7 things we learnt at day one of EMC 2016

Today at Sydney’s ivy complex, the Electronic Music Conference kicked off for 2016.

Over 600 members of the local and international industry came together to talk about what makes dance music tick, from the rise of vinyl to how to do brand partnerships right and creating a great live show. In the ivy Sunroom, ten of the local industry’s most inspiring women came together to share tips and advice at the Women In Electronic Music speed mentoring session while in an invite-only round table, Sydney’s nightlife stakeholders discussed how the city’s clubs can remain viable under lockouts.

Amsterdam’s Night Mayor Mirik Milan kicked off the conference with a keynote speech, while in the EMC Academy Theatre production gun Tom Piper recruited friends like Benson, Set Mo and Dom Dolla to take the crowd through the process of making a track from start to finish.

EMC is a manic, inspiring must-do for anyone who’s devoted their life to electronic music, and it’s not over yet. The conference continues tomorrow with a keynote appearance from superstar DJ Alison Wonderland and on Wednesday night, the event will cap off with the biggest party of the year at EMCPlay (you can grab a cheap ticket to that here).  But before then, catch up with what went down on day one of EMC 2016 right here.


#1 Sydney needs to fight the lockout laws with facts, not emotions

As ‘Night Mayor’ of Amsterdam, Mirik Milan – who gave this morning’s opening keynote – has successfully opened dialogue between city officials and the many businesses and individuals that survive and thrive on Amsterdam’s vibrant nightlife. With the current disconnect between these two entities in Sydney, Milan’s advice is both timely and sound.

“There are so many discussions which are filled with emotion”, he acknowledges. “What we need to make sure of is that we work from the facts, and we don’t make decisions based on emotion. This can kill nightlife, and will also harm the good operators that are there to make a difference.” While Milan notes that the chain from bedrooms to nightclubs to the world stage typically works from a bottom-up structure, he believes that cooperation from city officials is vital to create safe and successful nightlife – taking what he refers to as “the middle path.”

“We also need the top-down structure. [In Amsterdam] we needed the mayor supporting us. So we really need to work together – both sides – to come up with solutions that the city will benefit from. They work on the ground, they are there, they have the knowledge; feed off them, so you can make a nightlife that is safe, vibrant, and creates a lot of jobs.” Words: Nathan Jolly

#2 Vinyl can actually make you money

There’s no question that releasing vinyl is a passion project for both artists and labels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that distribution runs at a loss.

“There are actually times when [selling vinyl] can be profitable,” Inertia’s Anthony Goddard told the Pressing Matters panel. “It totally depends on the artist, and how they have cultivated their audience.” He points to Hermitude’s last record Dark Night Sweet Light, and how the label could not keep up with the amount of records they were selling. “People fawn over vinyl – they want that physical thing in their hands.”

For retail stores, stocking wax can turn profit – not usually from new releases, but due to big mark-ups on second hand records. “Stores are competing massively with online sellers,” FBi and Record Store’s Adi Toohey said. “They come to us because they want to talk about the records – they want that connection to the community.” Words: Jules LeFevre

#3 Doing everything by the book is painful, but well worth the hassle

Clare Downes runs the Secret Garden festival from her parents’ farm, a lucky head start that most promoters don’t have. Despite this, she still stresses the importance of doing everything above board – something she learned from experience.

“The hardest thing with starting out an event is all the regulation that’s involved. When Secret Garden started I was 22 and had no idea that you had to tell police, or council, or anything like that, so we just went rouge for a couple of years,” she admits.  “It was just a free-for-all – and thank God we survived that period. I didn’t even realise what I was doing was so bad. Conversely, when we did Cubby House [a party set in a Harbour-side mansion], I went through all the regulations: risk assessment, licenses, and all that kinda stuff.”

“It takes a really long time, and it’s hard and confusing, but there’s no risk of getting into trouble.” Words: Nathan Jolly

#4 Having a good team around you is everything

If you want to release an album, you need to be prepared to play the long game.

For a bit of an indication of just how much planning goes into an album rollout, look no further than Paces’ Like A Version slot. “That took 12 months to organise,” Anna Fitzgerald from Ministry of Sound told the packed audience at the panel delving into the success of the Gold Coast star’s debut LP. It wasn’t just triple j team Paces had their eye on – after the success of her single Get Down, Paces dropped the Jess Kent collaboration 1993 (No Chill) and watched his team spent months collecting stats to try and twist commercial radio’s arm into adding it to rotation.

After that it was press releases, and schmoozing at boat parties – all before the album even made it on shelves. “It’s also not a one man show,” Mikey ‘Paces’ Perry said. “It’s a team effort. It’s really important to keep building a team the whole way through. The success of Vacation is due to so many people.” Words: Jules LeFevre

#5 Your live show needs to actually be functional

You can have the most innovative and visually spectacular live show in the world, but it’s not going to go anywhere unless it’s practical. The design has to above all be functional, and have a team around that is going to be there to make sure it works. “You can design anything you want – but it’s going to live and die by the skill of your production manager,” stressed Bionic League’s Martin Phillips, the man who designed Daft Punk’s famous pyramid.

If you’re touring your own show, you need to make sure it travels. “I would practice packing my gear in the dark because I knew that I would have to do that out on the road,” Sampology admitted. Equipment needs to travel, be replaceable, and you need to have plans in place in case something goes wrong. Because as Phillips says: “something will always go wrong.” Words: Jules LeFevre

#6 DJing possibilities are literally endless these days

In the EMC Academy theatre, A-Tonez demonstrated how Roland’s first entry in to the DJ gear market, the DJ-808, created in conjunction with Serato, has taken DJing into realms that the early pioneers who first discovered you could mix two records together would only have called “science-fiction.”

Combining a Serato DJ controller with a sampler, as well as a drum machine featuring their flagship TR-808, TR-909, TR-606, and TR-707, the DJ-808 allows performers to seamlessly integrate live and DJ performance techniques without the hassle of needing multiple pieces of gear. Although DJs have incorporated hardware elements into their sets for a while now (e.g., Jeff Mills), the DJ-808 makes the technique accessible to the new generation who are predominantly playing on digital formats, and opens up creative possibilities that allow DJs to never play the same track the same way ever again. Words: Andrew Wowk

#7 The future is female

At a totally booked out mentoring session run by MusicNSW, a group of A&R, management, touring, PR and media guns proved that Australia’s next generation of dance power players are women. The special “speed dating” session allowed artists and industry newcomers to get face time with the mentors in the room, where they could ask for advice on everything from getting your music out there to how to find the right manager. Even if some of attendees missed the ladies-only memo, it was heartwarming stuff. Words: Katie Cunningham

EMC continues tomorrow at Sydney’s Ivy complex. Grab a last minute ticket here.