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Liverpool Sound City: Merseyside’s urban scene active, if secret

By | Published on Saturday 22 May 2010

Think of Liverpool’s music scene and you’d be forgiven for thinking of rock and indie before R&B and hip hop, but rising talent from Merseyside’s urban music scene were out in force for a session at this week’s Liverpool Sound City called ‘Can Liverpool’s urban underground scene go overground?’

Local urban promoter Yaw Owusu and DJ Spykatcha both reported that the black music scene in Liverpool was creatively very healthy, but expressed frustration that local venues and media failed to showcase local talent, either ignoring the urban scene completely, or focusing exclusively on big R&B and hip hop names from outside the region.

Jade Wright, music editor for local paper the Liverpool Echo, and the main representative of that local media in the room, admitted the region’s media probably didn’t do enough to represent the local urban scene, but encouraged said scene to engage more proactively. “Journalists and editors in local media have less and less resources”, she explained. “So, we increasingly rely on you guys to come to us with your music and events, on a regular basis. To be honest, I get a barrage of music and press releases every week and I’d say less than 1% comes from the local urban scene”.

Radio 1’s Ras Kwame, the session’s moderator-come-counsellor, asked the artists in the room what local infrastructure there was to help rising talent, and – occasional entrepreneurs like Owusu aside – there seemed to be very little. While there were plenty of creative workshops to help artists hone their performing skills, there seemed to be less support for those interested in forming the sort of grass roots management, live, label and publicity companies a scene needs to go mainstream.

“Is this something the local authority could help with?” Kwame pondered. “Yes”, those who understood the way local government in Merseyside works reckoned, but it would require some proactive lobbying from the urban community. “Then that’s what needs to happen” Kwame declared, rallying his crowd, “is for you all to start talking to each other, working together, speaking as one, and get help to build the kind of promotional and management infrastructure this local scene clearly needs”.

CMU Publisher Chris Cooke, observing the proceedings, agreed with Kwame. “Many grass roots scenes face these issues”, he observed. “It’s not exclusive to urban music or Merseyside. But if you need help building and promoting an infrastructure, speak as one. Tell commercial media why covering your music will get them new readers or advertisers. Remind the BBC they have a duty to cover what you guys are doing. And if you want local government help to build a local industry, speak as one, devise a simple message, and find champions inside the local council to fight your cause”.

Given the energy in the room on Thursday afternoon, with the right direction Liverpool’s urban scene could definitely achieve a great deal, we reckon.

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