In the two years since we first visited the Brighton Music Conference, the UK’s only electronic music convention has gone through a few growing pains. Event founder (and trance icon) John “00” Fleming left in 2016, causing some slightly troubling reports to circulate through the industry about what had been going on behind the scenes.

Heading out on day one I must confess I was harbouring nagging concerns that I might be walking into a struggling venture on its last legs. I’m happy to report that I could not have been more wrong.

Year 4 of the Brighton Music Conference saw a fat-free event with a compact, well represented exhibition space, some fantastic workshops and talks for budding DJs and some thought-provoking panel debates events for pros. The whole thing was focused around a central networking area, so those visiting on an “academy” pass weren’t separated from the industry professionals as in previous years. This may seem like a small detail, but I think it’s a tweak which must have made a huge difference to aspiring artists and label moguls in the making: such leisurely access to so many music biz heavy hitters is unusual these days, even at music conferences.

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Many artists we’ve featured over the past 12 months were in attendance, most memorably Danny from the Wideboys, who was clearly delighted with his 5 Mag feature and touched to see renewed interest in his music from across the pond. At the ominously titled “Building A Brand” seminar, it was nice to hear some positive news from Beatport GM Terry Weerasinghe. At last year’s conference, a nervous looking Beatport staffer fielded testy (and in some cases angry) questions from label owners with all the evasiveness of a politician days away from resigning. News had just broken of parent company’s SFX descent into bankruptcy, so while he gamely defended the site’s disastrous new attempts at streaming and ticket sales, within weeks of the conference the company had been sold and Beatport had begun to strip away all the nonsensical additions that SFX had insisted upon. This year, Terry passed on his heartfelt thanks to labels and customers for continuing to support Beatport through their darkest hour. Sales on the site are up and they appear fully committed to returning to the simple formula which brought them so much success in the first place.

Born from a personal revulsion to how seriously EDM and techno DJs began to take themselves a few years ago, Wunderground has clearly touched a nerve all over the globe. “It’s dance music,” says Mikey. “It’s supposed to be fun.”

On the same panel, professional DJ baiter Mikey Maguire (founder of satirical dance music site Wunderground) told a rapt audience about the art of bothering superstar DJs to the point of legal action (and how the public posting of these threatening lawyer’s letters on the site helped make it the runaway success it is today). Responding to a question about a series of threatening Tweets from an unusually enraged DJ Sneak (and what might happen if they ever met), he responded, “I’ve met him loads of times, and taken a picture each time. He’s got no idea that it’s me. One day I’ll send all the pics to him.” Born from a personal revulsion to how seriously EDM and techno DJs began to take themselves a few years ago, Wunderground has clearly touched a nerve all over the globe. “It’s dance music,” says Mikey. “It’s supposed to be fun.”

The first day’s seminars ended on a low note with DJ Mag’s panel “Staying Professional In An Industry Awash With Temptation,” in which some fresh faced journos, PR people and a one young “sober DJ” managed to both trivialize one of our industry’s most challenging topics and also hand out some shockingly bad advice. “As long as you turn up and do your job, it’s all good,” someone said. (Try telling that to the staff at your local rehab facility.) Fittingly, the only seasoned dance music artist advertised on the panel didn’t show up. Perhaps he lost track of time at the pub.

Before we left town, we headed over to the Toolroom academy, where a workshop was in progress in which “academy” visitors were invited to play their unsigned demos to a panel of label A&R staff and DJs. In a packed room, some impressive House, Garage and even breaks tracks were played and honest, encouraging feedback was given. Toolroom founders Stuart and Mark Knight have clearly made a conscious effort to make their label more accessible and involved at a grassroots level; I’m certain it’s a policy which will benefit everyone concerned (and hopefully inspire other labels to follow suit).

Encouraging the successful artists and industry professionals of today to engage and share their experiences with the next generation could not be a more worthy goal, and year on year the BMC continue to adapt their offering in order to facilitate this exchange. Events like this are important, if for no other reason than for us all to take a step back remember we’re part of something bigger than us.

 

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