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Head of music Adam Ryan gives IQ a preview of the plans for this week's return of the UK showcase festival and convention
By James Hanley on 09 May 2023
The Great Escape‘s head of music Adam Ryan has previewed tomorrow’s return of the UK showcase festival and convention in an interview with IQ.
The event, which is operated by Live Nation’s MAMA, will feature over 500 artists from around the world – more than even the BBC Proms – at 35-plus venues across Brighton from 10-13 May.
Spotlight shows will be headlined by Unknown T at Concorde 2 (presented by UTA), Maisie Peters (presented by TGE) and Arlo Parks (presented by Rolling Stone UK), both at Brighton Dome, while stage hosts will include Amazon Music, TikTok, the Royal Albert Hall, Speedy Wunderground and Transgressive.
Ryan says the festival’s mission remains to “showcase the best new artists from around the globe”.
“It’s important that we are helping export offices and the showcase artists from their country,” he tells IQ. “But at its core it is music discovery so we will focus on new and emerging talent and that is always the remit.”
“I don’t think we’ll ever increase the number of artists – 500 is a lot, but it still helps us have cut through”
Leading music talent agencies will be hosting showcases throughout the festival. WME’s showcase will kick off the TGE Beach Stage on Thursday 11 May featuring Hot Wax, Maeve, Saint Harison, May and Future Utopia. ATC Live’s line-up takes over Komedia Basement the same day with Sam Akpro, Billie Marten, Willie J Healey, Blondshell, Enumclaw and Deadletter.
+44 from Amazon Music will also be showcasing an evening of Black music artists with +44 Live presents TGE Beach on the Amazon Music Stage on Saturday 13 May. The line-up will be headlined by K-Trap, who will be joined by AntsLive, Miss LaFamilia,Zakhar and Shae Universe.
“We try to showcase as many genres within the limitation of the venues that we have. The key is to align with credible partners to make sure that we’re doing those genres justice,” explains Ryan.
“I don’t think we’ll ever increase the number of artists – 500 is a lot, but it still helps us have cut through in terms of the artists not being lost. We have about 5,000 delegates from around the globe attend each year and we’d like to expand that; we’d definitely like to try and get that as diverse as possible and be a leading force in diversifying and making the music industry more of a representation of society.
“We’d like to sell more tickets, obviously, because we’re a business, But it’s trying to do it in the in the right way that’s going to enhance The Great Escape and also enhance the music industry going forward.”
“There’s nothing that will ever replicate the feeling of being in a room watching somebody perform”
Ryan also offers his thoughts on the question marks regarding the health of the UK music scene’s talent pipeline.
“I hate that phrase – talent pipeline – but I understand that it’s a business and that’s why we refer to it like that,” he says. “I just find it a bit crude to people’s art that [it’s referred to] as going into a pipeline. But I find it interesting that the speed at which artists can get local, national or global recognition before they even have a live show.
“With TikTok, you could have a 20-second clip of one song generate 30/40/50 million streams, but the live show hasn’t even been thought about and there’s barely 15 minutes, let alone half an hour, to even one live performance. So I think that will have a knock on effect in terms of what can grow through to larger festival stages, but there’s always going to be an abundance of exciting artists making original music and doing it the old fashioned way of touring and playing live, because that just can’t be beaten. There’s nothing that will ever replicate the feeling of being in a room watching somebody perform.”
Italy is the festival’s lead country partner for 2023, and will host two special Italian showcases, titled La Festa, coordinated by Italia Music Export. Anna Bassy, San Soucis, and Maria Chiara Argiro will take to the stage at Patterns Upstairs on 11 May, and The Gluts, Milanosport, BLUEM, and Eugenia Post Meridiem will perform at Three Wise Cats on 12 May.
“It has been tough, but we’ve got there and we’re really, really happy with the line-up”
This year’s TGE conference programme, meanwhile, includes three full day strands curated by CMU – Music+Education (10 May), Music+Deals (11 May) and Music + The Creator Economy (12 May).
“For us, it’s important to have three topics and spend the day drilling into those topics and then hopefully, we can have a conclusion and make a change,” says Ryan.
Keynote speakers include Ticketmaster’s EVP of global music David Marcus, who will discuss the latest trends, innovations and opportunities in the live music and ticketing sector, and Afro Nation co-founder SMADE, who will tell the story of the festival’s creation and development. BPI and Youth Music chair Yolanda Brown, and songwriter, producer and PRS Members’ Council president Michelle Escoffery will also deliver keynotes.
In closing, Ryan adds that planning this year’s festival has not been without its challenges.
“Brighton is a fantastic place with lots of venues and all in walkable distance,” he says. “But with the current economic crisis and standards of living, and rents and rates going up, a lot of the venues have changed hands or changed names more so than previous years, or closed altogether. And it’s difficult to plan the footprint of the festival in November if a venue’s in limbo.
“Production costs have gone up, artists fees have gone up and it’s difficult for us because we’re not a greenfield site so it’s not just a matter of us selling a couple more thousand tickets – we’re limited to the venues that are in Brighton. So it has been tough, but we’ve got there and we’re really, really happy with the line-up and how we’re engaging with Brighton and representing new music in the city.”
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