A New Music Conference for the New Music Economy – This Weekend

I made a note to myself that for 2009 (not a resolution now) I would get on the road more – get to Dublin more, grab a coffee in the Absolute Hotel in Limerick at some stage, and hit more events and evenings. One event I’m sorry to be missing though (it’s a five hour drive up and I’m swamped for the weekend) is UnConvention, taking place in Belfast today and tomorrow.

What is UnConvention?

Unconvention is an unconference aimed at the grass roots of the music industry – bringing together musicians and industry professionals for conversation, inspiration and collaboration.

or as About.com have it listed…

“a music industry convention that really isn’t like a music industry convention at all. The event is aimed at the independent music industry. Entrance fees are in keeping with indie music budgets (free!) and the discussions all surround making it in music outside of the mainstream machine. At night, indie musicians get to show off their chops on local stages”

Bands, labels, entrepreneurs, music industry insiders and outsiders – it’s an event that I should really be at and I know I should be at so I’m happy to be following the activity for the weekend here on Twitter and here at UnConventionBelfast.com.

The Official Blurb

The 2-day conference has attracted strong interest from all over the UK and Ireland; organisations who have signed up for involvement include BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio Ulster, Music Managers Forum, Island Records, Sony Music Publishing, NIMIC, Oh Yeah Music Centre, Birmingham University, Fat Northerner Records, Smalltown America Records, Richter Collective and First Music Contact, among many others. Radio 1’s Huw Stephens was one of the first to sign up to the event, and had this to say: “I’m looking forward to finding out more about the scene in Belfast, which seems to be thriving at the moment. Rory McConnell’s Radio 1 show features so many quality artists from Northern Ireland so to get to Belfast and meet the bands and managers is an exciting prospect. In the music world, doing it yourself is essential at the moment, and so I’m looking forward to seeing what will be discussed.”

Friday night’s showcase line-up includes Ed Zealous, A Plastic Rose, Colenso Parade and Strait Laces on the live stage, and Vertigo Smith, Escape Act, Junior Johnson, Cat Molojian, Seven Summits and The Monts; spanning a highly diverse range of styles and genres.

From a music industry perspective, the potential of UnConvention to boost the industry locally and further afield was recognised by key sponsor, Belfast City Council. Councillor Michael Browne, Chairman of BCC’s Development Committee comments “Belfast City Council is committed to helping support the development of the creative industries in our city which, if nurtured and supported in the right way, have the ability to make Belfast truly competitive on the global stage. UnConvention provides an exciting opportunity to showcase Belfast’s eclectic music scene and musicians and provide useful networking and business development opportunities for those working in this sector.”

Attendees can that Rich Dale, Tracy Dempsey, Nick Fitzsimons, Jennie McCullough and Andy McMillan for organising the event.

Search Engines, Guitars, Food All Get Investment

When someone emails you with some good news on the investment front for startups, and is happy to answer your questions via email, I’m happy to talk about it. (edit: as Keith was).

RevaHealth, headed by Caelen King, have announced the securing of a €1.25m investment through Mianach Venture Capital and supported by Enterprise Ireland, EI backing RevaHealth.com as a High Performance Start Up in 2008 (though judging the EI terminology, should HPSU not be High Potential Start Up).

On the site itself, it “currently stores information on over 60,000 clinics in the UK, Ireland and 50 other countries worldwide. RevaHealth.com helps people take control of their healthcare choices and find the most suitable clinic and treatment for their needs”.

I asked Caelen what we could expect on RevaHealth.com as a result of the new investment in the business, specifically in what new features users could look forward to.

“New features that we are investing in include advanced map and geo-coding, semantic search functionality (it is very difficult to match consumer health terminology with professional health terminology) and integration with 3rd party content (mash-ups).”

Would users like an iPhone app as part of the development? Considering there’s information to be had on over 60,000 clinics

You can also follow RevaHealth on Twitter here.

db Twang

While congratulations have been passed on in person and on Twitter, if you didn’t hear about it, db Twang also managed to secure €110,000 angel round funding in December. I’ve been following the development of the project since close to day one having worked on early elements of it, but to get this funding and signal the intent of raising up to another €500,000 between Q2 and Q3 is fantastic.

db Twang, based here in Kilkenny, also achieved High Potential Start Up status from Enterprise Ireland back in December.

This is a startup to watch. If you haven’t already signed up for notice of the launch, get thee to dbTwang.com now. With 400+ registered interest users and talk of a closed beta taking place in March you’d do well to get in quick.

iFoods.tv

Bringing more good news to the table this week was Niall Harbison who announced that iFoods have secured (or did before Christmas but have now made it public) a €400,000 investment, with the possibility of adding a further €200,000 in the coming months.

Having watched the guys on Dragons Den and the request for £100,000 at the time, the investment of up to €600,000 in the business is yet another golden moment for Irish startups.

Ireland’s own Dragons Den should be starting soon on RTE.

Working For Myself, By Myself

DSCF9207
Creative Commons License photo credit: houseoftext

The corner has well and truly turned on 2009 and as I park myself at my desk and gulp down a mug of green tea in between thoughts, I’m reminded of the year ahead for 2009.

I’ve been working for myself pretty much since I left college. I did take up work in the family business for about six weeks to keep myself going. It started as two and within six months we were three. In 2007 we returned to two and as I look into 2009 I’m reminded that two, has become one as the ways of ones business changes.

Of course, I’ve been getting used to the idea, having resided in the office on my own for the past few months but I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead in 2009.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much a team player. Kilkenny Music has operated for over three years with a strong team, the Devious Theatre Company has operated for over two years with a strong team and in my work life there’s always been people around. So for something that started as a team effort, it will be interesting, challenging and I think quite enjoyable to take it to the next step as a solo effort.

A lot of the change I talked to myself about (in a professional and personal capacity) in 2008 is going to start surfacing in 2009. Business is broadening and opportunities actually do exist for those who actively go out and look for them. New clients open to new ideas, old clients with new plans for a changing future – they do exist.

While I’m stopping short on any official announcements work-wise, I will say that I’m going into 2009 in an optimistic mood.

Working for myself is something I always wanted to do. Sure enough, there are bumpy patches along the road. You open yourself up to the world of business, tax, accounts, chasing people for invoices, pitching for contracts, winning those contracts, missing out on those contracts, the good, the bad and the ugly.

As I head into my fourth year of working for myself I can’t say that I’ve any regrets. You learn a lot of valuable lessons, no doubt about that. But at the end of the day, it can be so rewarding knowing that everything you achieve is as a result of the work that YOU did.

Here’s to achieving new things in 2009, and a belated Happy New Year to all.

2 Years In Business, Happy Birthday To Us

Today, July 19th (according to the certificate here in the office), marks the second anniversary of myself and Aidan going into business together. So I toast the occasion with a bottle of water – primarily because its not even 11am and we haven’t reached the point of having a sneaky bottle of whiskey in the bottom drawer of the desk.

Upon reflection I think its been a great two years for us. A pure learning experience, a pure development for both of us personally and professionally.

We had both spoken at great lengths during college about wanting to start something up on our own, not content with looking for a graduate position straight out of college in a job you wouldn’t know if you’d love or hate, in a town, city or country you wouldn’t know whether you’d love or hate. I feel lucky in that regard that we were able to do it in Kilkenny, to have the opportunity to establish ourselves in our home town, also securing an office premises no more than a 3-minute drive from our respective family homes.

Our main focus in the beginning was to cover events from a promotional point of view – commercial photography, design and marketing. Having worked on varying web packages and projects both in college and on the side for my four years spent living in Waterford there was a chance to develop these projects commercially, which in lead to a turn in focus quite early in the business to the web design and marketing aspects – both our key strengths.

We took our first client just a week into business, our second two weeks later, and so it has continued over the past two years. We made our first hire in December 2005, a move we hadn’t anticipated making until at least July 2006 if not later but with three hands on board we’ve remained busy for two years solid.

Now, as we turn into our third year of business we’re back to a two person operation (as I mentioned last week with John departing for pastures new) and aces are starting to slip out of sleeves. Internal projects are on the rise and we continue to draw in new clients and new business.

Of course its not as if business just falls into your lap and we’ve had a queue of people lining up outside the door – the work has to be done too. The first six months of the business were spent either in the office here (our premises) or in the office in my own home once 6 or 7pm passed. Often was the case of sitting at the desk from 8:30am to 10, 11, 12 at night and beyond. Often was the case too that you’d find yourself still on the go at 3 or 4am with buckets of coffee, burning the candle at both ends. Hell, it took me 18 months to give in and take an actual break (when I got to Toronto last Christmas) But it does pay off. At least I think it does anyway.

While I look forward to a third year in business, which by our estimates back at day one should be a busy year for us, I look back on the last two years full in the knowledge that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not the celebrations after a job well done, not the sleepless nights and headaches, not the winter days, not the sunny days baking at 33 degrees in the office – none of it. Best thing about it is that even after growing up with someone, living with that same person for 4 years in college and working with them for 2 years there’s still n’aer a bad word said in the office – it just works.

So on that long winded note I say “Happy Birthday” to us and here’s to another year.

To The Theatrical Entrepreneurs, My Thanks For Last Week

The cast of Heart Shaped Vinyl
The cast of Devious Theatre’s Heart Shaped Vinyl

As I mentioned before the weekend, I’ve been intermittent with the blog posts, thanks very largely in part to a hectic schedule for the past week.
Saturday night saw the curtain fall on Heart Shaped Vinyl after four consecutive sold-out nights. More amazing was the amount of people we had to turn away from the show.

While I’ve posted on DeviousTheatre.com some thanks on behalf of the cast and crew I’d like to step aside and thank the cast and the core off Devious Theatre, the committee. A pure bunch of professionals are John Morton, Kevin Mooney, David Thompson, Niamh Moroney and new additions Paddy Dunne and Amy Dunne, not only pure professionals but every single one a delight to work with, eat with, drink with.

I enjoyed the show last year, doing something quite new and very different for the Kilkenny scene. A year onwards and we’ve learned an awful lot. Although not having been to any of the Opencoffee mornings around the country, I would liken our Sunday morning coffees and meetings to them in the sense of being a great opportunity to chat, discuss new ideas, develop plans, forge new beginnings and most importantly to learn from one another. We each work different jobs, different times, some shift work, some study so Sunday is a great opportunity for us to meet together.

For me it has been a real learning experience. I’ve been in and out of theatre over the years, college placing some restrictions on me which I’m trying to make up for but since the formation of the group it has been non-stop work on the theatre. There’s no pay involved but yes, we were privileged to receive some arts funding this year to help with the mammoth cost (looking at a potential five figure sum for our summer programme). 4,000 Euro is a drop in the ocean to larger companies but its a pot of gold to us and we’ll be using it to part finance the development of Cannibal! The Musical, rehearsals of which commence tomorrow (Tuesday).

I see us as theatrical entrepreneurs. Developing new ideas, committing our time, resources, energy – no fear of taking the risk to pull off daring shows. We’ve got the budgeting down too, using the best of our connections, knowledge from studies and jobs and every free resources thats going. Everyone has a role and the jobs all get done. This last week it certainly paid off.

With all that said, I want to reiterate my thanks to the bunch that meet on Sunday mornings, without who The Devious Theatre Company would not be standing. May we continue to be as daring and long may we continue to stuff ourselves stupid in The Coffee Club on Sunday mornings. The long hours, sleepless nights and my now completely shot voice and horrendous lack of energy were soooo worth it.

Are You Open For Coffee In Cork This Morning?

Sure, I’m not from Cork but thought I’d give the Cork OpenCoffee morning a wee net-plug anyway, think they’re a pretty good idea. Dublin’s one took off recently with a big bang in Morrisson’s hotel but if you’re in Cork this morning, pop your head into Luigi Malone’s for a crackin’ cup of coffee and a chin-wag with fellow entrepreneurs and business investors.

Kick-off is 10am.

First Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year

Good sign of the times this as Anne Heraty has scooped the Ernst And Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award.

Via Aertel…

Anne Heraty, founder and chief executive of CPL Resources, has become the first woman to win the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

She was named as winner of the international category before receiving the coveted overall title last night.

South East Women In Business

This Wednesday sees the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board present “Head Right For Success”, South East Women in Business conference 2006. The conference will be held in Lyrath House, on the main Kilkenny to Dublin road (handy if you’re travelling from Dublin or Carlow).

While setup and registration will take a while, the conference gets underway at 11am. Speakers on the day include Fiona Brown Johnson (Brook Cottage), Catherine McGeachy (Vision Consultants) and Kilkenny’s own blogger/consultant/entrepreneur Keith Bohanna who will be “talking about dbTwang and in particular looking at some of the great free and very cheap online and offline software and services that are available for internet start-ups today”. For those of you not in the know, dbTwang is a very interesting startup and online service for guitar collectors, which I have had the pleasure of working on myself.

In the afternoon there will be a 90 minute networking session followed by Terry Harmer and Nicole Buckler of the Women Mean Business magazine.

Full details are available here, tickets are €25 with limited exhibition space also available.

Make Money Feeding iPods

This one straight out of Dane Carlon’s blog tells of an entrepreneuring idea helping people put music on their iPods. You’ve heard all about them, you want one, haven’t a clue how to use it or get your hundreds of cd’s onto the damn thing. Well, now for $1.75 a cd for the first 50 with Hungrypod you can have your entire cd collection picked up and transferred onto an iPod and delivered right back to you….

Where there’s a demand, there’s always someone hiding!