Last week we returned to London School of Sound for the second in of our summer courses, this time welcoming 14 budding music industry professionals for three days of presentations, discussions and Q&A sessions covering all facets of the music business from copyright and publishing through to management, marketing, live performance and revenue generation.

Our host, music industry stalwart and university lecturer Steve Melhuish, was joined by a varied selection of guest speakers from the likes of Defected Records, Dynamic Music, PPL, Elastic Artists, Bang On PR and more, to give a rounded insight into the workings of the contemporary music industry.

Here’s a run down of what took place…

Day one

Things kicked off with a comprehensive look at the development of the modern music industry – understanding record labels, publishing companies and collection societies, an explanation of copyright and ownership of music – and crucially – how money flows through the system.  Drawing on his vast experience, Steve was able to give an in-depth and nuanced analysis to ensure all students were starting from the same knowledge foundation as the course got underway.

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After that, the focus of Monday was all about building your brand as an artist.  So you’ve got great music, but how do you go about building your audience and getting your music heard by the right people, be it labels, media or managers?

First up was a brief talk on the importance of branding – understanding how visual identity should relate to the music, deciding who to use to create your brand identity, breaking down the creative process involved behind a branding project and a top five do’s and don’ts to apply to all design projects.

In the afternoon we welcomed two guest speakers who are pivotally important to growing an artist’s profile and fan base: artist manager James Stanson and music PR director Leanne Mison.  During this wide-reaching conversation the duo dissected how they go about formulating and executing campaigns, breaking out considerations including the story, the budget, the platforms, the territories and more along the way.  Steve then dug deeper into the finer workings of artist management and music PR, gleaning rare insight into the roles and activities of both Leanne and James.

Day one was rounded off with a Q&A session from Kiwi, a rising star of the UK house scene, who came down to give an artist’s perspective of the challenges in getting your music out there, building your brand, gathering a team and building a sustainable career as DJ and producer.  The beers flowed as he waxed lyrical about his rise from bedroom DJ at university to full-time artist and club promoter.

Day two

Friday saw a switch focus to the live arena.  To kick things off we looked at the world of live events, festivals and clubs from the perspective of the promoters who run large-scale events and the booking agents who match talent with them.

Steve was joined by Ben Start from Elastic Artists and James Benenson from Found Series for an engaging discussion all aspects of live music from booking strategy to contracts, cash flows to no-shows and everything in between.  For those who thought playing live or promoting shows was a way to make a quick buck then the session was a sobering experience as the challenges faced by artists to get gigs and the ultra-fine margins of promoters were laid bare.

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Friday afternoon was all about the work of AIM (Association of Independent Music), where Steve ran through the ways in which the organisation helps individuals and independents start, grow and maintain a business in the modern music industry.  From their favourable start-up loans to their robust network of staff, members and partners who provide advice and support, Steve shared some often under reported information that could really help industry entrepreneurs get on.

Day three

Having taken care of the live side of things, Steve turned the students’ attention to the recorded music realm and how it can be monetised.  From setting up a record label to getting tracks signed or doing remixes, through to writing music for TV, film and video games and even track licensing and sync – Steve covered the myriad of ways your recorded music can be exploited to ensure regular revenue streams.

The first session of the day focussed on record labels – how they work, how they’re run and how they make their money.  Steve was joined by Matt Brawn from Defected Records to talk about all aspects of running a label in the contemporary music business, including understanding the key revenue streams available (and how to tap into them), the types of deals labels cut with artists and distributors, the key considerations of cash flow and the nuts and bolts of bringing a release to market.

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Matt was also joined by James Vorres, who had previously been Head of A&R at Juno Records and now heads up his own music Distributor, Distinct, whilst running numerous record labels as well. James was able to give a unique insight into record distribution and retail and analyse the challenges and opportunities faced by big and small labels alike.  The overwhelming view? Making money from selling records is harder than ever but if you love the music it’s still one of the most rewarding things you can do in the industry.

In the afternoon the agenda switch to revenue streams beyond conventional record sales and streams as making library music and syncing tracks for TV and film came to the fore.  Steve was joined by Emily Richardson from Dynamic Music, one of the UK’s hottest production music libraries for an insight into how artists can monetise unsigned music or write bespoke material in career downtime to keep the cash flowing in.  Her background at Warner Chappel meant she had an unrivalled insight into the world of library music and her vast experience was keenly tapped by the budding artists in the room!

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Finally, after three fun-packed and knowledge-busting days it was time to kick back with a few beers for the certificate ceremony which gave the students a chance to network and plot their next steps in the industry.

If you’re interested in attending future editions of the Music Business Academy then you can register your interest here.