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Un-Convention Off Axis Network – Jeff Thompson


Jeff Thompson explains the concept behind the Off Axis Network, a proposed UK-wide network of musicians, promoters, and venues based on the Brazilian model of the ‘Fora do Eixo’.  The network aims to empower grassroots musicians by establishing a national ‘gig swap’ system by which musicians can build credit via an online system, which will then enable them to play all over the country.

Over the last four years Un-Convention has worked extensively with grassroots and independent artists, promoters, record labels and festivals. We have run 41 events, looking at new ways that artists can develop their careers in the modern music industry. Events now happen all across the world, from Australia to India, and Africa to South America.

We endeavour to take best practice models from independent music networks around the world and apply them to new markets in order to create opportunities for artists. In recent years we have been hugely influenced by the Fora do Eixo touring circuit from Brazil. This is a truly awe-inspiring initiative that has made the independent live sector in the country the envy of the world.

The Fora do Eixo was born out of a common problem for independent artists, that of finding audiences outside of their home towns and cities. Hence, a number of collectives from different cities got together with the goal of circulating artists.

The premise is simple enough, to ensure a good audience at a show in a new town, artists would partner with local bands from that town that had an existing audience. This host band would produce and promote the show, help accommodate the visiting artist and work to ensure the show was a success. Both bands would play the show together allowing the visiting band the opportunity to win over new fans. By finding artists of similar genre, style and stature this greatly improved the bands opportunity to expand beyond their hometown.

Once complete, the show is then reciprocated so that the visiting band would later host their partner band back in their hometown. Initially this was a simple ‘gig swap’ arrangement, but the system soon developed beyond that. It made it so that it could be logged who had hosted shows, and in essence who was ‘owed’ a show. By building a database of artists it became possible for bands to redeem shows they were ‘owed’ with any other band in the system, in any city, not just the one they originally partnered with.

Hence, artists who were prepared to work hard within the system, hosting, producing and promoting shows in their own city where afforded the opportunity to tour the entire country in the knowledge that they would be playing new cities, but still to substantial, relevant audiences. This system greatly increased the opportunity for artists to break new territories and also for fans to discover new music. The confidence of the artists and audiences in the system greatly improved the health and vibrancy of the live independent music market. By having a few simple criteria regarding the standard and work ethic of the artists involved, where everyone understands that they get out as much as they put in, the Fora do Eixo has become an exceptional brand within the country.

The Fora do Eixo has now reached the point whereby a band in Brazil can access the online system, enter the dates and regions of the country they wish to play and it will schedule an entire tour. The band does not have to have a pre-existing fan base in any of the cities they are visiting, and yet they know they will be playing successful shows, and have the opportunity to build a reputation for return visits.

As an example of how the system would work, a band from Glasgow wanting to play in Manchester would identify a band of a similar genre with an existing following in the city and a show would be arranged where they play together. The responsibility for producing a successful show lies with the host band. This gives the band from Glasgow the opportunity to genuinely win new fans, and also the audience an opportunity to discover something new.

Further down the line the band from Manchester may wish to play a gig in Glasgow, and would do so under the same terms, whereby the host band would be responsible for creating a successful show.

However, under this system it is possible that the band from Manchester might choose to play a show in Brighton. Provided there was a band within the system of a similar genre the Manchester band are able to redeem the show in Brighton. Similarly, the Brighton band may wish to redeem their subsequent show in Manchester, or perhaps Glasgow, or indeed any other city where there are bands in the network.

It truly is an awe-inspiring system that is the envy of many and yet is relatively unknown. It is this system we are proposing to develop through the scheme that ultimately would be of enormous benefit to independent artists, venues and audiences.


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