THE BLOG

Improving Music Education Can Be a High Note for Our Industry

05/11/2015 17:33 GMT | Updated 05/11/2016 09:12 GMT

In most industries, a combination of hard work and talent is a fairly reliable route to success. It's not like that in the music business unfortunately.

There are so many talented artists, with so much passion for their work, not getting the exposure they deserve.

I've lost count of the number of young musicians who have asked me what it might take to get their work heard by industry decision-makers, or a bigger audience of music fans.

There are plenty of people who believe they could be the next Tinie Tempah - and some of them are probably right - but it won't happen if they don't know how to turn their passion into a business and get their music heard.

There was no one to help us navigate the industry when I started out in the music business - instead we learned from our mistakes. That meant when I was offered a job in A&R at a major record company, I didn't even really know what that involved. As a DJ, I understood club promotions so took a job doing that.

With the variety of roles and revenue streams that exist in the music world, there's a great opportunity to educate future stars so that they and industry benefit in the long run.

A great songwriter who doesn't understand how to write a business plan, or has no grasp of contract law or copyright, will struggle on the journey to becoming a professional artist. We need upcoming musicians to be aware of what they are agreeing to or signing away.

In the digital age, we're also losing good people, who could've been game-changers in music and the creative industries, to tech start-ups. In part, this is fuelled by people saying the music industry is bombing. It isn't, in fact, music is as vibrant as it's ever been, but it is in a constant state of transition and it needs young people to be equipped with the tools to enter and strengthen the industry going forward.

So what can be done? The internet and computer software can be a force for good - increasing the opportunities for talented artists to produce their own tracks and music fans to discover exciting new artists.

The problem is, with all the noise out there, music needs to be curated, not by analytics but by lovers of music. That's where radio still has a major part to play. The stats show radio audiences are on the rise, with the public benefitting from people they trust directing them to the new tracks worthy of their attention.

However, the key game changer will be leading figures in the industry training and mentoring upcoming talent in all aspects of how the music world works.

At the moment, the £3.5bn contribution of the UK music industry is under threat from the lack of investment in human capital. While the global successes of Adele, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran makes the balance sheet look rosy for the short-term, the business will suffer in the long-term as the most creative young minds are gravitating towards the world of tech. What the industry really needs in order to fix the issue is training and mentoring for young talent in subjects that mirror the real breadth of diversity of roles within the world of music.

If I had had the opportunity to get a full grounding in what it takes to make it in the business earlier in my career, it would have helped me along the way in so many ways. The education side is vital, but so is understanding the industry and gaining insight into how it really works. I remember the first time I was offered a job at a record label, I ended up turning it down because it was too alien to me. For most, one shot is usually all you get, so it's vital we up-skill young people in the right way, and not just theoretical concepts in textbooks, but hands on guidance and insightful direction, so they can realistically forge a career in the industry.

To me, making your way through the door can only happen if you throw yourself into this world and get clued up about the business side of the industry as well as just having the raw talent and passion. This, as well as getting first-hand experience, is what will set the future generations of music leaders apart from the crowd when they first start out, and what will lead to the next Jamal Edwards or Daniel Ek in the industry within the UK.

Music can be unforgiving, especially when you're first starting out, but it can also be the most rewarding career imaginable - our industry can massively benefit from helping the stars of tomorrow realise this.

by Trevor Nelson, main patron at The Notting Hill Academy of Music, a music school with courses designed and delivered by award-winning professionals and top educationalists in the field. The Academy will be hosting its first Open Day on Saturday 28 November, with another on Sunday 29th November.

Find out more at: http://nottinghillacademyofmusic.com/