NEXT week marks the return of Scotland’s biggest music convention Wide Days. After two years online, the convention will return to its physical format for the first time since 2019, taking up residence in the historic Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for the first time from 19th – 21st May, as well as some of the city’s most popular music venues.

Born of a desire to highlight the nation’s thriving industry and to impart wisdom with the next generation of artists and professionals, Wide Days is an absolute must for students, industry professionals, musicians and those looking to pursue a career in the music industry. It’s a hub of creativity and networking – now renowned for its alumni of breakout stars, as well as its increasingly varied programming.

Over a decade on from its inception, the event’s expansion shows no signs of slowing down. This year’s convention, which is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, adds another half day to its programming, beginning at noon on Thursday 19th May before continuing on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May for the conference, showcase, festival takeover and more.

So, steeped in the midst of hectic preparation, with a trip to The Great Escape thrown in the middle for good measure, we spoke to the Wide Days’ co-founder Olaf Furniss about this year’s event and what can be expected.

The conference

As mentioned above, the conference kicks off at 12 noon on Thursday 19th May before continuing for a full day on the Friday. Olaf said: “We did a lot of digital events during the pandemic and we learned a lot through that, with certain things going down really well.”

“So, there’s the 15 minutes of knowledge where people can learn all the key stuff on a given subject in 15 minutes. We’ve added something on the remix this year, with a DJ and producer called Ashley Beedle. We really felt that Scotland’s electronic music scene is so huge and booming with the likes of Riverside, Terminal V, and also with DJs like Ewan McVicar breaking through and having a hit last year. We want to reflect that, so we’ve got Ashley Beedle on the remix and Terminal V founders doing our local heroes strand this year.”

Elsewhere, in the brilliantly named ‘Not Another F•cking NFT’ panel, speakers will demystify the topic of non-fungible tokens, cutting through the hype to explain how they can be relevant for emerging artists and labels, as well as established stars. It features Marlen Hüllbrock (Music Ally), Mike Walsh (Serenade) and Sam Taylor (CMU).

Olaf said “What we’ve found is you often hear a lot of hyper bullshit about some things, but we want to bring it back down to earth. What we’re really keen to do is think about how it’s relevant for grassroots artists and small events, and how it can help generate another income stream.”

“Obviously with the pandemic we saw how badly people who depended on live music were affected. We’re really just trying to continue that theme of where else people can make a living, how else they can promote themselves, what other opportunities there are. That’s really what we set out to do 12 years ago when we launched Wide Days – look at new ideas and how we can introduce them to the Scottish music community.”

Other highlights include a chat with musician, actor and film-maker Leee John who shot to prominence in the 80s with his band Imagination, scoring many global hits along the way .He will also appear on a panel which focuses on co-writing, hosted by PRS and chaired by BBC Radio 1 presenter and musician Gemma Bradley.

Elsewhere, this year’s Ten Things I Hate About You session invites venues and tour managers to respectively vent about each other (in a spirit of furthering mutual understanding), while the popular A&R You Brave Enough? session will returns for 2022, inviting brave artists to provide a track for feedback.

Importantly, Wide Days will also continue their work with Attitude is Everything to explore how the music industry can become more accommodating for disabled music professionals and audiences – this will include case studies from Glasgow’s Garage and TRNSMT Festival.

Olaf said: “We really want to make it’s as inclusive as possible. A lot of it comes down to communication. When you ask the question, it’s generally straightforward. This year, we’ve got almost two hours of different talks around disability – one is about the vocabulary that’s used as often people are unsure. So, we thought, why not broach that subject and at the same time, show people what TRNSMT and The Garage are doing”.

“There’s the whole thing of ‘just ask’ – we’ll ask the artists that are coming to play if they have any extra requirements. It’s that easy – and I think if you ask, they’ll appreciate it.”

This extends to the bursaries that are now on offer for those who haven’t attended Wide Days before, and the new grant for those who need childcare.

Olaf adds “From the outset with Wide Days, we set out to make it a leveller. In the past, you’d have music industry events where the speakers and industry people would be in one room and all the musicians could do was come to the hotel foyer and hope they see someone.

“Our whole idea was that anyone could turn up, anyone could book a meeting, anyone could connect. Quite often, there’s a lot to learn from the young team”

The full list of speakers and panel members can be seen here. 

Time to connect

Above all, Wide Days is a place to meet and make connections. This year, event-goers will have the opportunity to book a slot with industry figureheads from PPL, the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), PRS Foundation, Creative Scotland and PRS For Music and many more. And if you’re an artist at grassroots level, it’s an invaluable chance to meet booking agents, managers and many other vital services that could set you on your way.

Olaf shares his advice for those looking to make connections. “People often say it’s not about what you know but who you know. There’s a lot of truth to that but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”

“What I’ve found is if you’re connecting with people, you don’t have to go around tugging at name badges – just strike up conversation, welcome them, maybe get in touch before the event. It all really helps”

It’s an ethos that runs to the core of Wide Days, with their own expansion closely tied to the connections they’ve fostered at different events. Olaf said “We fill a lot of our speaker slots through people we’ve met at events. I actually booked someone for our gaming panel who I shared a taxi with in Wales – that kind of thing happens when you’re out and about and meeting people.”

After the learning curve that was 2020 and 2021, this year’s convention will take on a kind of hybrid model with plans to stream a lot of the convention, via a partnership with Edinburgh College. This means it will be available to those who live remotely or unable to attend in person.

Olaf said, “What we’ve found is that if you do online events well, people do still want to take part. We were one of the first music industry events in Europe to do a whole digital event with interactivity – with people able to do online meetings rather than just have people speaking at them on their screens, and we’ve learned a lot through that.”

‘We really want to do more with international events and all the stuff we did online has allowed us to really raise the profile of the Scottish music scene.”

The showcase

This year, Wide Days will host 16 different artists across its varied live programme. Having built a sterling reputation for its many breakout stars, it’s fair to say that the event has become a good indicator for future success, previously hosting the likes of Declan Welsh & The Decadent West, The Ninth Wave, Vistas, Fatherson, Lucia & The Best Boys, Swim School, Parliamo, Wuh Oh, MEMES, Hamish Hawk and many more.

Every live gig will be open to the public this year, with a limited number of tickets available for the Music Venue Trust welcome party. Taking place at La Belle Angele on Thursday 19th May, it will feature The Jellyman’s Daughter, Lizzie Reid, Alex Amor and Kapil Seshasayee.

Supported by Creative Scotland and PRS Foundation and selected by a panel of 30 music industry and media figures, the Friday showcase programme will begin at Liquid Rooms and continue on at The Cave. Following in the footsteps of those many great artists before them, this year’s line-up will feature BBC Introducing Scotland winner BEMZ, fellow rapper CHEF, Tik-Tok sensation Callum Bowie and alternative pop artist Katherine Aly. They will be joined by Edinburgh producer, Cyrano, intelligent indie purveyors, Savage Mansion, and dream popsters Swiss Portrait.

The festival takeover

The festival takeover is a fairly recent addition to the Wide Days programme – and will take place in The Caves on Saturday 21st May. All delegates will be invited to attend the takeover which invites an event from outside Scotland guest programme a venue – further expanding the event’s international reach.

Speaking about the takeover, Olaf said “We were really keen to have at least one international partner on the festival takeover. The first one we did featured Tenement Trail, Electric fields and Kelburn Garden Party – and the idea was to allow us to profile a festival, and to get some fresh input. Often, festivals are better known than the artists they are presenting, so we thought we’d invite a festival into the programme rather than a music export office.”

This year, Focus Wales and Canadian Festival Breakout West will give guests a taste of their events with Dana Sipos, The Bobby Tenderloin Universe and Khanvict coming from Canada and Bethan Lloyd and Minas flying the flag for Wales.

Ticket info

A Delegate Pass is priced at £95, while a Student Delegate Pass is also available at £45. Meanwhile, for a higher price, you can choose a Platinum Delegate Pass which gains you access to a guided tour of Edinburgh, a music tour, whisky tasting, record shop tour and more. Check out your options here. 

Wide Days also offer a limited number of free bursary delegate passes to emerging artists and music industry professionals based in Scotland, who have not previously attended Wide Days in-person. Priority will be given to individuals who face additional challenges (including geographical distance, disability and those returning to work after a period of illness).

What’s more, in a first for a UK music industry event, a grant will be offered to prospective delegates who need to cover childcare costs in order to attend. To support parents working in music in Scotland, we are pleased to offer a limited number of grants of £100-150 towards childcare costs to those who could not otherwise afford to attend the convention.

You can find out about each grant here. 

Showcase tickets

As mentioned above, all of the live showcases are open to the public:

Thursday 19th May welcome party (£5 to MVT) – here.

Friday 20th May showcase (free) – Liquid Rooms and The Caves. 

Saturday 21st May Festival Takeover (free) – here