Can Musicians & The Music Industry Ever Trust Each Other?

There’s been quite the proliferation of confabs and meetups around music, technology and the arts over the last few months in Belfast.  There was Bar Camp back in May, then Creative Camp but a few weeks ago and this Saturday sees Soul Ambition‘s “Kick Up The Arts” series tackle musicians and music companies.  Here’s what it’s about:

“Whatever your beliefs, this music clinic is all about taking control and creating change in your music career and in the music industry in NI and further afield. Life, business and arts coach Tracy Dempsey will help you identify the obstacles stopping you getting from where you want to be, boot them out of the way and charge ahead with the big dream.

You’ll also get to network with other musicians and industry professionals; to talk about whether we should be building a Northern Irish music ‘brand’ to help everyone get noticed; to get advice from local people in the industry and share contacts from further afield.

Whatever your beliefs about the industry, take control where you can and be part of the solution where you need to.

And to get the conversation started early, join the Facebook group at and add the event to your calendar at”

I firmly believe that collaboration between music makers, music producers, music marketers and technologists will open many doors to unsigned and up-and-coming acts as well as the nascent music industry here and in other local music economies world-wide.  Networking events like this can prove invaluable for connecting folks, and I hope that these meetups become a regular occurance.

There is a caveat:  A friend mentioned that although things like Barcamp work really well for Technologists, the same formula won’t work within the music industry – the two groups are too different i.e. Tech-nerds love to share and help each other and musicians and music-industry types are simply trying to fuck each other over.  Penny Distribution was founded on the principle of regaining the trust of artists and building careers in partnership, so I know I don’t agree.  What do you think?

In a small market, up-and-coming music scene, can musicians and music industries truly collaborate in a spirit of trust for mutual benefit?


6 Responses to Can Musicians & The Music Industry Ever Trust Each Other?

  1. I totally agree with the statements in this journal. I think collaboration equals community, and it doesn’t have to be an emotionally linked community, but it has to be a community where collaborations exist as in barter among the ‘no-name’ artists. Great talents linked to help propel each other out of the sphere they currently exist. This can happen with sharing a tour, thus the expense and time it would take to either do it alone or for the travel costs minus the gas, etc.
    I think collaborations like this inevitably create the emotional links that continue to secure community. Financial gains happen, not with big risks, but with collaborations. This is found on records in the form of Executive producers, etc., but if everyone involved in a venture chip in, get some sponsorships (beer companies, local, but growing companies that want their names in other states, or parts of the same state, etc.) there is no real failing. The mere fact of moving united, sharing resources, responsibility, etc., buys everyone involved an experience to shape future ventures.
    Check out this community: it is a glimpse of what such a community looks like, but it can start in your home town with linkage of two to three bands, clothing makers, photographers, lighting artists, make up artists… BARTER!!!

  2. Fletcher Christian says:

    I believe that they can, Nick.

    But only if they truly respect each other, listen to each other and understand each other’s objectives and goals.

    On an independent level, it’s very difficult to find a balance between the musician and the industry person’s needs. Very often, both sides have conflicting priorities that will naturally rub off each other negatively, at least on some level anyway. Especially where money is concerned (probably 99% of most musican/music industry sore spot conflict).
    An example of this would be where an independent label can only manufacture a certain quantity and they plan out a sales campaign in certain independent stores/or through an independent distibutor but then the musician(s) want to use more than was allocated to them for personal use and gig merchandising.
    This is a classic example of musician/industry conflict. The label needs to encourage retail sales (industry priority) but the musician often wants gig merch pocket money (musician priorities). If the two sides don’t undertand and respect the other’s objectives and priorities and come to a solid legal agreement this will not work.

    Ok so I may be biased on the industry side here but I think a lot of new musicians don’t seem to understand that this type of situation (idependent small scale I’m talking about here) requires maybe a little bit more sacrifice on their part if a label/disto is putting up the money or putting in the energy to make a release successful.

    You see, to me there is a snag: when the industry person is new, young, passionate and a bit skint, they will invest in a project more than what they will ever get back.
    But it is very hard to be truly professional when you can’t actually afford £700-a-page contracts that clarify all these little important points…(merch quantity versus retail quantity).
    However if you listen to and try your best to understand the other person’s priorities (as in any relationship) you should be able to decide whether or not you can constructively work together. Sometimes the musician might find that they don’t want to work with a label/manager. So go it alone. Sometimes it will work out fine if they keep the long-term future in mind (if the musician is not business-minded/trained and the label is dedicated) but sometimes it’s better to just walk away from a bad situation if there is no trust, respect of understanding.

    I do feel strongly that the areas of legal and management training and mentorship in the music industry needs a lot of attention. Whatever about a NI music branding, if the support (legal and business management advice) is not available to an up-and-coming, promising new music scene, then I fear that these sort of situations will keep happening.

  3. @atiim thanks for the input – community is the basis of everything we do in music, I believe, from now on. Even on this blog 🙂 But, as a practical example, Penny recently release a split 7″ from two great bands – Tom McShane & Escape Act – and booked a subsequent tour where the two shared the bill and split expenses etc. It wasn’t easy, but it was a great success, and the collaboration itself was something we were all very proud of – Check out the music on and Tom McShane kept a great diary of the tour over at and via his Flickr.

    Thanks for the link to AMP: very cool…I think being a conduit between people can build great community also – what collaborative projects are you involved in?

    @fletcherchristian that is a big IF and is the crux of the issue. But I know it’s possible because there’re hundreds of successful indies out there. MY issue is what happens in the interim. It’s relatively simple to build on artists success when you’re established as a label / music company with a track record of breaking bands (e.g. Thrill Jockey, 4AD) – but managing artists expectations of the nascent music start-up can be a real challenge and can lead to real acrimony if communication and explanation of those expectations is not met at the very beginning.

    I ABSOLUTELY agree that the right infrastructure (legal, biz manage, accountancy) are essential to support a nascent music economy, and there are signs that these businesses are sprouting up in NI – so that’s a good sign – but I think movements like Creative Camp ( and Soul Ambition’s reaccent seminar (mentioned in the post) are also part of that infrastructure, where a wide range of skill-based companies can come together and work out how to work together.

  4. Fletcher Christian says:

    Nick, apologies for being a tad on the negative side with my post (re-reading it now I didn’t mention anything postive – sorry!)…

    I want to express that I feel completely positive regarding movements such as the Creative Camp Belfast, the Soul ambition thing, Oh Yeah etc and I think that it’s absolutely brilliant that they exist/give time to this area. Fair play to the people who took the initiative there, I really respect that and similar movements who acknowledge the ever-growing links between the technologists and music. It’s great to see them working together on projects (education/information is key).

    Just to add generally to this discussion, the Scottish music scene is interesting also in that it has a lot of infrastructural and business support as well as a collab/collective culture in general. For example check out: which I believe is Scottish Arts council funded (… by the way, don’t they have an official ‘rock policy’ over there too?!:)

    I would really like to see the NI music industry developing along these lines because – as you have so crucially and righty pointed out here (kudos to you, by the way) – networking events, workshops, information seminars etc can not only open doors for new artists and industry newbies but also possibly forge stronger and constructive relationship bonds between the people and the areas mentioned: musicians, producers, marketers, tech’s etc.

    Sorry to be a link spammer but I’m guessing you’ll be going to this?

  5. Nick says:

    @fletcherchristian I don’t think you were being negative at all – just highlighing certain challenges.

    Thanks for the tuneup link – it’s a great idea and can help one of the most important parts of creating a viable local music economy – audience development. I think something similar in NI would be great!

    Also, the NI industry IS developing along these lines – a major point of agreement in last weekends SoulAmbition seminar was the need for these kinds of services to be developed. AND the event you link to on NIMIC’s website is another example of that. We’re headed in the right direction and the right people, I believe, are well motivated to keep moving.

  6. […] wondered aloud if something similar was even possible in the music […]

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