Please don’t
stop the music

Yvette Livesey tells Lianne Steinberg why as long as there’s a music industry, there’ll always be In The City

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Since 1992 there’s been one event that has made the music business turn their collectively well-groomed but occasionally balding, heads towards Manchester.In The City, the brainchild of Yvette Livesey and spearheaded by her partner and industry icon Tony Wilson, has been the launching pad for numerous successful bands over the years.

The fact that it remains a fixture on the international music industry calendar in a world where Wilson is sadly no longer with us and where the internet is king and CDs can cost less than a Boots meal deal is a testimony to the unerring belief and passion of Livesey.

Unsurprisingly, the theme of this year’s festival is refreshingly honest. Entitled That That Don’t Kill Me Can Only Make Me Stronger, the event reflects the myriad challenges that Livesey’s conference has faced both on a business and a personal level in the past few years.

“It represents the music industry, which has gone through hell and back, and it represents In The City because I lost Tony and then I went through cancer and I think we’ve all come out of it a lot stronger,” confirms Livesey.

“I think other events shot up when Tony died because they saw a weak spot but people forget that I set up In The City – people automatically associated it with Tony because he was a visual, vocal fixture,” she laughs.

“They saw it as Tony’s event and expected it to fall when he died and that was a big pressure on me. I’ve really had to prove that we could carry on and now three years down the line we’ve turned a corner and people accept that we’re still here and we’re an important part of the industry.”

With Livesey battling through a draining course of chemotherapy during last year’s event, she appointed a new chief operating officer, Philip Coen, who has moved In The City from its usual base of the Midland Hotel to the city’s Northern Quarter.

“After the craziness of Tony and myself we needed someone to say ‘actually you need to be sensible and think about the money’ and he’s been exactly what I’ve needed for a long time. His background is in investment and banking so he’s looked at it from a business point of view to make sure we’re sustainable.

It’s difficult for everybody and all arts organisations because all the funding has been cut so we just have to be a bit leaner to make sure we’re still here in a few years time.”

As the industry has been forced to become more pragmatic about the ways in which it makes money, this year the conference looks at areas such as blogging, internet radio and ticketing.

“The music industry is still fighting for its life really. The internet has changed everything and the kids who are in the industry now – for example the head of RCA Records is only 28, and he’s grown up with the computer so he’s part of the download generation.

They’re the ones leading the industry now. When I first started In The City I remember walking into business offices and they’d all have computers but whenever I went to a major label, nobody would have a computer on their desk. One label boss even made a sign of the cross to me when I mentioned computers,” she laughs.

“They just didn’t want to know but fortunately we’ve come a long way.”

Livesey says that this year the event is much more user-friendly. The next generation of enthusiastic industry hopefuls can get a separate delegate pass for a series of panels and seminars directed towards breaking into the industry while music fans can pick up a festival wristband to catch all the live entertainment in the evenings.

“In the past we’ve always marketed ourselves as a music convention for the industry and the live side has been more for A&R or for people who are very cool and in the know and want to discover new bands.

“We just felt like growing the live side and making a bigger point of it being a live music festival so we’re on all the festival calendars now alongside Glastonbury and Reading.

“We’ve always focused on unsigned artists in the past but now unsigned doesn’t really exist because everybody has got little deals here and there and until you get to a certain level everyone is capable of marketing themselves to a certain extent through Facebook and MySpace.

So this time it’s about bands who may have a manager or a publisher or a label and are looking to fill in the gaps. We’ve had to move with the times and it’s suited us.” She grins. “Because we still get the coolest, hottest bands coming through.”

In The City, 13-15 October, Manchester

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