Northern Ireland is Moving on Music

Graham Crothers meets promoters with eclectic taste

Found yourself won over by the delights of Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, Ernie Payne or Joe Morris at last year's Belfast Festival at Queens? How about the unique brand of pop and gritty rock of Dublin band The Chalets, who recently completed a successful tour of the North? Or if blues, jazz, gypsy swing and calypso are more your thing perhaps you found yourself flabbergasted by the seamless guitar playing of versatile world musician Bob Brozman?

If so, then you have Moving on Music to thank - for over a decade the promotions company have been bringing diverse musical talents and education services to the province.

Describing themselves primarily as the 'forefront promoters of folk, traditional, jazz, blues and electronic music' Moving On Music are a three-strong organisation based in Belfast.

First up is chief executive Brian Carson who conceived the idea of Moving On Music (MOM). Having worked in concert promotion for a number of years, Carson recognised a clear demand for various forms of music
that were not receiving the coverage they justly deserved in Northern Ireland.

Second is Tanya Melotte who is the project manager for Blueprint. Launched in February of last year this bi-monthly showcase event pairs new and emerging Irish bands alongside the cream of international and
national musicians.

Then there's our interviewee Paul Brown who oversees various education programmes and also co-ordinates the annual Visonic festival taking place this year from May 26 to June 4.

Visonic is a multi-disciplinary festival, exploring the interaction between music, film, art, technology and dance. This year boasts a strong line-up with digital dancehall artists The Bug, dub legend Don Letts and home-grown hero David Holmes looking set to wow club goers. With previous years receiving a big thumbs up from both press and public alike it's a festival that looks likely to continue to blossom.

'Visonic has to reflect what is happening in electronic music in general and it has to present more experimental ways of working with live electronics and new software and using that software in different

'Visual artists, animators or graphic artists are all working in fields of music and musicians are vice versa working in their fields. I think as software develops there will be more of a demand for these "crossover" artists.'

Having built up excellent audience figures across Northern Ireland, MOM extended their last touring programme as far as Donegal and have high hopes of reaching further out to places like Sligo.

'We make sure we integrate everything we are doing in terms of the whole programme for the year,' explains Brown. 'We give ourselves roles and responsibilities with regards to each individual project, whether it's a tour we're organising or an education project or workshop.'

Operating on a number of levels, the company primarily co-ordinate quarterly programmes and national tours but also act as a booking agency for local artists and a general consultancy body to various companies around the province.

'We try to maintain attention to quality and attention to accessibility. In some respects we are a public service in terms of what we do. We are here to deliver to the general public the arts, regardless of age,
gender, ability or religious background.'

Another large part of the MOM agenda is, of course, the championing of exceptional local talent, offering those involved gigging opportunities at home and abroad. Working partnerships include accomplished composer Brian Irvine and the jazz tinged live drum and bass act Spree. However, one of the more recent notable successes in supporting local talent here at home has been the Blueprint Showcase.

'Blueprint has been going really well. Bands are beginning to understand that they have to set themselves some benchmarks in that their compositions are well written, they're communicating with the audience
and they have presence on stage. If you're not prepared to commit to the graft of producing biogs, contacting record labels or promoters and knowing how to deal with press, then you're at a loss because there are
so many other people out there doing that.'

As the majority of local venues continue to be driven by mass audiences and mass consumerism it's a situation that can often frustrate a company such as MOM which dedicates itself to maintaining more adventurous musical programming. Thankfully that is changing, Brown states, as venues acknowledge the quality of service MOM strive to provide.

'We always try and provide for a need or a demand. But you also have to give people the opportunity to try something different or not mainstream or accessible. You have to make it work financially in terms of the way you promote it and not bankrupt yourself. There are limitations on audience numbers and venue availability here. A lot of the venues are commercially run and we can understand that the people who run these venues want to make money. That impacts on you finding suitable venues for putting small concerts on.'

Recipients of the MOM e-newsletter currently receive regular news updates, competition offers as well as advance notice of forthcoming events.

While it has been one of the most effective ways to inform the general public of their activities, plans are underway for an overhaul of the companies' internet marketing strategy.

'There will be more features with the website and particularly what we want to do is add in audio because our programme often features people who haven't been here or are not prominent in the mass media. Its more of a direct way of informing people of what we do and it also allows people the opportunity to filter ideas back to us and let us know what they think.'

The company vision for the future is to consolidate what they are currently doing, to be able to bring over more artists to perform to more capacity crowds, and to generally raise awareness of the wealth and
range of music that exists on a global scale today. Judging by the speedy progress MOM have made so far that vision may be achieved sooner than they think.