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AO Arena, Co-op LIVE and Factory International put rivalries aside as Manchester’s new global music conference gets underway

Traditional rivals The AO Arena, Co-op LIVE and Factory International are putting their differences aside to join forces, alongside the City Region working with MCC, GMCA, Manchester City Centre BID and Manchester Accommodation BID, as founding members of Beyond The Music.

Taking place from today (October 11) until October 14, Beyond The Music is Manchester’s new, co-operative, change-making, global music conference and festival that “sits at the heart of a groundswell of support for collaborative thinking and problem solving.”

Created by Oli Wilson, Sarah Pearson and Rose Marley, all of whom are acting in direct response to the inequalities they have observed while operating in the music and creative industries, the conference launches at the Midland Hotel – for many years home to BTM’s spiritual predecessor In The City – before quickly moving to Manchester Central/

The global music conference will debate the key subject matters of today, and with an in-built structure attendees can expect these conversations to come to achievable conclusions and provide implementable solutions.

Beyond The Music also offers an expansive live side, with stages hosted in grass roots venues across the Northern Quarter including Night & Day, Peer Hat, Castle Hotel, Band On The Wall, Disorder, Wilsons Den, from the likes of BBC Introducing, The Face, SXSW, LUSH with special events at Aviva Studios, Hallé St Peter’s, and a secret location.

Names and faces already signed up to appear include Rita Ora, Sarah Stennet, Michael Adex (NQ – manager of Manchester’s Aitch), Keith Harris OBE, Tom Gray (Ivers Academy, Broken Record), Grammy nominee Poppy, Dan Chalmers (YouTube), Sheema Siddiqi (TikTok) and DJ Paulette.

The event can also count key regional political figures among its supporters. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “It is truly wonderful to see the inaugural ‘Beyond the Music’ taking place finally with such a strong line-up in venues across the city. We are supporting it all the way and are confident that it will become a fixture in the city’s calendar.

“True to Manchester’s traditions, Beyond The Music is a cooperative endeavour which aims to give all players in the music industry an equal voice and equal say on the change it needs. By doing that, our aim is to strengthen one of Manchester’s, and Britain’s, most important exports.”

BTM co-founder Sarah Pearson added: “Already Beyond The Music seems to be working, we are delighted to have these globally recognised entertainment brands as our founding members. Andy Burnham and [Mcr City Council leader] Bev Craig’s support from Manchester is so much appreciated too. We are setting out to get people thinking, talking and finding new ways to future proof the incredible creative industries of which we are a part.

“Why stop there? We are learning that competitors can and will join forces when they identify a problem that can better be solved together than apart. That’s co-operation and we are a Co-operative.”

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