INTERVIEW: How The Inaugural Indie-Con Conference Aims To Fill A Void

Published on, Jul 2017

Australia’s newest music conference, Indie-Con, is looking to reshape the country’s independent music scene, as programmer Stuart Watters tells Daniel Cribb.

“We can bring something that is unique to the music industry that’s not trying to compete with any of the pre-existing events, and that’s certainly been first and foremost in our minds,” tells Indie-Con conference programmer Stuart Watters as the inaugural two-day July event fast approaches.

“We are not a BIGSOUND and nor do we want to be. We are not a Face The Music and nor do we want to be… we want to complement each and every one of those events by having a dedicated space for the independent label system that can feed into whatever those events are doing.”

Curated by Australian Independent Record Labels Association (AIR) – of which Watters was CEO for five years – the new music industry conference accompanies their highly anticipated annual awards ceremony, this year making its Adelaide debut. Indie-Con was first established in the UK by AIR’s sister association, AIM, in an effort to address the needs of independent labels and artists. “We think that’s a fantastic event in its own right, and it just made sense that we would develop something locally here in the Australian market,” he says.

It’s somewhat filling the void of Adelaide-based music conference and festival Fuse, which dropped off the map a few years ago. During its prime, Fuse was “a real focal point” that saw a wealth of people fly in from around the country annually. And so, for the next three years, while the AIR Awards are in SA, Watters is hoping they’ll see a similar trend, all with the goal of “trying to establish an event that can hold its own long term”.

“Making sure there’s a long-term viability around it is absolutely paramount,” Watters reiterates. “So getting the content right, making it speak to the people who are going and making it relevant to those people is important.

“From the CEO of the largest independent in the country to the independent artists that walk in the door, they’ve all got to walk away with something that’s useful, meaningful and [that] they can apply to their business.”

There’ll be a number of panels throughout the conference that do just that, including speakers such as Portia Sabin (Kill Rock Stars/The Future Of What), Jen Cloher, Briggs, Sebastian Chase (MGM) and more. “There are a couple of key topics that need to be [discussed] by the independent label sector. One of those is what’s happening with safe harbour; it’s a big issue among the recording sector.

“Is block chain important? What is block chain? I would say a lot of labels – and I would argue a lot of the music industry – have a very rudimentary understanding of what block chain is.

“On the artist side, I’m very interested in trying to empower artists to understand how they can harness and utilise data to give them the insight to make informed choices about where they invest.”

Watters describes the DIY approach many artists and labels now take on as an apprenticeship, with valuable lessons learned along the way, but a major focus of Indie-Con is relaying how important collaborating is. “Maybe it should be DIO – Do It Ourselves; do it together. I love the old adage that I heard from a good friend in the industry who said, ‘You want to be nice to everyone on your way up because you want them to catch you when you’re on your way down again’.”