We are fortunate in the Liverpool City Region that we have a range of incredible music festivals to enjoy. In May and June alone we have Africa Oye, Bootle Festival, Baltic Weekender, On The Waterfront, and the first of Future Yard’s Festival Days. First off the rank in this incredible list was Sound City which snuck in a couple of weeks before Eurovision in their now customary place in the calendar on Early May Bank Holiday weekend.
Their publicity tells us that Sound City is the longest consecutively running festival and conference for new music in the UK. That is quite an achievement and so to learn more about how they have managed to sustain their success we spoke to Sound City’s Managing Director and Liverpool City Region Music Board member, Becky Ayres.
‘I’ve been involved in Sound City since very early on so when you look back at where it started to where we are now it is pretty incredible’ Becky told us. ‘Now every year we have hundreds of artists performing to audiences of over 10,000 music fans and 2,000 industry professionals from over 30 countries. The location of the festival has changed slightly over the years, but the ethos of the event and the desire to showcase up and coming talent and international artists has stayed the same.’
‘For the Sound City team being based in Liverpool has always been the key to what we do. We do events internationally but that is because we have the credibility of being from Liverpool and we use our international events to showcase Liverpool artists and help them build new audiences. When we started Sound City in 2008 it was still a case of persuading artists and entrepreneurs that you could build successful careers and businesses from here but thankfully that has changed. Obviously Sound City is now part of the wider Modern Sky group who have had huge success with local artists such as Jamie Webster, Crawlers, and Red Rum Club and businesses such as ourselves, Sentric, Ditto, Ad Lib and others have shown that you can grow nationally and internationally significant businesses in the city region.’
Becky built her own career here after beginning her career in advertising before moving on to work with a music festival in London where she met Sound City founder (and now Modern Sky CEO) Dave Pichilingi and liked what she heard so much that she persuaded him to give her a job building the festival. Her own experience of the lack of obvious routes into the music industry is why she now leads on the Sound City Entrepreneur Training Programme. ‘This is an area of work that I am really passionate about, and I know other members of the Music Board are too. Young people often aren’t aware of the routes into the sector, not just as a performer but all the other areas that make up the music industry. Through this course we expose our trainees to people who have had successful careers in the sector, or who have built their own music businesses, and they can inspire these young people who have a burning desire to have a career in the music industry.’
Becky has been a passionate advocate for Keychange which is a movement fighting for a sustainable music industry which encourages organisations to take a pledge for gender equality and improve representation in every aspect of the global music industry. Sound City is now the UK’s lead festival for Keychange and is also AIM’s (Association of Independent Music) Conference in the North.
Becky isn’t someone to rest on her laurels and talks animatedly about future plans for Sound City in all areas of their work. It is reassuring to witness Becky’s enthusiasm not just for Sound City but for Liverpool itself. There is a clear belief that she and Sound City can shout about Liverpool’s musical prowess internationally while supporting the next generation of local talent to make their mark on the world.
We finished on Becky’s favourite Sound City moment: ‘I think my favourite Sound City moment in recent years was seeing Self Esteem headline in the Arts Club in 2022 – amazing performance and outstanding Keychange moment in an adored venue (which is sadly no longer with us at the moment) and a really diverse audience – what Sound City is all about.’