Keeping Music Live
Is there a future for live electronic music ?
Before the euphoria that surrounded the end of August's British Music Fair had died down, those involved in the 'pure' electronic music arena were dragged down to Earth with a jolt. The reason? The failure and possible demise of Britain's only electronic music festival, UK Electronica.
Electronica was the brainchild of Dennis and Jeanette Emsley, co-proprietors of INKEY$ cassette magazine. In the first two years of its existence, it was a pleasurable, friendly, and commercially viable (though not necessarily profitable) affair. It acted as a launchpad for a number of the electronic music world's most talented composers, and it presented a broad cross-section of musical styles and approaches.
As our report on page 86 details, all that went out of the window at Sheffield in 1985. Some of the music was still pleasurable, true enough. And the enthusiasm of everybody who took part - especially seeing as it was a small miracle the show ever took place at all - was never in question. They deserved better.
But truth to tell, this year's bill lacked the two things you need to pull in a big enough audience: a wide-ranging list of performers, and a big, big name at the top of it. So we weren't too surprised when the takings at the door of UK Electronica '85 fell some £2000 below target — or when the people behind the scenes started arguing with each other, telling stories, and generally doing their best to forget the happy, friendly atmosphere that was so prevalent in the earlier years.
So much for what went wrong. What's important now is that we find out whether there really is room for an event that specialises in music that involves new technology.
At E&MM, we think there is. There's no reason why the hi-tech arena shouldn't have a healthy calendar of concerts in the same way as any other form of music. The problem is that 'hi-tech' now encompasses just about every musical style you can think of, such has been the success of the synth, the drum machine and the computer. But that could be a blessing in disguise, because the more styles you can embrace, the bigger your potential audience. It's impossible to please all of the people all of the time, but get the balance right, and you'll have no problems getting people through the turnstiles.
Turning back to the British Music Fair, it's become obvious that the main reason for its success was that it put musicians - not the gear they play - first. Sure, the object of the exercise was to sell more synths, sequencers, drum kits, panpipes and so on to more people. But the soft-sell approach of giving people time to play those instruments, and the opportunity to watch professionals doing the same, worked a treat.
If the BMF has that area cornered, what we need is a show that puts music first, and musicians second. That way, the event would attract plenty of people who've never touched a music keyboard in their lives, but have more records than you could keep in your living room and your bedroom put together. And at the same time, displays from the relevant musical instrument manufacturers could keep the musician fraternity occupied in much the same way as similar demos have at previous UK Electronicas.
That, simply, is the gap that UK Electronica's successor (retitled, relocated, and restructured) could easily fill. There's no question that the gap exists, but just how large it is is anybody's guess.
So if you have a view on the subject of live hi-tech music and the way it could be promoted, drop us a line. The future is in your hands.
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