IAMKYAMI and Alfie Sky talk to NQ ahead of Art School Live performance
Today is the first day of the Art School Live.
The free event will be live-streamed between 6 and 9 pm today and tomorrow.
The event, hosted in the Manchester School of Art, will showcase musical talent from around Manchester.
Both discussed their connection to the north, their experience of the Manchester music scene, the challenges artists face, and their approach to finding success as professional music artists.
Originally from upstate New York, Kyami moved to the UK to study in Liverpool.
After completing an artist development programme at LIMF Academy and performing around Liverpool, Ky decided to move to Manchester.
She says that the music scene here is much more diverse.
“I wanted to be more challenged,” she said.
“I wanted to come to somewhere I knew was going to be better for my style of music and I could potentially introduce a new genre into my music.
“When I was in Liverpool I was really stuck into doing R&B and neo-soul, but that’s not the sound I've been making.
Kyami said that when she was growing up she listened to all types of music, from rap to classical.
She describes her type of music as indie R&B pop music.
One of the biggest challenges for her was having to start from scratch in the UK music industry.
“Trying to prove to people that I could do what I said I could do was tough since I didn't have any credentials at the time,” she said.
“I had to ask people to believe and trust me when I said I could do things.
Kyami also pointed to the challenges of being a woman in the music industry.
She said: “All the men I work with are all very lovely, but I have had some negative experiences with men that I’ve never had with women.
“I think less than 6 or 7 % of producers in the music industry are women.
Being solely responsible for marketing, PR, funding and social media is also very challenging.
“I'd say the majority of it is doing business rather than making music,” she said.
“All the opportunities I've gotten are because I email people loads-- I'm on the radar because I'm in their mailbox.
“People don't see how many hours it is of me sitting behind the computer replying to emails.
Ky said that over lockdown she enrolled in a business course.
“I think of myself as a business, and it was a question of how do I take a business course and apply that to my artistry as well.
“It's one thing to be an artist, and another to be an artist and have a career as an artist.
"I've been in quite a few campaigns doing modelling for people. The photo might be based on me being an artist, but the way I'm getting paid isn't about me making music in that scenario.
“People like Cardi B just straight up says I'm here to make money, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
“Not everyone needs to have a super touching story.
“When you think about it, back in the day, all of the music we liked was all put out and controlled by marketers-- so it's going to look that way.
Ky was not sure exactly what the next few years have in store.
“In five years time, I want to be doing more of the creative stuff.
“I'd love to write songs for other people; I love cartoons; designing clothes.
“It's about making money but also making enough money for things that will make me feel fulfilled.”
Kyami is performing today at 20:15.
Watch the live stream here.
Alfie’s career started at 14 at an open mic night at Bay Horse Tavern in Northern Quarter.
Unlike Ky, Alfie is from Manchester and has lived here her whole life.
Alfie describes her music as glitchy electro-pop.
“I picked up the music thing out of boredom, really,” Alfie told me.
“I was quite an angsty teenager and I just needed to exude energy.”
Alfie admits that, having lived in Manchester her whole life, she can sometimes take the music scene for granted.
“There's something for everyone here.
“There’s an emphasis on indie guitar rock in Manchester, but obviously there are all sorts of scenes and subcultures.
Like Ky, Alfie says she made the most of lockdown.
“I had loads of time to experiment with no regard for outcome,” she told me.
“I definitely learnt loads about production and honed all the nerdy tech side of engineering.
“When I was playing live before lockdown I didn't know how to put on a performance.
“The situation with the pandemic has been hard but I've honed the technical and creative side of it.”
Alfie stressed the importance of opportunities to get out and perform in the Covid age.
“Art School Live is massive.”
“I really enjoy the format of a live stream. It's a great chance to experiment and maybe do things you would have done otherwise.
“You can make things really interesting and that’s why I'm really excited for Art School Live
“The collaborations we can do with visual artists should be really exciting.”
Alfie agreed that being entrepreneurial is essential to be successful as a professional artist.
But she also pointed out that you can be creative within the entrepreneurial sphere.
“The line is quite blurred for me between creative mode and marketing entrepreneurial stuff.
“I try to make the marketing part of my artistic endeavours.
“Not being in a band, I'm in charge of everything-- Alfie Sky is just me, so that makes it easier to organise.”
Alfie pointed to streaming platforms and lack of representation as the main challenges to artists.
“My problem with big streaming platforms is that there are quite nasty huge companies and there's all sorts of things they’re rolling out.
“Any pay to win service is a real problem.
“In terms of representation I think it's improving very gradually, but I think people should make an active effort to make sure things are inclusive.
"I feel really bad for women in rock music.
"Electric music is a bit more accepting, but the straight rock is a bit closed-off scene.
Alfie is confident that she will continue to grow as an artist.
“Ive seen a fair bit of growth in the past year despite not being able to get out to do gigs.
“My approach has become more focused and my taste has developed.
“I think I'm on a good track.”
Alfie is performing tomorrow at 6 pm.