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Keychange 2.0 unveiled at Reeperbahn Festival

Artists Kate Nash and Peaches revealed details of the next phase of music industry gender parity project Keychange at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg today (19 September).

A presentation, hosted by Kate Nash and Peaches alongside Pitchfork editor Puja Patel, laid out the foundations for the next four-year stage of the project. A new management structure, headed up by lead partner Reeperbahn Festival, was also announced.

The news follows the recent announcement that the gender balance initiative received €1.4 million in funding from the European Commission.

Keychange 2.0 will support 216 music creators and industry professionals – 74 each year – from countries including Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The participants will take part in a talent development programme of showcases, panels, workshops, training sessions, networking events and creative labs at 13 festivals across Europe and Canada, including two full network meetups in February and September.

A global database will list all participants and the more than 250 signatories to Keychange’s 50/50 gender-balanced line-up pledge, as well as a mentoring scheme, Keychange conference, online resources, ambassadors and an expanded management team.

“Its encouraging to see all these organisations involved with Keychange because it means that things can finally start to change,” says Nash. “Music is about feeling part of a community and feeling included – it’s about being seen and heard.”

“Its encouraging to see all these organisations involved with Keychange because it means that things can finally start to change”

An open call for Keychange 2.0 participants will launch in October 2019 through the initiative’s website. “Innovative and boundary-pushing” applicants from all partner countries are encouraged to apply. Six participants will be selected per country – three artists and three industry professionals.

Reeperbahn Festival, alongside other leading festival partners from each country – Iceland Airwaves (Iceland), BIME (Spain), Oslo World (Norway), Tallinn Music Week (Estonia), Ireland Music Week (Ireland), Way Out West (Sweden), Linecheck (Italy), Liverpool Sound City (UK), Spring Break (Poland) Mutek (Canada), BreakOut West (Canada) and MAMA (France) – will each host six to twelve international Keychange participants.

“With Keychange 1.0, we have been addressing the necessity of gender equality in the music business since 2017,” comments Reeperbahn chief executive Alex Schulz.

“Phase 2.0 not only extends Pledge 2022 for balanced line-ups in festivals to other organisations and music sub-markets, but also expands our mentoring programmes and workshops as well as the European database, so that our innovators and artists can implement the transformative power of Keychange in the best possible way and carry it out into the world.”

Reeperbahn will work closely with Keychange founder PRS Founder and Sweden’s Musikcentrum Öst to lead Keychange 2.0.


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Sound City boss Pichilingi heads up Modern Sky USA

Dave Pichilingi, who launched Modern Sky UK in 2016, is expanding his role to take over operations at the company’s US division.

In his new role as chief executive UK and North America, Pichilingi will divide his time between Modern Sky’s Liverpool and London-based UK office, and the company’s Los Angeles home.

Founded by LiHui Shen in 1997, Modern Sky Entertainment is a multi-faceted entertainment company, operating across live, recording, publishing and video. Modern Sky is the largest independent record label in China and promotes music festivals in the country, under the banner of Strawberry Festivals and MDSK.

Pichilingi launched Modern Sky UK along with LiHui Shen as part of a partnership with Sound City, of which Pichilingi is founder and chief executive. Sound City is the company behind music conferences and showcase festivals in Liverpool, Manchester, New York and Seoul.

In his new role, Pichilingi will look to generate opportunities for Modern Sky’s Chinese repertoire for sync and publishing.

The Sound City boss will also work with US brands in conjunction with Modern Sky’s festival portfolio and video and streaming platform MNOW, which has over 42 million subscribers and an in-built ticketing service.

“We [Modern Sky] believe we’ve got the best pipeline for western businesses looking to make headway in the Asian market”

“Modern Sky is in a fairly unique position as the custodian of a large, excellent Chinese music catalogue, particularly in hip hop, contemporary folk, electronic and guitar genres,” says Pichilingi. “We’re seeing a big increase in the demand for Chinese repertoire and want to generate new opportunities for our artists.

“As far as working with brands in the US is concerned, we believe we’ve got the best pipeline for western businesses looking to make headway in the Asian market and communicate with a large, engaged and targeted young audience with plenty of disposable income and a keen interest not just in western music but in lifestyles and wider pop culture as well.”

Talking to IQ ahead of his promotion, Pichilingi discussed the potential of the Chinese music market, stating that approximately 550 million people consume popular music in the country.

“The level of opportunity in Asia in general is huge,” Pichilingi told IQ, “and it is still a relatively untapped marketplace.”


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From Liverpool to Seoul: Sound City’s Asian adventure

Independent festival and conference Sound City has its roots firmly in the northwest of the UK but has recently begun to set its sights much further afield, tapping into the rapidly growing South Korean music industry.

Here, IQ talks to Sound City chief executive David Pichilingi about new ventures overseas, the appetite for new music in Asia and why Sound City is much more than “just” a music festival…

IQ: What are the origins of Sound City?
DS: We launched Sound City in 2008, because it felt at that time that Liverpool was looking backwards. Liverpool is a city with such an important musical history and a strong tradition of shaping popular culture, but it felt like it had got to the point where everything was focused on reflecting on the past rather than trying to define the future.

Sound City was the model needed to enable Liverpool and the wider region to begin looking forward and begin trying to reinvent itself for a modern audience. The ethos was always to put Liverpool and the region on the map, and we aimed to do that through musical showcases linked to a world class conference schedule.

By showcasing what we felt was the best of creative talent on offer, we have grown into presenting over 350 bands from 22 different countries. This year we had over 7,500 bands applying to play at Sound City. There’s also the business conference, which has been present from day one right in the heart of festival. It has grown from 50 speakers in year one and a couple hundred of delegates, to this year over 1,500 delegates and speakers. To date, Sound City has helped to secure around £30 million in new deals for UK artists and music-based businesses, equating to around £3m per year.

Sound City was the model needed to enable Liverpool and the wider region to begin looking forward and begin trying to reinvent itself for a modern audience

How did Sound City Korea come about?
Like most things in life it was a happy accident. Our mission has always been to support the development of artists and industry talents in any shape or form. We started getting inquiries from organisations based in Korea, China, Australia and parts of central Europe, wanting to showcase musical talent and bring business representatives.

Through this, we cultivated contacts with a wide range of people, including a very close relationship with Dalse, who runs Zandari Festival (South Korea’s largest showcase event) in Seoul. He wanted to grow the festival and shared our ethos of supporting young artists. We started by helping to book speakers and by taking agents and labels over, then that grew into us taking British bands over and putting on a British stage. Four years on, we have our own version of Sound City in Seoul. There was no strategic plan just kindred spirits and like-minded people coming together to create something inspiring.

Have you expanded into other parts of Asia?
Absolutely, the reputation and credibility of Zandari Festival has grown substantially because of our association with it and because of what we’ve done there, we have been asked to do similar things elsewhere. We are looking to build on that and a key priority over the next three to five years is to create a version of Sound City in China as go to event for Asia.

Modern Sky, the largest independent Chinese record label and festival promoter, is our conduit into that marketplace. Through our partnership with them, we have the ability to connect with audiences and businesses in China and the wider Asian region, giving us an opportunity that few others have.

With Modern Sky, we are aiming to create a flagship event in China. The idea is to create more opportunities as opposed to fewer, and we are by no means aiming to take away from Zandari with this. We want to coordinate it so artists can come from doing one or two shows at Zandari, to then performing in China. So rather than getting people to fly out for four days, they can come for ten and attend two conferences and showcase festivals instead of one.

A key priority over the next three to five years is to create a version of Sound City in China as go to event for Asia

It’s important to note that this is all about two-way traffic. We are also helping Asian artists to make it in the UK and Europe, as well as showcasing our own talents and creating our own connections in Asia.

Why is the Asian market important?
Via globalisation and social platforms it is possible for anybody to be known overseas now and the days of trying to be only king of your own backyard is over for artists.

In the Asian region, Korea is seen as a very important marketplace, even though it’s not that big – much in the same way that the UK music market is influential but relatively small – and a lot of artists use it to get a foothold elsewhere.

The level of opportunity in Asia in general is huge, especially in China where audience consumption of popular music is estimated at 550 million people. It is also still a relatively untapped marketplace. In China and the rest of Asia, there is a very savvy young audience now with a strong connection with the west and western culture. In terms of the music and subcultures, there is a lot of opportunity for independent record labels and emerging artists. It is much more of a level playing field over there.

What else is Sound City up to?
The Sound City festival comes as both a blessing and a curse – people think that’s all we are but we do so many different things.

We have a lot going on abroad but are doing many other great things at home too. In July this year we launched a new version of Sound City at Manchester International Festival, as a part of Distractions (a three-day summit on future of entertainment). We are now aiming to turn that into an annual event, so we have two meaningful events for business delegations and artists in two of the strongest music cities in the UK.

In China and the rest of Asia, there is a very savvy young audience now with a strong connection with the west and western culture

Our event Off the Record, which we do in conjunction with festival promoter From the Fields, is coming into its fourth year. This is a very grassroots festival, for artists and young people on the first rung of the ladder still trying to make sense of it all. We have sold out for the past three years and are looking to do the same for the fourth year too.

We also run music entrepreneurship training, offering early stage talent development for young people, featuring music-making, training, mentoring and work placement opportunities, with a focus on areas of deprivation in Liverpool and the northwest.

In terms of our wider strategic partnerships, we are the lead UK partner in the Keychange initiative (led by PRS Foundation and supported by the Creative Europe programme) which encourages festivals and music organisations to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022.

This has also led to us being part of the INES network which is a EU cooperation project led by a network of eight international showcase festivals to create a united, strong European music market.

When we started Sound City over 14 years ago our mantra was always to have an international footprint. Over these years we have now built a strong and credible brand that is respected globally. We are still proud to call Liverpool, Manchester and the North our home from where everything else radiates.


The inaugural Sound City Ipswich, a one-day conference and multi-venue festival, is taking place on 4 October in partnership with Out Loud Music and local venue the Smokehouse.


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Becky Ayres promoted to Sound City MD

After six years as chief operating officer, Becky Ayres has been appointed managing director of Sound City.

Ayres, who has been involved with the festival since 2008, succeeds outgoing MD Dave Pichilingi, who will now focus his energies fully on Modern Sky, the Chinese entertainment powerhouse which bought into Sound City in April 2016.

She moves into her new job earlier this summer, and is tasked with leading and growing the Sound City brand, which incorporates the annual Liverpool Sound City festival and Sound City+ conference and several international projects, including Sound City Korea.

“I’m excited to become the MD of Sound City, having been fortunate to work on it since it started and to be part of the creation of many exciting projects along the way,” says Ayres, who became COO in 2012. “Dave has always been very supportive of me and I’m grateful to him and his vision that has led us to where we are now and taken us from Liverpool and out into the whole world.

“I’m humbled that he has put this faith in me, and I’m lucky to work with a fantastic team who will be part of the next stage of the journey.”

“I am absolutely confident that she will guide the company though the next ten years”

Pichilingi adds: “Since we signed our global equity and strategy deal with Modern Sky, I am now more focused on the records, publishing and wider entertainment side of the business. With this in mind I decided it was time to allow someone else to take the lead on Sound City.

“Becky has been with Sound City since the very start of the journey. She knows our brand and core philosophy better than anyone. Sound City has never been scared to take on new challenges and formats, [and] in the safe hands of Becky and our absolutely dedicated team I am absolutely confident that she will guide the company though the next ten years.

“We are a tight-knit family and we will continue to work together across both Sound City and Modern Sky to deliver the best outcomes for artists and business talent from the north [of England], the UK and globally.”

Liverpool Sound City, whose sold-out 10th anniversary in May attracted 7,000 festivalgoers and 2,000 industry delegates, returns to the city’s Baltic Triangle on 3–5 May 2019.

Ayres spoke to IQ last month about Sound City Korea, which she says capitalises on a “voracious” appetite for British music in east Asia.


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Sound City to help UK artists crack Asia

Sound City, one of the UK’s leading music brands for developing artists in Asian countries, has announced today the details of its fourth Sound City Korea initiative.

The festival has partnered with Liverpool Vision and the Department of International Trade in order to create discussions for the conference about opportunities in the Asian markets for British acts. Sound City is also partnered with festival promoter and label Modern Sky Entertainment (which in 2016 acquired a large stake in the business), giving those acts interested in the initiative a head-start.

Sound City will also host a day programme at International Business Festival 2018 in Liverpool on 27 June, featuring executives from many high-profile Asian companies such as Japanese promoter Creativeman and Chinese consultancy Outdustry.

“Asia is home to some of the most exciting music markets in the world”

As part of the Korean initiative, acts can now apply to showcase at two industry events in South Korea: MU:CON (late September, 3,000 capacity audience) and Zandari (5–7 October, 3,000 industry delegates and 15,000 festival attendees). Based on previous Sound City Koreas, it is expected that the project will lead to more than US$146,000 being spent on the participating artists.

Sound City COO, Becky Ayres, says: “Asia is home to some of the most exciting music markets in the world today, with millions of fans eager to hear the next big thing to come from the West. 

“With the support of Arts Council England, our partnership with Modern Sky Entertainment and collaborations with big festival brands such as Zandari, MU:CON and others, we’re able to provide a rare opportunity for UK acts looking to make a name for themselves in Asia, as well as for Asian artists and businesses looking to come the other way. 

“The bands that have taken part in these festival exchanges in the past have seen great returns. We look forward to seeing who steps forward this year and encourage anyone with an interest in breaking into Asia to get in touch and join us at the International Business Festival in Liverpool on 27 June.”


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“Hugely ambitious” Sound City Satellite planned for 2018

British showcase festival Liverpool Sound City is to take to the road next year, with a new touring event, Sound City Satellite, set to visit other towns in the north of England throughout April and May.

Sound City Satellite will tour towns between Liverpool and Manchester – as well as along the M62 corridor, which extends as far as Hull – in a bid to shine a “national and international spotlight” on the areas by showcasing their creative and cultural credentials. Participating towns will be announced in early 2018.

“If there’s one thing that Brexit taught us, it’s that there is a sense of social disenfranchisement between the significant suburbs that lie between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester and along the M62 corridor,” comments Sound City CEO David Pichilingi. “This should not be the case, when you consider that this great region has been responsible for some of the most important pieces of pop culture over the past 50 years. Going back further, the region has been responsible for some of the greatest innovations of the 20th century.

“Sound City Satellite is a hugely ambitious project. It strikes right at the heart of what we originally set out to do: to champion emerging business and artistic talent from our region and give them the belief that they do not need to move away in order to fulfil their potential and run successful businesses. The aim will be to foster a spirit of inclusion; that we are all in this together.

“It is not meant as a snub to London, but it is meant to help people view the bigger picture as well as encourage artists and businesses to stay in the north and build a real business economy outside of the capital.”

“The aim will be to foster a spirit of inclusion: that we are all in this together”

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool’s metro mayor, adds: “Music and the music industry have always straddled the rivalries between our two great cities [Liverpool and Manchester] and have flourished in many towns across our region. It’s an expression of a shared creative DNA that has continued to nurture and launch world-class talent. This is a great idea and a great opportunity to celebrate and enjoy something that unites us.”

The Sound City Satellite tour will conclude at Liverpool Sound City 2018 on 5–6 May, which returns to Liverpool city centre after a year at Clarence Dock in 2017 for its 10th anniversary celebrations.

Sound City COO Becky Ayres says: “We delivered three hugely ambitious and successful years of Sound City on the north docklands of Liverpool. Sound City was the first to shine a beacon on this neglected area of the city and, by doing so, we’ve even encouraged Everton FC to relocate to our former festival site.

“We now feel it is time for us to come back to the city centre and embark on the next stage of our journey. [Next year] will be all about re-establishing new links and a new feel. This will also lead us into the hugely ambitious plans that we have for 2019, which will be revealed over the coming months.”

The new venue will be revealed in the coming weeks, with artist applications for 2018 also opening soon.

Sound City last year welcomed investment from Modern Sky Entertainment, the company behind China’s successful Strawberry Music Festivals.


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The show goes on: UK set for huge weekend of music

It’s business as usual for the UK this long weekend, with British festival fans, refusing to be cowed by the threat of terror, gearing up for three days of live music across the country.

While several concerts, including Take That at the Echo Arena in Liverpool and Blondie at London’s Round Chapel, were called off in the aftermath of Monday’s bombing at Manchester Arena, the majority of events have chosen to continue, with many issuing statements on the importance of carrying on as usual.

Among the events going ahead as planned this weekend are pop-punk festival Slam Dunk, in Birmingham, Leeds and Hatfield; We Are Fstvl in London; Margate WonderlandRadio 1’s Big Weekend in Hull; and Liverpool Sound City, which says it will “not be defeated” by the “cowardice” of the Manchester Arena bomber.

Dot to Dot, which includes a Manchester leg, is also still on – Anton Lockwood of promoter DHP Family told IQ on Tuesday “it didn’t occur to us to cancel” amid a mood of “defiance” in Manchester– as are Happy Days festival in Esher, Surrey, and Bestival’s Common People in Oxford and Southampton.

As in France – where, says Live Nation France head of festivals Armel Campagna, seeing live music has become an act of ‘cultural resistance‘ following the Bataclan attack – many promoters say pushing ahead with their events sends a strong message to enemies of live music.

“The message is: ‘The show will go on'”

In a statement, Manchester festival Parklife – organised by LN-Gaiety-owned The Warehouse Project – says it will go ahead as planned on 10 and 11 June and that, “we will not be defeated by such cowardice”.

“We can’t let these people get us down,” adds Common People/Bestival promoter Rob Da Bank. “The message is: ‘The show will go on.'”

Gary Barlow of Take That, meanwhile – whose postponed Liverpool show will instead take place tonight – called upon the crowd to “sing a little louder, reach a little higher and clap our hands a little harder”:

While much of the discussion around the attack has, understandably, largely focused on the security implications for live music, it bears remembering that the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, was, thankfully, unable to gain access to the arena itself.

Speaking to Billboard yesterday, LiveStyle CEO Randy Phillips praised Manchester Arena’s security, saying that “no one can say that venue security wasn’t sufficient”, and expressed his concern that while terrorist attacks remain extremely rare, the abundance of mainstream news coverage “could lead to an exaggerated sense of insecurity among concertgoers”.

One organisation aiming to counter those perceptions is Live DMA, an umbrella body representing associations of venues and festivals in 13 European countries.

“Terrorism can never stop us from making music”

With support from Music Venue Trust in the UK, the association’s venues will tonight at 9.59pm GMT hold a minute’s silence for the victims – followed by ‘One Minute of Noise’ at 10pm.

“Live music is joy and fellowship,” says Live DMA. “We are thousands of venues, festivals and other concert organisers, at thousands of places across Europe, that open our doors for joy, music, freedom and friendship daily – and we will keep them open and let live music go everywhere.

“Our thoughts are with the affected families and our colleagues in the UK live music industry, and we will dedicate our upcoming concerts to the victims of this tragedy, when venues across Europe, together with the audience and artists, will mark the terrorist attack in Manchester with ‘one minute of noise’. Because terrorism can never stop us from making music.”


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Liverpool Sound City attracts Chinese backers

Liverpool Sound City today announced a new partnership with Modern Sky Entertainment, after the Chinese indie music firm acquired Ingenious Media’s equity stake in the festival.

However, it appears the partnership was brokered more than four months ago, with news outlet China Music Radar reporting the investment as far back as 22 December, 2015. The fact that both Liverpool Sound City and Modern Sky’s Sound Of The Xity in Beijing happen within a matter of weeks might be the reason behind the latest press release.

As China’s largest independent record label, Modern Sky also runs the Strawberry Music Festival, which took place in more than 12 cities around China during 2015. With divisions in nearly every part of the music business chain, Modern Sky also opened the first of its own venues last year, Modernsky Lab in Beijing.

“The city of Liverpool is the birthplace of the music that influenced our growing years.”

Shen Li Hui, founder, Modern Sky Entertainment

Modern Sky founder Shen Li Hui says: “The city of Liverpool is the birthplace of the music that influenced our growing years. Liverpool Sound City is a hugely interesting and very diverse music festival. Coming in partnership with Sound City is a great first step for Modern Sky venturing overseas.”

He adds, “The founder of Sound City, David Pichilingi, has a great deal of experience and we can learn a lot from him and his team. We also believe that Sound City will be a new platform to open the European market up for Chinese music talents.”

For his part, Pichilingi states, “This partnership is an exciting new step for Sound City. Shen Li Hui is a truly inspirational individual. He has built Modern Sky into a huge and credible name. More importantly he has done this by working with artists in an ethical and moral way that recognises the ownership and commercial importance of their intellectual property.”