I love Liverpool Sound City, but like almost every gig I’ve been to in the last five years, it is a sobering reminder that the rock star dream might be dead. As one of the four hundred ‘self-taught’ guitarists in my sixth form, I assumed that the only thing between me and the moment I returned to my school grounds in the middle of the afternoon, leather jacket over my shoulder, signing autographs for the younger kids and sharing congratulatory hugs with my old classmates and teachers - was time. By some cruel, sadistic twist of fate though, it turned out that I was about as useful writing a song as I was sailing to the moon.
Studying for a degree in Popular Music (I know) here in Liverpool lead to a position at Ditto Music, an independent digital music distributor based in the Baltic Triangle. I mean I don’t sign any autographs, but I can at least pretend to idiots in Heebies that I’m a talent scout for a record label or something. I actually asked my bosses why they chose to set up their head office, for what is very much a global company with locations in Nashville and Melbourne, here in Liverpool as opposed to say London or Manchester. Their response was something I recognised almost instantly, having wrestled with the same sort of decision as an eighteen-year-old music fan looking at prospective universities. They suggested, with absolute assurance, that as a music company, this was the place they needed to be. This was the place where they could establish an identity for themselves, where they could thrive off the enormous pool of local artists and local enterprises, whilst retaining that sense of individuality and personal pride that Liverpool’s arts and business culture so often celebrates. And one look around today is all the vindication they’ll need.
More than this though, and what makes Liverpool an almost unrivaled city for fan and curator alike, is a striking notion of collaboration and fellowship that underpins operations. Of course Liverpool has always been renowned for a fierce sense of community. But the way Sound City brings in bookers and promoters from all corners of the industry, the ridiculous range of venues that gleefully play host for the weekend, as well as the huge range of local business (like ourselves at Ditto) who are invited to contribute to the conference, is indicative of a scene functioning not in competition, but in unison, all working towards the idea that this is our city and this is our scene, the success of which, whatever the source, is ours to share. I’ve always regarded this festival - with every photographer, every booker, every journalist, every sound tech, and every other volunteer - as a fantastic, and deserved celebration of this.