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8 things we learnt at day two of EMC 2016

All photo credits: ShiBBi

After an inspiring day one that featured highlights like a keynote from Amsterdam’s Night Mayor Mirik Milan, the Electronic Music Conference continued yesterday at Sydney’s ivy complex.

The day kicked off with a revealing keynote interview from Sydney bred superstar Alison Wonderland, before topics like the future of Australia’s night time culture, the secret to touring Asia, the future of broadcasting and LGBTI club culture were all discussed on panels.

When night fell, EMCPlay kicked off, with showcase parties spread across four venues. The likes of Flume, Daniel Johns and Slumberjack all stopped by to watch, while Sweat It Out star Motez ended up jumping on the decks at Oxford Circus for a secret set. If you missed it, catch up with what went down on day two of EMC 2016 right here.


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#1 Superstardom doesn’t happen overnight

“A lot of people are going to tell you ‘no’, until they tell you ‘yes’.”

DJ and producer Alison Wonderland has had more than her fair share of setbacks: shitty gigs playing to the bar staff; sexist DJ talent competitions; and metaphorical doors slammed in her face. It makes it hard to keep the faith, but as long as you stay true to yourself and your tastes, you will find an audience.

“That happened a lot”, she says of hearing ‘no’. “Not only with DJing but with production as well. I just kept going. There’s a lot of ego in this industry, and it’s intimidating when there’s a lot of loud people around you, and so many people asking, ‘When do I get heard?'”

Despite the noise, she warns against tailoring your sound to the masses. “I really believe that if you’re doing something from an honest place, it’s gonna speak to the right people, and you will build a really strong foundation and following – the right way.” Words: Nathan Jolly

#2 Berlin isn’t a shortcut to dance music success

Berlin is a magical place, there’s no doubt about it. Some of the underground’s most well-respected DJs cut their teeth in the city’s clubs like Berghain and Watergate, and understandably the lure of a potential full-time music career is a strong one for many up-and-coming artists.

But the truth is that you’re going to have to work just as hard, if not harder, in a place like Berlin to stand out from the crowd. As the panelists at the ‘Focus on Berlin’ session discussed, your competition is not just the city’s locals, but all the other hopefuls who have moved there too.

If you’re willing to put in the work, Berlin is indeed a great place to have a go at attaining the underground dance music dream – but if you’re just hoping for instant credibility because you’ve decided to relocate there, you might as well save yourself the heartache. Words: Andrew Wowk

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#3 It’s all about the safe space

If you think that LGBTI clubbing is not in the mainstream, think again. “Berghain is the template for the LGBTI clubbing experience,” legendary DJ Honey Dijon told a crammed room in the ivy penthouse. She’s right: the infamous German gay club epitomises the LGBTI clubbing scene: it’s safe, it’s exploratory, it pushes the musical boundaries, and it is all about personal freedom.

“When you walk through that door in a gay club, you know you’re safe,” Lisa Javelin added. For a community that is marginalised and persecuted, LGBTI clubs offer a haven – including for straight people that feel suffocated in an often hyper-masculine and cisgender dance scene. In terms of the music, the rise of Chicago and New York house is so intertwined with the drag and queer movement it’s almost impossible to divorce the two scenes. Words: Jules LeFevre

#4 Be yourself and not a brand

“I’m not gonna take the piss and try and make money out of instagram,” producer Generik quipped. “At the end of the day I play tunes to drunk people in clubs, that’s who I am.”

Authenticity can’t be created: people will respect and follow you for being you, not because you’re shilling teeth-whitener and detox juices. If you have a genuine following, don’t take it for granted – and look to partner with brands that you actually want to work with, not just who offer the big bucks.

Generik also gave a top tip for promotion: if you’re announcing a tour or something similiar post it once, then wait until you have nine posts between it before you post again. “Once it’s out of that first nine, smash the announcement again. That way it won’t get old.” Words: Jules LeFevre

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#5 There’s no “right” way to produce

EMC Academy’s “Making A Remix From Scratch” series of workshops highlighted that every producer has their own tricks and techniques, and the only “right” way to make music is the way that suits your work flow. For some, it’s having a clear vision from the very beginning. For others, it’s all about experimenting until something sticks.

Some producers work from the bottom-up, working on small details right from the beginning, while others take a “big picture” approach and create a scaffold before going back and filling in the details later. Ultimately, none of these approaches are the “correct” way to write music: you should write music however it makes writing music the most enjoyable and productive. Words: Andrew Wowk

#6 If you want to get rid of lockouts, you need to get into politics

Earlier this year, Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie wrote a 6,000 word tirade against Sydney’s draconian lock-out laws which was read by millions of people around the world. But Barrie feels his scathing attack didn’t go far enough and that the only real way to effect change is to take the power in your own hands and start a political party.

“In Sydney, we need to have a party that represents the views of the people and not the views of the office, with all sorts of vested interests”, he explained. “You can clearly see that political pressure is taking its effect on Mike Baird, who went from being the most popular Premier ever: he went from +39% to -7%, which is the biggest drop in the history of NewsPoll’s rankings of a Premier’s popularity.

“I think the time is right; someone needs to go out and organise some people and apply some pressure. It’s the only way you get change.” Words: Nathan Jolly

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#7 Aesthetics count in clubland

When running any sort of music related business, be it a record label, a party, or even a touring agency, it can be easy to find yourself focusing entirely on the music and neglecting many of the other equally important elements that make up your brand’s identity.

One of those, and perhaps the most important, is the visual aesthetic of your brand. ‘The Art of Rave’ panel made it clear that there is no single specific way to create this aesthetic – for example, the artwork for releases on Jimmy Edgar’s label Ultramajic is never specifically created to reflect the style of music that it puts out, whereas Future Classic put a lot of thought into matching the artist with a designer that can visually capture the artist’s sound.

However, what is important is that is that you do it. A strong visual aesthetic makes you instantly recognisable outside of the club, and helps cement your identity. Words: Andrew Wowk

#8 The medium may move, but the message remains the same

The past two decades has seen a fundamental shift in how we imbibe content across the board, from music, to movies, to messages from mum. Radio has been hit hard by these changes, but as Clare Holland from FBi Radio explains, even if the delivery system has changed, little else has.

“Obviously the platforms are much more varied than they have been previously”, she explains. “The advent of streaming has changed how we think about broadcasting; it no longer needs to be something that’s in a localised proximity, but I think at its core, the idea of broadcasting – irrespective of the way we deliver it – still remains the same, and ultimately that comes down to the idea of curation, context, and companionship.”

Lorna Clarkson from 2SER adds a fourth ‘C’ – community. “I think broadcasting is about building a community”, she notes. “A community that is not only like-minded, but willing to go with you on a particular journey, who is open to finding out more about what they already know, and having that expanded.” Words: Nathan Jolly