I was keen to see how the things had progressed since the events launch and soon realised that I had only scratched the surface of the real situation in the region on my first visit. Day 1 started with a panel discussing issues of copyright and royalties and there were translators so everyone could understand what was going on, which was fantastic. The discussion was attended by the Deputy Minister of Culture and Bulgaria's collection agency Profon. From the off it became clear that illegal downloading is a major problem that needs better regulation, but Profon argued that there was no mandate to collect money from downloads. To highlight the problem the panellists were asked to write down their favourite track to see if it could downloaded illegally before the end of the panel. Sure enough over half the tracks were found! Unbelievable!
There is only 1 legal download site in Bulgaria called MP3.bg and they are also targeted by the illegal downloaders. They told the panel that after 5 minutes of putting new tracks online, they are found on illegal sites and their sales stop. Music fans from South and Eastern Europe also have problems trying to use established download sites such as iTunes and Beatport as their credit cards are often not accepted, which does not encourage the use of legal sites.
After an explosive start the panels continued covering topics such as; The future of dance music in South East Europe, Music production and a demo feedback session headed up by Saw Recordings head honcho Hector Romero. There was also a market focus on The Netherlands with advice on how to break into international markets. Panellists included Richard Zijlma from the Amsterdam Dance Event and top Dutch DJ's Lucien Foort and Laidback Luke. The Dutch ministry of culture had also supported the event and helped fund a Dutch DJ night to showcase talent from the Netherlands. Let's hope the Bulgarian Ministry of culture gets behind their local artists so SeeMe can showcase up and coming talent at other international conference in the future.
After the panels everyone gathered in the Ballroom of the Central Military Club where we were treated to a live performance from local dance act Planet Magic Live and US house singers Keith Thompson, Darryl D'Bonneau and Georgie Porgie. I also got pulled on stage to dance with Georgie when he sang 'Life Goes On' for his big finale. Very embarrassing but good fun all the same! Keith and Darryl also joined in and trio brought the house down with their impromptu triple act.
After a quick bite to eat it at the restaurant next door, which became the unofficial meeting point for SeeMe participants, it was time to hit the official opening party at 4KM. Bush II Bush, Hector Romero and Satoshi Tomiie were playing in room 1 and there was also a local DJ playng called Vesselin who caught my attention. He played a mix of uplifting progressive and tribal house and is also resident at Sofia's top house club Chervillo.
Room 2 was hosted by GLAM from Amsterdam and showcased the best Dutch DJ's including Ryan Marciano, Sunnery James, Lucien Foort and Laidback Luke. Lucien played the final set of night and the crowd loved it so much that they wouldn't let him stop and kept cheering him to play one more. Lucien invited all the Dutch DJ's into the DJ Booth and they were all jumping up and down with the crowd. It was insane.
After partying hard on the first night and drinking too much of the local drink Rakya most of the participants found it difficult to make the 1:30pm start and the panels on day 2 started late. Discussions covered topics such as promotion, running a record label, digital music sales and a workshop with Dan Tait from Pioneer showcasing the DVJ and giving participants the opportunity to get hands on and have a go.
After the panels we went to the Ballroom to watch the finals of the Amnesia dance competition heats in the Military club ballroom. The prize was to dance at Amnesia for the summer season and competition was fierce, as were the dancers outfits!
Then it was off to 4KM for the second night of partying. Amnesia hosted room 1 recreating the clubs atmosphere for SE European clubbers to experience in Sofia. DJ's providing the authentic Ibiza vibes were Amnesia resident Les Schmitz, Benjamin Bates (Dance4Life) and DJ Acim (Selecteddjs.com) from Serbia. Room 2 was hosted by Fokused who treated us to Christian Cambas from Greece, Jimmy Van M and Philipp Jung from M.A.N.D.Y was the highlight of the night for me. Hybrid were also playing at the Escape, club but I didn't have time to check them out and I was having too much fun where I was.
After 2 days of networking and 2 nights of partying, it was hard to stay alert for the last day of panels. The discussions kicked off with how websites have changed the music business and and continued with music and brands, music conferences and festivals, the importance of radio and running a successful nightclub which featured representatives from the Ministry of Sound who gave advice on building a club brand and putting on parties around the world.
With the panels at an end it was time to let our hair down and get ready for the closing parties. We hadn't been lucky with the weather this year as it had rained every day and tonight was no exception. But it didn't dampen our spirits and I was looking forward to seeing Lottie and Fergie play. The Ministry room was decked out with banners and balloons which proved popular with the crowd who all wanted to take a piece of Ministry of Sound home with them. Dan Tait from Pioneer kicked off things with a DVJ set, followed by Chris Bailey from Ministry of Sound Radio. The highlight for me was Lottie who totally rocked it and won hoards of new fans in SE Europe. I have never seen a DJ surrounded by so many photographers before and the whole place went off when she dropped a remix of the Gossips 'standing in the way of control'.
In the other room Fergie hit the decks on Bulgaria for the first time. The crowd gave him a warm welcome and were constantly passing him flyers to sign as well as bottles of beer! Techno is hugely popular in Bulgaria and Fergie became their new hero before handing over the decks to Ade Fenton. Other DJ's playing that night were Robbie Riveria at Yalta and Wally Lopez at the PR Club and for the die hard there was an after party at Chervillo with local DJ's Steven, Vesselin and Vityaz.
I was really impressed with this year's event and believe it has helped cement the region's place on the world dance music map. There were a lot more industry professionals from other countries in SE Europe and I made a lot of great new contacts from Romania, Serbia, Greece and Hungary. The level of professionalism and hospitality shown by the SeeMe organisers was second to none and I am looking forward to coming back in 2008.
The scene in Bulgaria and SE Europe is really starting to explode and there are many great clubs and talented new DJ's and producers in the region. DJ Lion is one who has released tracks on Relaxator Records which is the first and only Bulgarian vinyl label and I'm sure it won't be long before others break through into the international music scene. So watch this space!
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