Alan James began his varied career during the post-punk period as Entertainments Secretary at ULU (a position later assumed by Ricky Gervais), and ever since has been closely involved with world music projects. The 90s saw him juggling a successful DJ career with his role as Head of Performances at Birmingham’s MAC, and until 2006 he was Head of Contemporary Music at Arts Council England. He set up Hold Tight – a creative production and consultancy company – in 2007, and since 2010 has been Executive Chairman of the Welsh Music Foundation, which headed Cardiff’s successful bid to host the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in 2013.
What is the WMF, and how does it help those working within the music industries?
WMF represents a wide group of stakeholders from the Welsh music industry across recording, publishing, live promotion, management, broadcasting and much more. We are funded by the Welsh Government to represent the industry needs to them, arts councils, local authorities, creative industries and trade organisations across Wales, the UK, and internationally. Amongst the day to day activities of information sharing, advice and advocacy, WMF organises training, conferences, and networking meetings. Our partnership with Wales Arts International – Cerdd Cymru:Music Wales – creates opportunities for Wales at international meetings such as SXSW, MIDEM and WOMEX.
What can we expect from WOMEX in 2013?
WOMEX is an amazing conference, music trade fair and showcase rolled into one, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Thousands of delegates and hundreds of musicians spend five days doing business, debating issues, sampling the local culture and listening to great music. It’ll be based at the Welsh Millennium Centre and the Motorpoint Arena, and Cardiff has been selected over nine other European cities to host the event. Each WOMEX features strong programming input from the host country so expect a high profile for Welsh artists and the Celtic diaspora.
What are your views on its current musical climate in Wales?
The economic climate may be mild at the moment but that has never stopped creativity and I’m hearing a huge amount of great music being made at home and ready for a wider listenership. More and more musicians are starting out by doing it themselves and controlling their own material and copyrights; its only one approach but it means you begin from a position of strength and control.
Has the type of support the WMF offers changed much since its inception?
The music industry has shifted to the live arena so that changes priorities for organisations like ours. Also the artist has seen the studio and office at reach in the shape of a laptop, meaning production costs become less prohibitive. We can support that sole trader stuff but the remaining infrastructure of studios, labels, venues and rehearsal rooms becomes just as, if not more, important.
Does WMF have much involvement with music education projects?
We were asked to be on the steering group for the Foundation Degree in Music Industry Entrepreneurship at University of Glamorgan. I think it’s important that the industry has an overview on training. Things move so fast and teaching has to be up to date.
Are there any other projects the WMF are currently involved with that you are particularly excited about?
We are about to re-vamp our website and look at creating a new digital network for Welsh music. We are also hoping to set up regional reps across the country to connect with what is happening nationally in the broadest sense; our stakeholders are there now but we need more interaction on the ground. We are also investigating how music and tourism can work with each other to build audiences and help nurture the home grown industry: we’ll be working with towns and cities like Cardiff to help improve the scope of live music. And, of course, we’ll be waiting to hear that next batch of great music.
Words: Joe O’Connell
Photo: Tom Oldham