AS the Head of Music for Creative Scotland, Alan Morrison knows a thing or two about the business, and as he sits down to discuss this year’s Showcasing Scotland line-up at The Great Escape that fact is ever as bright. With nine acts funded and supported by Creative Scotland set to descend on Brighton next week, we talk past, present and future with a true supporter of the music scene in Scotland.
“Last year, it felt like Scotland had stepped up a level in terms of our presence in Brighton through the combination of two afternoon showcases, a networking party and a bigger promotional push. This year, we’re hoping to lift that even higher. We’ve got nine bands playing the Scottish Showcases instead of eight, and there are around the same number of other Scottish acts performing elsewhere around town. Given that The Great Escape’s organisers reckoned our 2017 party was one of the busiest and best events of its type, then I’m expecting the queue for entry to go round the block, now that word has got out that Scotland is the country to mix with.
“That’s important because it’s not just an excuse for a few drinks and a chat: it really is the best way to bring key delegates and the Scottish bands together in the same place at the same time, using the industry contacts of the guys from Born To Be Wide to directly introduce the Scottish acts to the people who can open doors for them. Ultimately my hopes are that the industry – nationally and internationally – gets a chance to see first-hand how great the music coming out of Scotland is at the moment and that, in a few years’ time, the very fact that a showcase is tagged as “Scottish” or a new band is known to come from Scotland is considered a stamp of quality in itself.”
An avid music fan and one who keeps his finger to the beat of talent on a local level, Alan has divulged a love for Be Charlotte, Hector Bizerk and beyond over the years and his opinion on this year’s fleet is just as passionate: “This year’s Showcasing Scotland line-up is diverse genre-wise, and everybody seems to be at an interesting tipping point in terms of boosting their careers beyond Scotland. I also like the fact that, compared to so many festival and showcase line-ups, it has a decent gender balance.”
Historically, Creative Scotland have funded SXSW persuits for bands and recently shifted their emphasis in spending from the states to the seaside; although the shift of emphasis from SXSW to The Great Escape isn’t to do with us saving on budgets. Creative Scotland have increased their spend in Brighton while pulling back on the Scottish Showcase in Austin, although they still support bands to attend SXSW through a contribution to the PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund.
Alan says: “It’s more a case of having listened to band and manager feedback about how SXSW did or didn’t work for them, and realising that there are more practical opportunities on offer outside of Scotland by focusing on the rest of the UK and Europe rather than everyone putting all their efforts into North America. We’ve been aiming to create clear routes of progression, from domestic to national to international, so that bands might play Wide Days one year, then The Great Escape, then Eurosonic or Reeperbahn or Iceland Airwaves, building up their skills and contacts at a steady pace and not diving in too fast.
“In some cases, I think it might even be better for us to support certain managers to go out to SXSW instead of bands, as those meetings could be more productive than sparsely attended gigs that get lost in the general noise of an event that has grown beyond its initial ambitions. I’d say that SXSW now fits into a world-wide showcasing vision we have where, again through our contribution to the PRSF International Showcasing Fund, we can better target the right acts to attend MIDEM or Folk Alliance International or Pop Montreal or many other places that properly suit where they’re at in their career and the types of industry professionals they need to meet.”
And as we approach the start of The Great Escape 2018, Alan looks to this year’s aspirations: “I hope all the bands who are supporting this year, play a blinder of a gig then go on to secure the agent or publisher or festival booking that they were after. I hope that TGE becomes a memorable point in their upwards trajectory and that they start building bigger audiences outside of Scotland and attracting the attention of the people who can, say, get them onto the most influential playlists.
“I’ve personally been following some of these bands for a few years now but others I’ve only come across in the past few months – discovering what’s new and what’s coming next has always been the most thrilling bit of my job, both here at Creative Scotland and back in the days when I was an arts journalist. I’m also really happy when I can throw a bit of a spotlight on emerging acts, as I used to do with the Sunday Herald’s Top 50 Scottish Albums of the Year and do now with my daily #Walk2WorkAlbum on my Twitter account. Check out a track from each of the Showcasing Scotland bands below: