Celebrating ten years of Liverpool Sound City

As Liverpool prepares to celebrate ten years of Sound City, GIGsoup’s Jane Davies met with Becky Ayres, Chief Operations Officer for Sound City to find out about its past, present and future.

The man behind the idea

The Michael Eavis of Sound City is Chief Executive Officer, Dave Pichilingi, who wanted to create the same momentum in Liverpool as the late Tony Wilson had achieved with the Manchester “In the City” festivals. Since the 1990s Manchester had been showcasing their up and coming bands through this initiative. With many years of record label experience under his belt he organised Inner City Liverpool. At this time there was neither the infrastructure no investment required to develop this further until Europe intervened.

Helping Hand from Europe

As European investment money started to trickle through the city in the 2000s, Liverpool was on the ascendant as a centre for cultural, creative and digital industries. In 2006, keen to promote Liverpool on a global platform, Dave Pichilingi went to the South by South West Festival in Austin, Texas to the biggest music promotion event in the world. The following year, The Liverpool Sound City concept was born and Liverpool combined forces with Manchester to take a best of the North West showcase to the event . It was there that Centric Records was launched and the Wombats signed to Warner Records.

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A capital of Culture and the Inaugural Festival

The 2008 Capital of Culture year saw Kevin McManus of Merseyside ACME set about building an infrastructure for creative industries in the city. Similarly, Dave Pichilingi was keen to build on the recent success of The Coral, Wombats, Zutons, and to secure the cultural legacy of the city for future generations.

The digital age now made for easier times in the music business and they both felt Liverpool should have an industry conference to enable the industry professionals such as labels, promoters, producers and bands to come together. A conference would also offer invaluable work experience through its voluntary opportunities for students.

The first conference held in 2008 featured key note speaker, Midge Ure, and was held at the Hard Day’s Night hotel.

A growing festival

The music side of the festival started life in 2008 at diverse venues all over the city from the Zanzibar to the iconic St George’s Hall.

From 2009 to 2014 gigs were scattered about the city in established venues as well as the more unusual. A highlight, in 2011 was the Kooks playing the derelict St Luke’s Church, popularly known as the ‘Bombed out’ Church.

Highlights over the years have included Clean Bandit (2014) and Dexy’s Midnight Runners (2013) at the Anglican Cathedral and Young Knives and Frank Turner at the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Wolstenhulme Square’s Garage notably hosted Bastille and Royal Blood (2014).

Time for a new venue

By 2014, consistently packed out venues suggested that the festival was beginning to outgrow the inner city venues, so an alternative self contained site was secured at the Bramley Moor Dock for 2015. This new venue afforded much improved stages for the emerging bands.

The move also meant more space for the other cultural activities such as processions and better provision for traders and catering outlets.

The ethos behind Sound City

The conferences continued to go from strength to strength and in 2015 and 2016, they were held at the Titanic Hotel. For 2017, it will be held in the Baltic Quarter, back in the creative heartland of the city at the Camp and Furnace.   Sound City recognises and fosters talent in all aspects of the music and creative industries. It has given valuable work experience to young people and many success stories abound from the back room. Previous volunteers have secured employment at Centric Music, CAA agency, Glastonbury and Festival No 6.

Big name success stories at Sound City

Florence and the Machine played in 2008 and Ed Sheeran played at Bumper in 2011 before they became household names.

Florence and the Machine played in 2008

The Future

At the heart of the festival will always be the ethos of championing emerging talent. Sound City represents excellent value for money and has a universal appeal and welcomes music lovers of all ages. Come along and experience top class bands with the best of emerging bands in UNESCO’s city of music, Liverpool.

Tim Burgess joins Liverpool Sound City line-up