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Learning the Music Business

Learning the Music Business: Evaluating the ‘Vocational Turn’ in Music Industry Education aimed to improve understanding of the challenges faced in educating and training the music industry’s next generation of workers.

The project was supported by the university's Culture team as part of the 2014 Collaborative Innovation Scheme for Early Career Researchers. It is a collaboration between Toby Bennett, Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, and UK Music, the British music industry’s key policy group. 

musicacademy-gn At the same time that the UK’s commercial music industry has changed and restructured over a turbulent decade and a half, the provision of HE courses aimed specifically at preparing students for work in this sector has grown to become a core route of entry into the field. But academia and the music business are uneasy bedfellows and the terrain remains unsettled on both sides of the fence. 

Firstly, both universities and music professionals have had to come to terms with disruptive technologies and diminished or displaced income streams. Consequently, it is clear that constant change is now the norm, rather than the exception: learning does not end when we leave education. Secondly, as universities have increasingly welcomed students from different countries, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, so too have courses become more professionalised. As a result, routes into music industry careers have become more formalised than has historically been the case – but ensuring students are equipped with both practical knowledge and rigorous, critical, creative thinking is more challenging than ever.

UK Music launched their Skills Academy in July 2013 and the Music Academic Partnership in early 2015, both of which seek collaborative approaches to address exactly this situation.

In this pilot research project a range of in-depth interviews were held with industry professionals and educators to explore the experiences, tensions and hopes for the future that characterise this burgeoning collaborative learning network.

The intention was to lay the groundwork for recommendations of how to improve awareness and mutual communication across both sectors. 

UK Music described the report as 'fascinating and provocative' providing a ‘valuable evidence base‘ for cross-sectoral misalignments, making 'important reading for music industry and higher education leaders'.

Cathy Koester, Head of Research for UK Music said, 'Through Toby’s own knowledge and experience of the industry, and research, he really "got" the problem and so he was very tuned in and focused.'

Project team

This project was in collaboration with the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, UK Music.  It was supported by the university's Culture team.

Toby Bennett

Toby Bennett completed the project while a PhD researcher in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. His primary research focuses on the changing nature and understanding of work in the major record labels of the UK’s music industry. You can find out more about Toby here.

UK Music  

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UK Music is a campaigning and lobbying group, which represents every part of the recorded and live music industry. The UK Music Skills Academy is the first music specific training initiative launched in tandem with Creative & Cultural Skills.

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