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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Music industry back In The City
By Chris Long

Fear of Music
Manchester band Fear of Music are hotly tipped for success
An industry schmooze, a chance to see new bands, some free drinks, a good dance, management offers, and the endless hope of a record deal.

In The City (ITC) is many different things to the many different people that descend on Manchester for the five days of the UK's biggest music industry event.

Founded by the inimitable Anthony H Wilson in 1992, In The City is about talking, dealing, playing and pushing forward music. Seminars, panels, celebrity interviews and heated debates fill the day.

Guest speakers such as The Sanctuary Group's Andy Taylor, Matthew 'father of Beyonce' Knowles and the Live Music Forum's Fergal Sharkey offer keynote speeches and topics as diverse as Life As An Urban Artist In The UK, The Future Of The Single and Songwriting After The Pop Boom are up for discussion.

It's the nights though which bring the majority of managers, label bosses, A&R executives, scouts, journalists, producers and the rest of the 2,000 music professionals to Manchester.

It's the weekend to get seen by labels, A&R, PR companies, managers and tastemakers
Graham Thomas, Blowout
As the ITC website puts it, the evening smorgasbord is "5 Nights, 50 Venues" of live music. As radio presenter Conrad Murray puts it, it's "an opportunity to get dead drunk and invent 'buzz bands' to excite southern A&R souls."

The truth lies somewhere between the two.

ITC offers unsigned bands, label showcases and fresh faces for the delegates to gobble up.

Oasis, The Darkness, Radiohead, Muse, Placebo, Coldplay and Idlewild all played In The City before they made it big, so there's a fine tradition of finding the future amongst the bands selected to take part in the official programme.

This time around, eyes are on the immensely young Fear Of Music, Hull's hot tips The Paddingtons, thoroughly epic Yorkshiremen Vib Gyor, and soundscapers The Longcut amongst others, but the reality of ITC is that you never quite know who's going to impress.

Anthony T Wilson
Tony Wilson founded the conference in 1992
Alongside the official events, half of Manchester's pubs, bars and clubs turn themselves over to live music in its many forms.

Local club night Blowout is putting on events every night.

As promoter Graham Thomas says: "For enterprising bands that have got their music and heads together, it's the weekend to get seen by labels, A&R, PR companies, managers and tastemakers from all over the world."

The industry is just as likely to stumble through an unknown door following an interesting sound, as they are to follow the official schedule.

But what In The City is all about is getting the industry out of London and up to the North so that it can think more clearly about where it is going and who it wants to take along for the ride.

When the cases are packed for the return to the capital (or anywhere else in the country) on Tuesday morning, there's always the hope that ITC has changed something for those attending, that they've found their future and pushed music forward, or that, at the very least, they've seen a band that makes their brain hurt with their brilliance.

And most years, they have.

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