While it may have been chilly outside with the picturesque Belfast mountains dusted with snow, the MAC was on fire with a wide range of industry professionals alongside aspiring musicians and industry hopefuls looking to extract their own personal nuggets from the goldmine of Information that is Output Belfast.
With an incredible opening keynote from the chief executive of AIM UK, Paul Pacifico which was supported by Beverly Whitrick from the Music Venue Trust who gave a very in-depth look into the vital and important work that the trust carries out on a daily basis alongside the services they offer to struggling grassroots venues. Including their essential venue-saving emergency response service, alongside discussing the unique challenges that grassroots venues face across the UK especially those faced in a unique environment such as Northern Ireland. The keynote was then closed out by the acting chief executive of UK Music Tom Kiehl, who gave an insightful and deeply interesting discussion on a wide range of topics from the important lobbying work that they carry in the various parliaments across the country to the examining the increasing levels of physical and mental health issues that musicians and industry professionals are facing alongside their relation to the often poor wage of the everyday musician.
Tom Kiehl’s keynote will stand out for a long time for me, with his call on Ministers at Stormont to back the establishment of a new industry body/Ministerial Advisory Group to help give the NI Music Scene a much stronger voice within the nations parliament. Referencing the success of similar such boards that UK Music had helped support, he raised points on how it could be used to help protect music venues from, the grassroots local venues to the international arenas. Speaking at the keynote Mr Kiehl referenced the many great things currently happening in the local music scene including the important work of the Oh Yeah Centre, to the board currently working on the Belfast 2023 UNESCO City of Music Designation. A key point of the keynote was on the UK Governments decision to cut business rates for music venues across Great Britain, calling for a parallel relief to be given in NI.
With a wealth of information, Output could not be contained in the massive 6-floor venue that is the MAC Theatre in Belfast. With talk’s also taking place within Belfast’s famous Oh Yeah Centre, a talk of deep interest to myself personally was Confessions of a Female Tour Manager, with Kim Hawes who handled “Motorhead” and “Rush” speaking to journalist Roisin Dwyer, spilling the secrets of life on the road with some of the world’s biggest act’s, how she got her start simply selling merchandise, the sexism that she faced in the industry as she came up through the ranks and the humorous tale of counting out 3 quarters of a million dollars (in small notes too!).
The downstairs suite at the MAC would later welcome the Radio Free Europe Panel, with Radio Icon’s from 2FM to BBC’s ATL (Across The Line) with who guided and provided advice on how to get air-time on the biggest stations across the nation, with one key piece of advice shared amongst the panel being, if it’s not uploaded and shared with them, it can’t be played! Speaking to two young southern artists shortly after the talk, they were in shock having not heard of services such as the ATL Uploader and how they were not only deeply impressed but mentioned how such a service can prove vital to the up and coming artist struggling to get airtime.
Shortly afterwards Bradley Quinn (Tour Photographer for Snow Patrol) and Ciara McMullan (Tour Photographer for ROE among many others) delivered an in-depth look into imagery and videography at their “Picture This” discussion, highlighting the importance that quality stills photography alongside videography is to the working musician, especially in this era of social media and how it can make your artist really stand out from the rest, and a short Q&A, it gave a deep insight not only to the artists but also to the content creators in the room, it was one of the talks that were not to be missed.
With a touching tribute at the closing keynote to industry legend Lyndon Stephens who sadly passed earlier this year, Output 2020 yet again proved why it’s a date that needs to be on your calendar if you are in the industry, no matter what your role.
More Images from Output Belfast can be found below.