Asia Pacific’s leading electronic music conference (EMC) wrapped for another year yesterday with an array of local and international music industry heavyweights taking part in panel discussions spanning songwriting, festivals, the media and touring locally and internationally. Now in its fourth year, EMC is the largest event of its kind in the Asia Pacific region and attracts over 800 delegates from across Australia and around the globe.
Day two of EMC saw legendary UK DJ, label head and tastemaker Gilles Peterson and much-loved local star Ta-ku deliver a mesmerising keynote, taking the audience on an insightful journey in to the realities of being a DJ. Both the broadcasting veteran and the up-and-comer recounted occasions where they have faked DJing under high-pressure circumstances – Peterson on live French TV, and Ta-ku at a club gig in Perth soon after he had his first hit. “Everyone fake-DJs sometimes,” Peterson cracked. “DJing is nerve-wracking. It’s harder than people perceive it to be,” Ta-ku added.
Peterson went on to talk about the craft of selecting, saying, “There’s been a return to the art of DJing with people like Floating Points, Four Tet, Daphni and Jamie xx.” Ta-ku was visibly amazed at the length of some of Peterson’s famed marathon sets. “14-hour DJ sets are a great way of losing weight,” Peterson quipped. “You don’t really eat.”
In another panel, some of the best producers of the inthemix Top 100 Australian Dance Tracks of All Time including Itch-E & Scratch-E, HMC, Hermitude and The Presets discussed the process that goes into making legendary hits such as My People, Hyperparadise, Phreakin’, or Sweetness & Light. Speaking about their #1 on the list of Greatest Australian Dance Music Tracks Of All Time, Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen explained “Sweetness & Light was such a unique amalgam of influences, styles and even contributors that it’d simply be impossible to make it again now. And that’s what’s beautiful about it.”
On the international front, What So Not and US power players Denise Melanson, Rob Woo and Paddy Scace came together to talk about how to crack the North American market, where many Australian artists from the likes of Anna Lunoe, Tommy Trash, Hook N Sling, Timmy Trumpet, Alison Wonderland, Thomas Jack and more have all enjoyed recent traction. The biggest piece of advice industry heads gave was to break into the market with a good attitude.
“Someone who is the intern or the assistant very quickly rises ranks,” Spin Artist Agency’s Rob Woo cautioned. “There’s no sense in burning bridges on the way up. I’m nice to all my interns, mainly because I might end up working for them one day.”
“The really cool thing about the music industry right now is you can work with whoever you want,” TMWRK’s Scace said. “You can work with only nice people.” WSN’s Chris Emerson agreed, and pointed out that the newest faces in the industry often have the most to add: “It’s the younger crowd coming through who know the most about technology.”
EMC offered aspiring producers and DJs advice breaking into the industry. Australia’s biggest trance star MaRLo and his manager, vocalist and wife Janette Bishara recommended that aspiring trance DJ and producers start off in Australia rather than heading to overseas to trance Meccas like the Netherlands. “You don’t have to move to Europe,” MaRLo said. “I sold everything I owned and moved to Holland and I couldn’t get any gigs – I went too early.”
“Trance is like the quiet achiever scene here,” Janette added – a fact evidenced by MaRLo breaking attendance records as the headliner at Sydney’s super-club Pacha four times in a row.
MaRLo’s second big piece of advice was that you can’t expect the industry to help you to the forefront – especially not in trance. “You can’t make a track, send it to Armin and expect him to start playing it and make you a huge star – you need to do the hard slog in trance,” Marlo said. “Make bootleg remixes and play them at all of your club gigs – nobody else will play your music in the beginning.”
“People in the industry think, oh, trance will never work with our crowd – but that’s bullshit. There’s no reason why people in the general public won’t have a good time out with their friends to the music I play,” Marlo said.
Lucky Entertainment founder Luke Udorovic cautioned young artists against getting a manager too soon in the panel ‘How Lucky Entertainment Blew Up’. The whole Lucky team stressed that their best business connections came through getting to know people socially, not through cold calling or emails; you should only get a manager, Udorovic said, when you can’t handle the workload yourself any more. He applied the same idea to expanding Lucky Entertainment – he only started hiring new people when he “just stopped sleeping”.
Tkay Maidza, Mash’d N Kutcher, Tom Loud and Slumberjack closed out the EMC Keynote Theatre with tales of stage invaders, internet trolls and bloodstained rural motel rooms. Some of the most memorable advice on the Artist Panel came from Mash’d N Kutcher’s Matt: if you’re making music, a white board is “a bloody good investment” for keeping track of ideas and feedback. Slumberjack also stressed that artists should accept that their early work will probably become unpalatable: “I was going to be the next Hardwell,” Morgan said, “but I realised I couldn’t make [big room].”
“It’s not about finding your own genre, it’s about finding your own sound,” Adam from Mash’d N Kutcher said. “Like with Flume, he stuck with his sound and it became its own genre.” Tkay Maidza agreed; “I don’t have a genre,” she said. “My voice makes it sound like ‘Tkay’.”
The conference concluded with EMCPlay, a showcase event featuring 30 of this year’s freshest acts coming out of Australia playing in front of a crowd of industry heads, producers and fans across three venues in the heart of Sydney. EMCPlay has fast become the breeding ground for internationally successful artists including KLP, The Kite String Tangle, Motez, Slumberjack, SAFIA and Peking Duk, and this year’s lineup featured a string of artists all on the cusp of following in their footsteps.
This year, talented newcomer BUOY and Brisbane beatsmith Feki wowed an intimate crowd at Crystal Bar and Nicole Millar made her first live solo show since appearing on the Red Bull Music Academy Stage at last year’s Splendour in The Grass. Indie rapper Ivan Ooze delivered a high-energy performance at Taylor’s rooftop and one-half of Carmada L D R U finished the party with an explosive bass heavy set, delivering a sound in line with the trends in electronic music today.