Interview: John Fleming, Brighton Music Conference

John Fleming

John FlemingNow in its second year, the Brighton Music Conference (BMC) is an event going from strength to strength.

Taking place 5-6 June at various venues across the city and focusing on electronic music, this year’s instalment is expected to welcome 4,500 DJs, producers and music industry professionals

BMC will provide attendees with the opportunity to take part in masterclasses, watch interviews with some of the biggest names in dance music and experience showcases of the latest musical tech and talent. Speakers and brands announced so far include YouTube, Beatport, Dave Clarke, Rhys Hughes (BBC Radio 1/BBC 1Xtra), DJ Pierre, Hospital Records and Believe Digital. These are just a handful of names from two packed days and evenings of discussion, debate and dancing.

We caught up with John Fleming, BMC founder, label head and DJ, to find out why he set up the event and the challenges facing new dance music producers…

What was the thinking behind BMC?

I’ve been in the music business for 25 years and continually saw new talent fail to understand how the industry works. I ended up contributing pieces to various mags and became known as ‘the advice guy’. But I wanted to speak to everyone all at the same time, which is where the idea for a conference came from.

The changes in the business really motivated me. When there was money with labels, we could pay staff, sign a new artist, support them with a career. But as the money dwindled, labels could no longer afford these teams anymore. It means there’s no one there for this new generation of artists. No one is giving them advice on mastering or mixing, or what PRS for Music is, or what it’s about. I feel they need more help.

What are the main challenges for these new artists?

The main thing is getting paid. Years ago DJs and producers were two different entities. You could never get a producer out of the studio but producers now have to do live gigs to stay afloat.

This industry is forever changing so part of it is learning about what’s going to happen next. People just see successful artists and when they get involved with music they have a harsh reality check. They’re shocked when they release a track how they only earn a pittance. I always use this car analogy. If you’re going to open up a car showroom, then you need to think about overheads – stock, rent or mortgage – you work out how many cars you need to sell to make ends meet. In the music business, artists never work these numbers out.

What’s the answer to this challenge?

There isn’t one definite answer. Back in the day it was simple. You pressed a record. It went to sale. You got your money in. But now there are various companies trying to think out a business model and how they’re going to monetise music.

Currently, they’re butting heads and preventing things from moving forward. One of the huge steps was the move to downloads. Then the majors started stopping the download sites as they thought that was fuelling the torrent sites. But history shows that people were just hungry to consume music this way. We’re at this stumbling block and no one quite knows the way forward.

How can new producers get a sense of music publishing?

Education – at BMC we’re teaching publishing in layman’s terms. I think a huge percentage of the people making music don’t understand publishing or how it can work for them. They have a rough idea but no real understanding. Knowledge is key and that can help them realise where they can monetise their music.

Which panellists are you looking forward to at this year’s event?

It’s not fair to mention just a few. But I get excited when you get chance to hear directly from corporate brands. What I like about our event is that we’ve got some big guns – Beatport, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook – and I’m looking forward to hearing them discuss the challenges and the future. These companies are setting the agenda for the future and I’m really keen to hear what they’ve got to say.

How did you first get into electronica?

In the mid-nineties I was going to buy records in my lunch breaks. The days of superstar DJs didn’t exist then so I was seen as this geek – everyone else was playing rugby and football, I had a bag of records.

I got sucked into music. I had a music teacher at school and he supported me. They put on an under 18 disco and I got asked to play my records. The idea of the DJ didn’t really exist so much back then and I was just excited to share my music with other people.

What do you think about the current health of dance music?

We’ve got the EDM bubble above us. It’s bursting but with any massive commercial scene like this, it fuels an underground scene. I don’t like EDM and we all distance ourselves from it but it means there are exciting times ahead. EDM has put our music in the charts.

Have you any advice for new acts?

Get yourself down to Brighton for our event – if you’re serious about getting into the scene, then come to this. You can learn so much and we’re all there to help.

brightonmusicconference.co.uk