From panels in Liberia to recording studios in boxing gyms...
As well as organising over one hundred music industry conferences and events, at Un-Convention we also seek to address and provide solutions for the issues explored. We do this through a number of long-term initiatives aimed at making positive change in the sector, with the goal of building a more accessible, equitable and sustainable music industry.
Since 2013 we have been running our Off Axis gig network. The network is a not-for-profit initiative that has been established to help emerging artists to reach new audiences outside of their hometowns, and to support venues, particularly those outside of major cities by circulating talent to places they might not ordinarily visit.
The network helps emerging artists from all genres to build audiences and enables venues to introduce new talent to their programming. To date this has involved working with over a thousand artists from 110 towns and cities across the UK. Through Off Axis we have also worked with festivals such as Kendal Calling and Belladrum to provide the artists involved in the network with further opportunities to reach new audiences.
If you are an artist, venue or festival and are interested in getting involved with Off Axis then please contact email@example.com for more details.
We have been setting up music and creative co-operatives for the last 13 years. These are membership led organisations where artists, labels, promoters, and professionals from across the music ecosystem work together to identify and solve issues. This ranges from collectively organising music conferences, events, and festivals, through to using collective bargaining and action to set up co-operative recording studios and venues. These co-operatives have been established everywhere from Manchester and Salford, to Kenya, Uganda, and Liberia.
If you are interested in finding out more about our Co-operative model or are looking to establish a member led organisation to help support your music scene, then please get in touch via our contact page.
Education and Music as a Tool for Social Change
Since the very start of Un-Convention, we have recognised that music is a powerful tool for social change. Inspired by our work in places such as Colombia and Brazil, where we worked with incredible projects using music to help improve communities and also the lives and aspirations of young people, we have set up a number of initiatives in the UK to help create positive change.
This includes our United Estates project, working with young people in areas such as Wythenshawe, Hulme, Stockport and Salford to write and record their own original music, whilst also learning from leading industry figures about building careers in music. We believe that by taking such projects to places where young people may be otherwise excluded from such opportunities and giving them the tools and opportunities to develop their creativity, it enables them to build skills and aspirations, and to reach their potential. Through this project we have also worked with homeless people to release music, as well as youth organisations and community centres to provide a platform for young artists to showcase their talent to industry professionals.
We also believe that the music industry should be more accessible for young people from all backgrounds, and for the last fourteen years have worked with schools, community groups and organisations such as Manchester City Football Club, Manchester United Football Club, More Music, and Hastings Fat Tuesday to deliver events aimed at providing routes into the industry for those who might not ordinarily consider a career in music an option.
Music and Health
Mental health, and the well-being of those working in music has been a central strand of Un-Convention for over a decade. Over this time, we have been able to work with a host of inspirational organisations, such as The Warren in Hull, and with neuroscientists and healthcare professionals to look at ways in which we can best support the well-being of people working in the sector. This has culminated in our current work, alongside Manchester Camerata and Brighter Sound where we are helping to develop a Music and Health strategy for musicians and residents in Greater Manchester. The work comes under the umbrella of the Greater Manchester Music Commission and looks to align with the Creative Health Strategy of the city region. Our ambition is that 38,000 young people, and 15,000 care home residents each year have access to music and creative writing-based interventions that are proven to have measurable and long-term benefits on well-being and life outcomes.
Over the course of the 111 Un-Conventions to date, we have partnered with organisations in 25 countries over 5 continents to exchange knowledge and ideas, and to support the mobility of artists into and out of the UK. This has involved working with a diverse range of organisations, such as Eurosonic and Primavera. We are also one of the founding partners of the JUMP European Music Market Accelerator Programme. This programme supports music entrepreneurs from across Europe, from tech, live, publishing, recording and social change to develop innovative solutions to make the sector more efficient, equitable and fair. Working with partners in France, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, and Portugal, to date we have supported 45 change making initiatives involving participants from 38 countries.
We are also working with the Musicians’ Union and MaMA Conference and Showcase Festival in Paris to look at how artists mobility between the UK and EU can be better supported and improved going forward, and are a founding member of the Association of UK Music Exporters.
We are always open to international collaboration and are keen to explore ideas to share best practice and improve artist mobility. Please get in touch via our contact page if you are interested in finding out more about working together.
Showcasing Emerging Talent
Over the last 15 years Un-Convention has showcased thousands of artists at our music industry conferences and events, through our Off Axis network and festival stages and through working with organisations ranging from Unity Radio to Manchester City Football Club. From the traditional showcasing of incredible artists such as Little Simz, Young Fathers, Charli XCX, Everything Everything, JP Cooper, Working Men’s Club and many more at our industry events, to Hip Hop nights in Salford's pubs, all female line-up festivals, and gigs on barges we recognise the importance of providing platforms for artists to not only reach new audiences, but also progress their careers.
Developing Regional Music Scenes
Aside from our annual national event in Manchester, over the last 15 years we have also run music industry events across the UK, from Belfast, Swansea and London to Preston, Middlesbrough, and Oxford. This has given us a unique perspective of the different, and indeed similar, challenges that artists, venues, promoters and other music industry professionals face in villages, towns, and cities across the country. As a result, we set up the Regional Music Scenes Network, which regularly brings together music professionals from dozens of different areas across the UK to share ideas and develop solutions for issues such as talent drain and seasonal demand. These conversations also feed into the curation of content for our industry conferences, helping to ensure they are current and relevant.
The breadth and depth of our work over the years has only been possible through extensive partnership working. From events around football and music with the National Football Museum, to delivering workshops on building communities and co-operative models to the Cabinet Office, and senior staff across health, local authority, and emergency services. If you are interested in partnering on a project or event, within or outside of music, and think our experience could be of benefit then please get in touch via our contact page.