Sunday, 3 June 2012

'So, what do you do then?'

As anyone else does, I often get asked ‘So, what do you do then?’ by new people that I meet. The answer to this at the moment is a bit complicated and somewhat long winded but in short, I edit business to business magazines as a freelancer, I write freelance articles, largely about music but I also have a theatre review and a Norwegian curry feature under my belt, and I am a part-time MA Audio Production student at the University of Westminster.

The latter part of the equation seems to throw people; even good friends that I’ve tried to explain my studies to on various occasions. Audio production? So I make noises then? Well, doesn’t everybody (though perhaps not in polite company)?

I try to elaborate by saying that I’m studying how to produce sound for film, radio, animation, video games with some band recording and music making thrown in for good measure. This seems to suffice for some but I still get told, ‘I’m still not quite sure what you’re doing at uni,’ by people.

So, I have decided to break my extended blog silence to go through exactly what I’ve been doing over the past two years step-by-step, or at least deadline-by-deadline. This will then be followed up by a weekly blog report on how I’m faring with my major project – the deadline of which is just over two months away as I type this.

Assessment one: Group project – case study presentation on a music industry related business.

Deadline date(s): 29th November 2010.

It’s a shame that the MA in Audio Production started with a deadline for the least favourite/most-loathed module of the course, namely Entrepreneurship and Finance for Creative Industries. Why exactly this was, I will elaborate upon in a later blog, but for now, allow me to describe the assignment.

For this module, the MA Audio Production (MAAP) students shared classes with the Masters in Music Business Management (MMBM) students and lectures and seminars were carried out at one of the central London campuses (actually in Westminster rather than the bulk of the MAAP course which takes place in Northwick Park near Harrow).

This mix worked well for some and was disastrous for others but we were lucky to have been placed in a good quintet made up of three MAAP students, myself, Eric and Michael, and two MMBM students, Gordon and Joe. Everyone got on with each other, everyone attended the many meetings we set up to discuss the assignment and everybody pulled their weight.

The assignment itself was to analyse a music business of our choice. We initially went for Ninja Tune – an independent record label that I have a huge amount of respect for and a label that Joe had done an internship for.

Sadly, as they are a relatively small operation, they do not have to make their financial statements/accounts available to the public (something we really needed access to) so we were left with no choice but to opt for the glitzy clubland behemoth that is the Ministry of Sound (MoS).

We learned a lot from our research – most notably just how desperate MoS are to milk every last penny out of their brands having lent their name to airlines, radios, perfumes, clothes shops and tents. Oh, and they also run a club and release compilations and singles.

We interviewed an ex-employee who said the brand seemed to be heading for stormy waters and a look at the amount of hit singles and successful compilations they had churned out (or not) in the past year seemed to back this up.

Our take on this was that MoS needed to start getting more media-friendly, seen-and-heard artists as opposed to faceless keyboard thumpers on the label (people want the sky punching Guetta’s of the world nowadays, not the faceless techno bollocks of the past). This is something MoS has since done and they have lived to fight another day – although their flagship club in London still seems to be at risk of closure.

We all chipped in with creating the PowerPoint presentation, had a quick run-through it from start to finish on the day itself and then it came to the presentation proper and we seemed to get through it pretty well. No major screw-ups (unlike one of our classmates who arrived late, just as their group were in the middle of their presentation) and we all survived.

This may have been partially down to the fact that our fearsome, eye-rolling tutor (bad cop) wasn’t able to attend that day, leaving us with our other, more supportive tutor (good cop) and a friend of bad cop (deputy bad cop?) who were responsible for assessing us. This meant we didn’t have to hear the joyful words, “You have FAILED to mention…” and enabled us to sleep easy in our beds that night.

Not the most exciting start to life as an MA Audio Production student then, and it did little to allow me to brace myself for what was to come.

NEXT ASSESSMENT: Recording a band.

Originally posted on on 3 June 2012.