The Great Escape
The Great Escape to the Musical Mecca
Olga Iermak works in PR in concert and artist promotion and as an art-manager, writes poetry under the nom de plume Midna (eng: Copper) and manages the Lithuanian electronic band Beissoul & Einius. She is a representative of the Sziget Festival in Ukraine. Here Olga shares her impressions of the Europe's largest and most influential music festival.
The chance to see the acts at the Great Escape is like having a powerful time machine to help us in our work.
The Great Escape annually brings together more than 400 young artists and thousands of industry representatives from all over the world. The Times calls it the best place in Europe to explore new bands and trends, and BBC Radio 6 Music calls it "the Cannes of the Music World". Industry reps are looking at the prospects for these artists a couple of years from now. And for the musicians it's an opportunity to get the attention of industry reps and secure support for the future, the first step in generating worldwide recognition.

The British rock band Wolf Alice is an example of how it works. They got on The Great Escape in the first wave of acts in 2013, and now over the last two years have been nominated for a Grammy award. They recently won the Mercury Prize, beating out some more well-known and experienced artists.

Great Britain is at the epicentre of the music industry and information from there eventually, slowly, makes its way to Ukraine. Tom Odell received an invitation from The Great Escape right after the release of his debut album in the autumn of 2012, but the first time he performed in Ukraine or saw any popular response here was only two years ago.
The massive scale of networking potential makes The Great Escape a Mecca for music lovers and show business professionals.
One particular feature of participation in a festival like this is the valuable communication you get with new and old acquaintances, colleagues, and industry leaders. There I met with Ruud Berends, conference coordinator and marketer for the most important continental show festival - Eurosonic (ESNS). He also deals with Dutch Impact in the Netherlands, the International Festival Forum in London, the Eastern European Music Conference in Romania, and advises the Swedish music conference - Where's the Music.

It was interesting to attend a DJ-set by the creators of the cult label Ninja Tune and meet with a representative of PPL, a British company with many years of licensing history around the world. Concerts were held in various locations around the city, including some non-traditional venues: in both working and repurposed churches and under a highway arch near the bay. Conference locations included our hotel, cinemas, exquisite historic buildings and a former courthouse.
The festival program includes hundreds of lectures, master classes, conferences and concerts in front of a massive concentration of music industry representatives from around the world.
I visited topically relevant events where key industry players with impressive artist portfolios commented on interesting industry-related topics. They discussed topics like synchronization and supervision, tours and technical breakthroughs in Europe, and the difference between the concept of an independent artist and an unsigned one. There was a series of conferences on a particularly promising and hot topic – music promotion in the Asian market. Just five years ago the large-scale potential of the Chinese market was inaccessible to western artists, a kind of "sleeping giant who could never wake up". But in 2017 new legislation and the efforts of recording companies and other right-holders, China has finally entered the TOP-10 markets for audio recordings.

Online music streaming is growing there at a fast pace with popular local services built on the model of western services. In addition to the streaming boom, the country has enormous potential for organizing long live tours. China has 200 cities with population of 10-20 million people! All of this and also about China's strong policy toward importing artists from the rest of the world into the country, and the range of values, tastes and behaviours of local music lovers – this is what we learned at a panel discussion with my new acquaintances, reps of the Kanjian Music and Musicinfo companies, who specialize in music promotion and distribution in Asia.
The UK music industry is a powerful machine that made a remarkable turnaround and has become a template to follow.
Great Britain has always been a leader in the music industry. Everything that music lovers - and particularly industry professionals – value is here: recording studios, musical services, booking and PR agencies, labels, awards, concert halls and festivals. Naturally, the music business is a UK calling card, and an important part of the national economy. Of course, with the accelerated development of technology and changes in society there are also difficulties, like the deterioration of the situation at small concert venues that always featured emerging artists. They're not profitable what with rising rents, stricter noise regulations, etc.

Reductions in musical education programmes at schools are also a problem. Fortunately, there is a high level of expertise in the country and they're looking at solutions and innovations to address the problem.
Thanks to this trip my professional plans have taken on a clearer direction.
I better understand what mistakes to avoid what my artists need on this stage and what new tools to use to make it happen – like the innovative WARM service to monitor a song's airtime worldwide in real-time. After I came back, I started a correspondence with my new acquaintances including the founders of the American agency Epic Proportions Tour about potential partnership.

Moreover, the potential to test myself on tour with a performer outside Europe, in the USA and Australia, and in the digital sphere, promoting eastern and northern European music has become a real possibility. I've also seen how performing at this iconic event influences the fate of an artist, like, in this case, the Italian band JoyCut, whose management is open to the possibility of future cooperation.
Photo Credits: Olga Iermak, Pymin Davidov, Mike Massaro, Victor Frankowski, Harriet Brown
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The project is funded by the European Union