Music Connections, the online music business hub for the music sector in Northern Ireland (NI), has partnered with Sound of Belfast to host an afternoon of discussion, debate and networking for the NI music community as part of the conference and festival. Taking place on Wednesday 17 November 2021 at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast, the sessions are free and open to anyone working in music or with a genuine interest in the development of the sector in NI.

The afternoon has been designed to focus on some of the core challenges and opportunities for both music creators (artists, songwriters and composers) as well as those working to support music creation, from managers and producers to journalists, broadcasters, promoters and health professionals.

The wide-ranging discussions will cover NI’s night time economy and culture, led by campaigning organisation Free The Night, and a session looking at how music creators can make the most of online platforms to monetise their music and fuel their career development. The afternoon will finish with a practical discussion on how the music sector in NI can better manage its mental health and where it can find support locally for any specialist physical performance injuries. Health professionals are especially welcome to attend this session.

The panels bring together a selection of high profile and experienced individuals from across the UK and Irish music industries including Iain Archer (2 x Ivor Novello award-winning and Grammy-nominated songwriter), Nadia Khan (recent recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award at Music Week’s Women in Music ceremony), Sacha Lord (Night Time Economy Advisor for Manchester and Founder of Parklife Festival and the Warehouse Project), and Sunil Sharpe (Irish DJ, Producer and Founder, Give Us The Night).

The full programme is set out below. To register for the free event, visit

12:15 – Music Connections opening address

Music Connections launched in July 2021 to bring the NI music sector the latest news, views and events from across the UK and Ireland. We’ll be kicking off our afternoon of panels with a short intro to Music Connections – so come along, settle in, and let’s connect. 

12:30 – PRS Funding Presentation

Join PRS Foundation’s Grants Coordinators Westley Holdsworth and Aja Garrod as they run you through the key PRS Foundation funding schemes. PRS Foundation will be offering a series of 1-2-1 sessions after their presentation.

13:00 – Lunch + networking

13:30 – Up All Night: how we can turbo-charge NI’s night time economy

The night time economy is any activity that occurs between 6pm and 6am and it’s the UK’s 5th largest industry, accounting for 8% of employment across restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs, live music venues and theatres. Rules on this part of the economy affect DJs, artists, promoters, musicians, bartenders, hospitality workers, security guards, sound & visual technicians, public transport workers, taxi drivers and frontline services who all use the night-time economy on a regular basis. But after 25 years, Northern Ireland’s opening times remain the most restrictive in the UK and Europe. Free The Night is on a mission to change this, to rebuild and grow the night time economy and creative industries post-pandemic.

  • Boyd Sleator – Free The Night
  • Ciara Power – Queen’s University Belfast
  • Holly Lester – Duality Trax
  • Sacha Lord – Night Time Economy Advisor, Manchester
  • Sunil Sharp – Founder, Give Us The Night, Ireland

14:45 – The online music economy: does it all add up?

These past 18 months have left artists unable to perform live, with the NI sector slowly but surely opening up again to full capacity audiences. Meanwhile, the debate around the economics of streaming has intensified, with campaigners taking their case directly to the UK Government to bring about change. The Inquiry explored current business models and how existing contracts and laws impact artists, record labels, streaming platforms, and consumers. But is it all bad? How else can music be monetised online? Join our panellists as they delve deep into the online economics of music, explore the opportunities available and share their experiences of what works and what doesn’t.

  • Graham Best – Senior Director of Platform Operations, Songtradr
  • Iain Archer – Two-time Ivor Novello award-winning and Grammy-nominated songwriter
  • Nadia Khan –Founder of Women in CTRL / AIM Chair

16:00 – Time out is not ‘time over’

The vast majority of musicians operate as freelance businesses, and while this can present opportunities, it also sadly means that when things don’t go to plan, pressures often mount up, leaving individuals overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn to for assistance. BAPAM, Help Musicians and Music Support are a network of charities that collaborate in Northern Ireland to support musicians’ mental and physical health in these circumstances. Hear how they are working together to ensure the music community in Northern Ireland receives support with physical health, mental wellbeing, and health and addiction issues.

  • Lynne Best – The Fourth Pillar / Music Connections
  • Dr Christine Hunter-Lavery – GP / British Association for Performing Arts Medicine
  • Keith Millar – Help Musicians NI
  • Lynne Maltman – Music Support
  • Owen McKenna – New Atlas