck to breaking down each artists song, with no talk about anything else taking place over the hour-long session. While Stella Donnelly’s Boys Will Be Boys may be one of the most buzzed-about songs of the year, Ali Barter’s story about the jealousy and coping with distance on her song Please Stay stole the show. With her charismatic and honest nature (and the perfect acoustic live cover of Please Stay), if you weren’t a fan of Barter before entering the Cathedral at 11.15AM, then at 12.15PM you sure as hell left being one.

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Hearing from those that are already involved and established in this industry is incredibly invaluable. Whether it be taking note of any little tips or tricks to they preach to dazzle a future employer with your CV or listening to them retell their story about how they got to where they are today, no amount of studying or any number of degrees is as valuable as the word of person involved in whatever field you are interested in, but particularly one such as the music and arts. With a panel headed by Beat Magazine boss Gloria Brancatisano, we delved into the stories and the prospect of opportunity through the eyes of rising Brissy act Mallrat, The Gasometer’s Alex Gleeson, Remote Control’s Georgia Cooke and Charlotte Reid from Michael Parisi Management. From bookers to publicity to management, the session was again an invaluable resource for anyone wishing to work in the industry. Particular notes worth mentioning came from Georgia Cooke of Remote Control highlighting the importance of internships: “[Iinternships] are good to gauge where your interests lie and where you want to go longterm” and that without them, she wouldn’t be where she is today at Remote Control without them. "I was involved in Freeza from 15 to 18," she said. From there I volunteered at a billion festivals and did a few different internships."

The panel wasn’t just for those behind the scenes of music, with Mallrat dishing out valuable information for all those aspiring artists out there stating the importance the internet has been in her development ("I don't think you need a degree as an artist... If you need to learn something you can learn it on Youtube."). One of the key takeaways from the panel came of noting the that one of the biggest challenges that the music industry faces right now is diversity and representation with Cooke stating "I think the biggest challenge, and I think it's slowly starting to be addressed, is diversity and representation across the board." The Gasometer’s Alex Gleeson also mentioned some of the ways that he and The Gasometer as a whole have taken action towards addressing this issue, by saying how they (The Gasometer) and it’s staff have pretty much removed gendered language from the venue.

From tips on CV structuring to sending a personal note upon applying for internships, there was so much to consume in just an hour from five industry heads from five different walks of industry life; it was a 'you had to be there' kind of moment. But, arguably the biggest thing that you could have taken away from the panel was that all five of the people speaking didn’t just walk into their current jobs. Whether it being slogging it out for free contributing content for blog (or magazine) or working as a volunteer at various festivals for a handful of years, it’s important to note that these people were also sitting right where you are (were) with aspirations and dreams of one day being paid to do what you/they love.

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With a cheeky smirk brewing on his face, co-founder of the New Year’s juggernaut festival Beyond The Valley, Nick Greco, says “[if] you want to start a music festival, make sure you know what you're getting into." Although this statement sounds like a throwaway, this small but very valuable tidbit stuck like glue as the Beyond The Valley crew broke down the nitty-gritty associated with the growth of their child after inaugural event in 2014. Everything from how the piece together their bill and it’s constant evolution to their ongoing search for improvements to make the festival standout from the rest, although the hour-long session felt like a content overload, if you’re someone that is or were keen on getting running gigs or starting your own festival, the information could also be seen as an invaluable resource.

Beyond The Valley and its success didn’t sprawl overnight, with one of the biggest critical takeaways from the panel and its panellists being that you should “start small” when wanting to start your own show. This isn’t a gimmick either, the founders of Beyond The Valley mentioned that through all the festivals success there sure as hell were some hard times. Internal doubts, financial struggles and the kind of deadlines that keep you awake at night – with the festival well and truly under the microscope they made it clear that although the highs are great, the lows associated with putting on something like on the scale of Beyond The Valley are just as gut-wrenchingly grand. With the festival approaching its fourth year in just a matter of weeks, we were also given a glimpse into what to expect with news of an addition that is sure to make soaking up that 30+ degree heat a little more enjoyable and refreshing. News that the BTV crew are set to unveil a pool bar (yes, you read that correctly a pool and a bar are set to be unleashed for the enjoyment of punters at this years Beyond The Valley). Logistics and details were a little scarce with the news slipping from the mouths, but the founders were both excited and nervous about its addition, with it only furthering their vision to constantly be on the lookout for things that further their new year’s festival experience for punters.

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Talk to anyone that attended Face The Music (or anyone that attended an event during Melbourne Music Week), and I’m sure they will bring up just how incredible the idea and use of St. Paul Cathedral was. Speaking to a few people that were involved in the curation of the Face The Music summit, they all said that the people involved in MMW (Melbourne Music Week) have been petitioning for years to use this iconic Melbourne monument, and boy did it feel worth it. From its use of lecturing aspiring music folk by day to its transition at night which saw (at times) the removal of the pews as well as a truly on-point use of lights for each show, the use of St. Paul’s Cathedral as the hub of Face The Music and Melbourne Music Week was one of the more unique musical experiences you’re going to find and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that found themselves murmuring “holy shit” under their breath upon entering the Cathedral each day.

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With the ever-evolving role that social media plays in music promotion and marketing, one of the more interesting panels at this years Face The Music summit was the Stan: I’m Your Biggest Fan panel. With writer Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen leading the panel that consisted of writers Holly Pereira and Brodie Lancaster, host of weeknight radio show Ash London LIVE! - Ash London, and the brains behind Australian music blogs The Interns and Cool Accidents, Sam Murphy and Bianca Bosso, the hour-long session delivered insight into the good, the bad and downright ugliness associated with being a music fan in the age of social media.

As an outsider, fandoms or “stans” can be difficult to understand. More often than not, it’s craziness that is highlighted when the topic is brought up. But, it was writer Brodie Lancaster that summed up the new age relationship between fan an artist perfectly when she stated that it’s difficult unless you’re involved to understand just what fandom is about. “Fandom is a fascinating universe, unless you’re in it you won’t understand it,” she says. From Ash London discussing Taylor Swift’s well-publicised political silence (“Taylor Swift’s political silence is her way of making sure she has no enemies”) to Holly Pereira touching on ongoing success and rise in popularity of Camp Cope and their encouragement to talk about things that are often difficult to talk ("Camp Cope use their growing success as a platform to make really necessary changes, encouraging discussion about things that are difficult to talk about.") the power of the music fan is as important as ever, especially for large-scale artists. One of more noteworthy moments of the panel came when Ash London touched on fan excessiveness and the exploitation that can sometimes happen by both broadcasters and artists. Reminiscing on personal experiences and the different actions she has implemented being a radio broadcaster and the host of her own show, London said: “as broadcasters and artists we take advantage of the fact that these kids are excessive, but there needs to be limits so fans stay safe”.

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Melbourne Music Week is a highlight amongst a plethora of events that make this city great. Throughout the week-long celebration of not just this city’s, but the country’s music scene, the Face The Music summit inspires change through conversation, leads to new friendships being built and it’s an important event that celebrates everyone that is involved in music.

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