With Music Cork, a music industry conference and showcase looming on the immediate horizon taking place for the second year this week, music director Alexis Vokos took the time to talk through the festival’s nuances with Nialler9.
Vokos made his name in founding the Delphi Music label, currently home to artists such as Deaf Joe and We Cut Corners. Acting as music director for Music Cork, Vokos begins by discussing the driving ethos behind the festival.
“Our ethos is to keep Music Cork intimate and informal,” Vokos begins. Taking place across three full but not hectic days, Music Cork hosts only a handful of acts in a small selection of venues each day. Vokos goes on to say that the smaller scale helps “all the showcasing artists to have the best chance of getting in front of the right industry contacts.”
This design has more in mind than just the performing artists though. As an industry festival, Music Cork plays host to some of the most recognisable new names in the domestic and international music scene. Whether it’s press agents or A&R representatives from major labels, the festival’s cosy set up ensures that “the time spent at Music Cork [will] be friendly and focused enough for all delegates and speakers to have every opportunity to connect,” Vokos says.
The festival takes much of its inspiration from its European counterparts. Vokos cites himself and the rest of team behind Music Cork as “attending international music industry events regularly, often together, and every time you’re getting to see what really works and what doesn’t.”.
Admiring the thought behind the likes of Eurosonic and The Great Escape but feeling that many festivals “can become a victim of their own success as they grow bigger”, Vokos and the rest of the team decided that Ireland could indeed play host to a boutique-style industry festival.
Thus, the concept for Music Cork was born, “so we decided to distil the best aspects of other events into something meaningful for our delegates and artists and hopefully become a valuable asset to the Irish music industry.”, remembers Vokos.
The festival is boasting an impressive line-up this year, with free performances from Le Boom (DOI: Niall Byrne, the site’s owner, manages the band), Kojaque and Laoise all announced. Building a reputation for showcasing the highest quality of emerging Irish talent year after year isn’t easy, this has meant that the selection process for the performing artists can be a little ruthless.
“We decided from the outset that we wouldn’t have an open application system,” Vokos reflects, “The reasoning being that Ireland is a relatively small music ecosystem and at any one time the number of artists who are breaking through, building a meaningful audience at shows and online and getting some radio or press is also relatively small”.
While this may mean the newest artists may not get the nod, it ensures that all delegates can be confident that the music at the festival is among the best the country has to offer. Vokos seems resolute on the point, stating that “it (the selection process) might not be entirely democratic, but we feel it’s the best way be certain the quality remains high. Given that we only showcase about 16 acts per year it’s necessary to handpick.”
This year’s line-up goes beyond the draw of the musicians featured on it, Music Cork can also boast an impressive array of industry figures who’ll address the delegates throughout a number of informal talks over the two days.
The international response from the industry has been promising, “For the second year we are really blown away by the willingness of top industry professionals to take the time to come over to Ireland and join is for a couple of days,” beams Vokos.
In terms of highlights , according to Vokos, there’s “Nigel Elderton, the Chairman of PRS For Music (UK equivalent of IMRO) who will speak about the innovative work being done by PRS and the question of how we value intellectual property in the digital age.”
Also scheduled to speak is Alison Wenham, one of the founders of AIM and current director of the Worldwide Independent Network. Vokos seems excited about hearing her speak, stating that “it will be fascinating to hear about the work Alison has done over the years on behalf of the independent label community, in particular during the upheaval of the digital revolution. I’m sure we’ll also be hearing Alison’s thoughts about championing the work of women in the music industry.”
Despite its growing reputation as an astute industry music festival, Music Cork is planning on lost sight of its original ethos. Attendees can expect an intimate and informal environment in which to network, the activity at the heart of the festival. Vokos and the whole team seem set upon their target of facilitating the growth of industry delegates from around the country, at all levels.
For any newbies who’ll be attending this year Vokos advises “taking the opportunity to meet and speak to as many people as possible, and with some of the more senior industry speakers in particular.”
For those aspiring industry delegates, Music Cork is a great opportunity to network and be exposed to the country’s most promising new artists.