Welcome to Swindon, where the future will be happening soon.
Hi. We’re the music people of Swindon. Let’s talk.
One of the things I’ve noticed about different towns and cities that I’ve visited is that there are (as you’d expect) so many of the same concerns and challenges that you find anywhere else — but even more interestingly, there’s a real local flavour to the overall tone of the music sector.
I visited Swindon yesterday, and spoke at a Borough Council organised event called the Swindon Music Symposium to talk about opportunities and developments in the area for musicians and music business. Now, Swindon doesn’t have a really great reputation as a tourist spot — or even particularly as a hotspot for local music. In fact, as towns go, Swindon seems to consider itself as pretty much an ‘also-ran’.
Now while I’d argue that our inferiority complex in Birmingham is bigger and better than theirs, there’s a real self-belief problem that feeds into and off the general perception of Swindon as a bit of a non-place. But here’s what’s interesting: they’re clearly at the beginning of something big.
There’s a real optimism about the place, there was a bigger crowd at this event than almost every similar event I’ve been to here in Birmingham, and the people there were trying to think of ways to help each other be successful, rather than try and compete for a larger share of the same pie. I wonder if that will still be the case when there’s money to chase, but I’d like to think so.
The dance music producers were talking to the amateur choral society. The veteran music legend (Barry Andrews, ex-XTC & Shriekback and of whom I am an enormous fan) was driving the music studio bus for a bunch of teenage hopefuls who sound worryingly like Aerosmith. The council people were asking who was interested in representing the city at the next SXSW.
Resources seem to be pretty thin on the ground, but I think that’s the interesting bit. When there are no resources, the people themselves become resourceful. When there’s nothing to compete for, the scene becomes collaborative.
And — this is where the relevance comes in for this site — they seem keen to grasp new technological opportunities with both hands. There’s already a Swindon Music website, and it seems to be a good forum for the discussion of local music and events. There’s also a local government-led forum called ArtsMinds, which offers locals a chance to promote and connect their events and music activities.
And here’s one of the things that I think gets overlooked when it comes to music online: even though the internet is a globalising force, the web is also a great way to foster and reinforce local scenes.
Clustering and collaborating online as a way to build the economic value of a local sector is a proven and important strategy for music business in the new environment. The more these guys can work together, the more they’re going to be increasingly financially viable and will be able to embark on a regional cultural expansion project. They seem pretty hungry for it.
I really think that local collaborative projects and online interaction between geographically proximate music enterprises is one of the more promising areas for online music business. After all, these are just tools to help human beings connect and communicate with other human beings. They don’t HAVE to be on the other side of the world, and it certainly doesn’t HAVE to be about selling recordings.
So — look out for Swindon — there are interesting things happening in that modest little microcosm of music industries… and once they start joining things up, and building momentum, they’ll start spinning more and more stuff out to the rest of the world. There are already one or two acts and music projects I’ve got my eye on there.
New York was cool — but I’ll be popping back to Swindon to keep tabs on things.