Ash Sambrooks and Zac Abroms are two of the most driven individuals currently working in the Melbourne music industry. They are artist managers, music publicists and business entrepreneurs who last year came together to reinvigorate the city’s music conference Face the Music, officially rebranding the event as a summit – ‘a meeting of the minds’.
“It’s not a conference that you turn up and sit in a lecture theatre where the people on stage just spout things and the people in the audience are supposed to just sit there and soak it up,” explains Abroms. “We want everyone who attends this to engage in the conversation and contribute, and for us the word summit better encapsulated that idea.”
Following the success of their first year as co-programmers, Abroms and Sambrooks are returning to the event in 2017 emboldened and more focused than ever on creating something unique in the Australian music calendar.
“The program that we designed in 2017 is even further left of center than the 2016 program, or any other music conference or summit in Australia currently,” says Abroms. “I think we’re certainly achieving the goal of being more closely aligned with the international versions of these events that we aspire to – things like Northside Festival in Brooklyn, Primavera Sound or Reeperbahn, these are the things that we think Face the Music needs to be on par with and we’ve really dug deep to try to make the 2017 program look and feel like that.”
One of the major changes introduced last year was a partnering with Melbourne Music Week, which involved not only changing the date so that the two events would coincide, but also gaining access to the MMW hub as a venue, which this year is St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Over two days in November, Face the Music will present workshops, panel discussions, live music, and one-on-one meeting opportunities from within and around the Cathedral. The list of speakers includes major industry types from both Australia and overseas, but to Sambrooks and Abroms it was important that the event remain relevant and useful to attendees.
“Ash and I in the last two years have actually shrunk the FTM program,” says Abroms. “We want everyone who pays for a summit pass and attends to feel like they’re getting really good value and like they’re up close and personal with the international and interstate delegates.
“At the same time we want to cater to a really widespread cohort of people. A really fundamental part of FTM is that it provides knowledge and tools to people at the emerging end of the industry. We provide a whole bunch of workshops for that end of the spectrum and that’s everything this year from how to distribute your music; how to be your own publicist; free legal advice for people who are not in a position to financially cover the costs of an entertainment lawyer.”
However, not only does the program also include discussions with veteran acts such as Marky Ramone and major bigwigs such as Bjørn Pfarr, who books Hamburg’s Reeperbahn conference and festival (“basically FTM with 37, 000 people,” quips Abroms) and Anika Mottershaw of US label Bella Union (Father John Misty/Beach House), but it’s not even limited to just music. Want to attend a dance workshop with Sydney choreographer Amrita Hepi, learn breathing techniques with a wellness coach or watch Kirin J. Calinnan host a live cooking show? Of course you do.
“I don’t think a music conference necessarily needs to be wholly about music,” says Abroms. “I know that myself or any of the artists that I’ve worked with or represented, we’re multi-faceted people with lots of different interests across a lot of different creative disciplines, and I think that talking solely about music can be a little bit short sighted. I don’t think it recognises that being a part of music is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle – so this year we’re the holistic Australian music summit.”