Five things we learnt at EMC 2016


Over the past five years, the annual Electronic Music Conference has grown to host a wide community of aspiring and established musicians, industry professionals and delegates for two days of masterclasses, panels, networking events and showcases. Each year is full of inspiring words and industry knowledge, with 2016 being no exception. The most recent edition of EMC saw Night Mayor of Amsterdam Mirik Milan and acclaimed Australian producer Alison Wonderland take the reins of keynote speakers, along with discussions on the state of Sydney’s nightlife, how to build the right team around you, creating hot content, the future of streaming and a whole lot more.

EMC is has become an unmissable event for everyone from hopeful producers just starting out to seasoned pro’s wanting to fine tune their work. After sorting through two days worth of invaluable advice for anyone looking to succeed in the electronic music world, we’ve put together a list of the top things we learnt at EMC 2016…


No Is The First Step To Yes

Mirik Milan shone as the first keynote speaker of EMC, providing insight into how Sydney can reverse its damaging ways and move forward into a vibrant and sustainable cultural community. He stressed the importance of giving people ownership to their city, noting that changing an individual’s behaviour on a grassroots level is more beneficial than blaming the operators of venues. The Night Mayor referred to Amsterdam’s ‘festival approach’ to nightlife, which included ground rules such as respect the neighbours, enjoy drinks inside venues and use the provided toilets, along with rolling out 24 hour transport to ensure the community is able to safely get to and from venues.

Adding to the conversation the following day was Music Victoria’s CEO Patrick Donovan who outlined Melbourne’s 10 point plan to achieving a world class nightlife. The steps included passing legislation recognising arts contributions, having a music representative on the liquor licensing board to work with, not against, them, and gathering solid data on the social, cultural and economic contribution of music. Sydney undeniably needs help in restoring its once thriving nightlife, but the solutions presented at EMC 2016 will help pave the way.

Musicians Are Real People With Real Feelings

One of the most touching panels of EMC 2016 came from day two’s keynote speaker Alison Wonderland. The producer/DJ has become one of Australia’s hottest exports recently playing major international festivals, continuously selling out tours back at home and regularly mingling with electronic music heavyweights – yet she took a moment to talk about how it’s not all fun and games.

“It’s hard not to be with your loved ones and your own bed. You’re meeting all these people and trying to give all of you but then you go back to your hotel room alone,” she admitted, adding that it’s common to go two months without a real hug whilst being on tour. The rush of being on stage followed by the loneliness of touring can be tough both physically and mentally, but Alison Wonderland swears by eating well, keeping drinking to a minimum, and speaking to a therapist.

Musicians are continuously thrown in the spotlight, so having someone to talk to becomes particularly important when faced with online criticism or harassment. The artist mentioned one time where she announced a tour and saw a string of backlash comments that made her doubt whether she should even bother going to that city. “When your career is based on something emotional, you’re giving a lot of yourself,” said the producer. “Just know there’s other people who are like that to talk to.”


Ensure Your Live Show Is Beer Proof

The aesthetics of a live show are crucial for not only enhancing an artist’s personal brand but also engaging the crowd; and whilst it’s easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles, the main advice from ‘Lights + Music: Exploring Live Show Creation’ was just be practical. First, think creatively about how to visually represent your music without being overpowering. You want to add to the music, not detract from it. More often than not, one strong visual element – like a strobe flashing when the snare is hit – is the most effective set up. You’ll also want to think about whether the visuals and lighting are easy enough for you to control yourself, or if t’s worth grabbing a friend to help out.

Bionic League’s Founder Martin Phillips (who you might know from designing Daft Punk’s legendary Pyramid) stressed the importance of making your setting “show-proof.” If you spill beer on it, will it still work? How easily can you pack it up and ship it off to your next location? If a piece goes missing or breaks, can you continue the show with something else in place? Think about production in a realistic way and always be prepared for the worst. As Phillps said, “something will always go wrong, but there’s always another show.”

Spotify is Pushing Us Into The Future

The past twelve months have seen a dramatic rise in streaming services, where users have been able to customise what music they listen to and when they listen to it. ‘Making Waves: The Future of Broadcasting’ saw Red Bull Music Academy presenter/producer Lorna Clarkson and FBi Radio managing director Clare Holland pinpoint the main reasons for this as context, curation, companionship and community.

Basically, if you’re a music lover then good news! Next year will most likely see more platforms emerging where you can curate and share your own playlists, allowing anyone and everyone to become broadcasters. Inertia Music’s CEO Collin Daniels summed it up best in an earlier panel, saying “playlists will definitely be the next radio” whilst Triple J Good Nights Presenter Linda Marigliano added that trust in a curator’s taste is what will keep audiences coming back for more and create that sense of companionship.

So what about music makers? More good news! Streaming sites such as Spotify will be your best friend by breaking down geographic barriers and spreading content easily across the internet.


Authenticity Is Key

Whether you’re deciding what music to work into your set or navigating various brands to partner with, the overarching advice from panellists was to stay true to yourself. It sounds like a fairly obvious statement but once you start getting unwanted feedback from keyboard warriors, it can become a little harder to keep persevering with what feels right for you. Alison Wonderland is testament to this paying off, saying in her keynote speech “the key to longevity is surrounding yourself with good people to stay grounded.”

Similarly, Melbourne born-LA based producer Generik had a lengthy chat about not selling out when partnering with brands during the ‘Using Your Influence’ session on social media. “I’m not going to take the piss and try to make money out of Instagram. At the end of the day I play tunes to drunk people in clubs, that’s who I am.” If you’re not a fan of hashtags, don’t use them. If your values don’t align with the brand’s values, don’t support them. The most successful campaigns are ones grounded in authenticity, where the artist works with the brand not for them.

Words by Debbie Carr

Photos by Lowanna Lillan Daoud-opit & shiBBi, Courtesy of Electronic Music Conference