Manchester has had its fair share of mini festivals in the last twelve months — Neighbourhood, Dot2Dot, Sounds of the City et. al. have all brought vibrant experiences in assorted different ways. Off The Record, a new one-day festival-cum-conference in the city’s Northern Quarter, continued the trend on November 4th.
The daytime part of OTRMCR, as it’s been styled, was made up of quick-fire multi-person panels on various music industry topics: breaking into the industry, how to put on a great gig, the manager-artist relationship, music photography and how to get into that side of the industry, sync contracts… the list goes on. In parallel to these panels were a series of 45-minute workshops taking a deeper dive into specific topics.
In the evening, OTRMCR put on its glad-rags and, following a networking mixer at Oldham Street’s Dive Bar, became a full-time mini-festival, with gigs by upcoming bands around the Northern Quarter’s many live venues. Each act was picked by one of the festival’s curators, a group including Shell Zenner, Guy Garvey, Frank Turner, Elena Jimenez and others.
Manchester is, of course, a great city for live music, so it was no huge surprise that the well-chosen lineup did well. The capacity of some venues did cause some problems, with audience-members moving from gig to gig struggling to find anywhere to stand in small rooms. There was a distinct advantage to having planned one’s evening in advance and knowing the walking times between each venue so that one could ensure a good spot to watch the bands in which one was most interested.
If there is one criticism to be had of OTRMCR it is that it’s too short, and too crammed full of panels that need more time and air in order to actually be useful. Twenty-five minutes per panel is an awfully short time for introductions, discussion, general back-and-forth and questions and answers. Coupled with some discussions straying from the advertised topic — particularly in cases where the moderator became more interested in the panel members’ histories than in investigating their knowledge could help people looking to break into the industry — this meant that a few of the panels left the audience feeling a little bit like they’d missed what they came for.
OTRMCR was an excellent event, a great place for industry folk to meet, network and learn new things. Were it held over two days instead of one, with panels expanded and a little more focussed, it would be even better.
The full lineup that played in the evening at OTRMCR can be found on the festival’s website.