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BIGSOUND: Nick O’Byrne [Interview]

Words by Hugh McClure.

Over its 12 years in existence, BIGSOUND has become recognised as Australia’s most important music industry conference. Drawing an impressive array of speakers to the conference in Brisbane each year, it focuses on the major issues confronting what is, an ever-changing industry. This year’s edition will include talks on a wide range of topics, including keynotes from the likes of Nick Cave, Gurrumul Yunupingu and Amanda Palmer.

Of course, the event stretches on into the evening, with BIGSOUND LIVE showcases over two nights including short sets from a myriad of Australia’s most exciting talent.

This year, acid stag will be represented at the conference, and to celebrate, we sat down with BIGSOUND Associate Programmer (assuming the main programming role in 2014) Nick O’Byrne to talk about this incredible event.

What’s involved in planning such a huge event, and how many people are involved? 
This year there were three of us on the programming team. Asho (Graham Ashton) and myself worked on BIGSOUND’s artist and speaker line-up, while Romy Willing did the majority of programming for BIGSOUND Music & Design (an extension of the conference arranged to bridge the gap between these two creative industries). Then there’s the entire team at QMusic who work on pulling together volunteers, venues, PR, funding, infrastructure etc. The whole process starts more than 12 months before each event – we’re already thinking about 2014 now!

When programming the speakers we try to make sure there are representatives from all the key music regions of the world. We look for people who are generous with their time and knowledge but are also able to make real differences to the careers of Australian musicians. We want people that can book musicians at international festivals, or get synch deals, or sign Australian artists to their agencies or publishing companies. When programming artists we want to get a mix of the old and the new, the emerging and established, and many genres. It’s not just a matter of getting the best or most career-advanced 120 bands.

What’s the best thing about BigSound each year, and, is there a highlight(s) from your time with the conference? 
Steve Earl (Grammy Award winner) was hilarious and wise last year, while Alan McGee (Creation Records boss) revelled in being an asshole. Regardless of whether they seem like cool people, they’ve had an incredible impact on the music we love, with their influence still being heard today.

Then it’s the musical highlights – last year some of the stand-outs for me were Money For Rope, Violent Soho, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Flume (just before he broke world-wide), Caitlyn Park and Mia Dyson. This year I can’t wait for Clowns, Born Lion, Willow Beats, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Rainbow Chan, Orbweavers, Sidney York (from Canada) and Zeahorse.

Who are you most excited to hear speak this year, and why? 
The obvious ones are Nick Cave, Billy Bragg and Amanda Palmer but I think Simon Raymonde from Bella Union Records (Beach House, Explosions In The Sky, Dirty Three, Fleet Foxes, Mildlake, Wild Nothing, Xiu Xiu etc – the list goes on) will have some of the most interesting stuff to say. He’s an incredible thinker, vehemently independent with great taste in music.

Tell us about the spin-offs, Little BIGSOUND and now BIGSOUND Music & Design.
Little BIGSOUND was a one-day event for students held in July. It’s a day of talks and panels focussed at teaching youth about the music industry – it’s awesome. This year we’re doing Music & Design for the first time. We all know that design and music go hand in hand, they inspire and compliment each-other. We think that there’s a desire amongst the Australian music and design communities for a forum which discusses and explores the two disciplines working together.

Moving forward, what has BIGSOUND got on the cards for the future?
The most amazing and noticeable change over the past few years is the growing reputation of the event internationally. I think and hope that it can become one of the key taste-making music festivals in the world. It’s going to continue to attract more and more visitors from overseas.

For more information on the conference, check out the official BIGSOUND website below. Follow @BIGSOUNDtweets for all updates during the conference.

Click here for a full run-down of all artists on this year’s BIGSOUND LIVE bill.

WHERE: Fortitude Valley, Brsibane
WHEN: September 10 to 13

We’ll leave you with some highlights from the 2012 event: |

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Filed: Gigs, Interviews

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