Category Archives: Uncategorized

Education

I’m excited to be going to Tallinn Music Week next week, and to be on a panel talking about how Music Business Education might shape up in the future. What might it look like? Who might be doing it? Where might they be doing it? I’m curious to discuss, with some real experts in this stuff, from DJs to Culture Ministers, Policy Advisors to University Directors.

Between say 2008 and 2012 or so, I racked up lots of Air Miles going to International Showcase events like this. Lots of those countries’ export budgets were not entirely wasted, as there were plenty of tours and first time trips/festival appearances that happened as a result of my being at them. Canadian, Norwegian, French, Belgian, Dutch, Aussie, Kiwi, Irish and loads more, came to these shores for the first time on account of the contacts made when I was out there on those trips.

This time however, I’m an expert educator. Am I? I don’t always feel so much. I do have some chops, and I have some thoughts on how it might all be going. Not only in Music Business Education but in the wider sector.

“Just being educated is not going to build the world we want to build. After all what’s the point of education? It is to help people contribute to society and to build a world that is better than this one” (Gilbert, 2018).

I expect to see more online teaching and learning, and in more innovative ways. I expect to see it being delivered to young people for free (up to degree level), with innovative ways of funding. Young people shouldn’t have to move to a big city, indeed should be encouraged to appreciate the value of the music scenes in their area (or start their own). Tech can do this. Great educators can support this. The industry can support this. Tech and great initiatives can make it easy for the industry to have a shaping hand in developing the talent pipeline.

Teachers will get better and better at teaching online, live or recorded (many places are pompously calling this “synchronous vs asynchronous” — it means the same as “live vs recorded”).

In the UK, there will be a larger international cohort of students from further afield than the EU than we have become used to. As a result of this I wonder whether we’ll be expected to tailor the approach in any way, to accommodate the expectations of the student-consumer. Progress made in student-centred but lecturer-led classroom teaching — might this be at peril due to consumer of cultural demands?

How do we best foster a culture of collaboration and a co-operative classroom in an online setting? I tried a number of approaches last year. Sometimes it worked well. Others less so. Sometimes you’re just simply at the mercy of a group that really struggles to gel.

Software can be a cheap and effective way to achieve differentiation — adaptive learning systems, AI, Machine Learning, all can contribute to the individual’s learning journey, and a bot can get to know an individual in a dispassionate, non-judgemental way a human cannot. Add this functionality to a top-drawer team of educators and the possibilities become very powerful indeed. David Perell makes the point that software allows scalability of the personal touch: the differentiation that proves so important to so many, which has hitherto only been available in a classroom.

Education in The Music Business can learn so much from Education in other sectors. Online can learn from fitness and Yoga teachers, therapists and coaches who have been doing this stuff for years. And vice versa.

In some of my work lately, we have been discussing how we make sure the student is as supported as possible, in an authentic and exciting online and real world environment, by a mixture of expert educators, great tech, and trail-blazing industry practitioners.

I reckon the whole sector is making great progress on this stuff. I’m looking forward to discussing how other folks at these top positions in Estonia are finding the progress.


We are ALL teachers (ALL THE TIME)

“If you put a violin in the hands of a needy child, that child will not pick up a gun” Jose Antonio Abreu

You’re a teacher. They’re teachers over there. He’s a teacher, they’re a teacher, she’s a TEACHER!

Choose yours:

1. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”

or

2. “If you want to learn something, teach it”

I know which one I prefer (2), and why. (I’m still sore remembering that (1) is from George Bernard Shaw however, here is an eloquent dissection). This view of the teaching profession is NOT NEW!

I’ve had both said to me in my time, but I hear the first one more often. It’s usually old blokes about my dad’s age. Sometimes they’re actually smart people and it’s a surprise to hear them say it. I had a version said recently on a Clubhouse call. This particular one ought to have known better, seeing as he’d boasted how he’d bent the rules and his contacts list to get his daughter into a fancy uni (which he was now slagging off the teachers at!).

I just finished marking a batch of Level 6 Undergraduate papers on Personal Development. (I’m currently in a vortex of marking which is common at this time of year for me and my colleagues). They were pretty good too. All Johari Windows and Pomodoro Techniques. Some really solid work.

One thing that caught my attention was the amount of reluctant mentions that “if it doesn’t work out I can try teaching”. (These are all would be vocalists, bassists, drummers, guitarists, music business types or event managers). Many did admit that they’d need to train to do it. Phew!

I have to confess I found it a little disappointing to see teaching being relegated to what someone might do if they don’t make a significant enough fist of what they “prefer” to do.

I know this feeling, and grappled with it for a time when I really started engaging seriously as an educator. I feel a bit daft for ever thinking that way, and now I’m very sensitive to noticing it in others. As if I’m noticing a past version of myself and I want to smack myself upside the head! There’s little worse than someone who doesn’t want to teach, as they see it somehow beneath them, finding themselves in front of a bunch of folks who want to learn. This is not setting up an optimal environment for learning to happen!

In music I notice a genre-specific attitude to this kind of thing: a Jazzer or a classical musician will always have had in their DNA, that a section of their professional life would include teaching. I have friends who really walk this line gracefully. Rockers and Popsters sometimes struggle more but I could also name some high quality operators who are equally comfortable playing/working at Wembley/Glastonbury as they are helping someone through some gnarly technique problem or theory. Of course it’s never so binary, but hopefully you get my drift.

We would do well to remember that whatever we do, we are setting an example somewhere, to someone.

Teaching them, in fact.

“Teacher. Know Thy Impact” John Hattie


Commitments

In response to what I see as humanity reaching newer lows with every passing day I’d like to make the following suggestions and comments. I can only make some changes and additions to my own contribution to improving what’s going on. Mine might not be the same as yours and they will respect PEACEFUL/NON VIOLENT action and will be CLEARLY CONTRIBUTING TO THE GENERAL GOOD OF SOCIETY.

I was in the Houses of Parliament earlier this week for the launch of an initiative to get rid of plastic pollution. It was a timely reminder (for me) of the value of that place. The people in it working tirelessly and respectfully of one another’s differences. It is an impressive place, despite the results of their work not often making me very happy lately (nor anyone else for that matter – what a fools errand that all is!). Nevertheless there was some action on tackling plastic pollution with the help of Sir David Attenborough and a good number of MPs and ministers, shadow ministers and so on. Felt very good to be there. THAT’s what politics is for.
It was a stark reminder of my belief that in the arts and culture worlds we should steer clear of getting too involved in that place. I’m thinking of those chummy drinks parties Blair had with the Britpoppers of the day being the beginning of a complacent chumocracy. There hasn’t been enough music or art or creators doing enough challenging. (Not in my sphere anyhow). They’re more keen to chum up to the politicians rather than hold them to account for what they are doing/not doing.
Anyhow, my feeling these days is that the no-deal might ought to be allowed to go ahead, and let those crazies have their days in the sun. I’ll support and start the movement to rejoin as soon as the day happens that we leave. I’ve no doubt that the young folks of the world will be all about unifying and collaborating, across borders, to the benefit of the world and its people, and uniting, not dividing people.
I’m making these commitments and I will need support from others to make checks on me, and my progress:
1: I will support peaceful protest and demonstration and try to get to more of these, not using my tired middle age and young child as a reason not to do this. We need to get out and have our voices heard.
2: The work I do as a promoter with The Local and The End Festival will include carrying Love Music Hate Racism merch and literature on the Merch Table at every show. We will be accepting donations on behalf of LMHR and we will be spreading a message of love and unity.
3: The work I do as a promoter with The Local and The End Festival will include monitoring our carbon footprint with Energy Revolution, and where possible making a contribution towards reducing our carbon footprint, encouraging bands and audiences to reduce theirs. We will try and encourage venues to reduce single use plastic use.
4: I will continue to use the platform I have as a tutor at Higher Education to spread a positive message about the transformative power of music and the arts, and how it can be used as a force for good!

Unconventionally full circle!

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Next week I get to be in Manchester at the 100th Unconvention. I am proud to say I was there for the first one, hosting a panel about live music and I’m doing that again next week!

There’s a video kicking about of that first one, and I’m in it (#proud). I am (we are ALL) way thinner than now (#lessproud) and what I do notice is how excited and driven we all are about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. This felt/feels just right.

In ten years since then, Spotify has come along, and I feel a bit like the word DIY has turned into something of a soundbite rather than an approach. And I feel a bit like the BIG machine has adopted a lot of the exciting bits of what we were doing and discussing. Such that there is a renewed need for a re-invigorated DIY/Independent approach and debate.

Given Brexit and Trump have we (as a music community but also creative arts industry) perhaps become a bit complacent? I feel very angry that ART came under fire in the discussions ahead of the referendum, and yet it is ever clearer to me that the ART I love and work for is catering perhaps for not all of the population, and many think it’s just not for them. So I feel like that is a kind of failure.

Why are we doing this? What is the ultimate purpose? Is it just to be financially successful, famous, be “the main man/woman”? Are we trying really to make a difference?

The video from Uncon1 shows a number of people who’ve gone on to do *really* well and also a number who’ve stopped, or changed what they do, and are now doing well with that.

There’s talk about downloads, not streaming. Some of the tech has dated but not the prevailing attitude. Then, it was about being DIY and Indie. What should it be about NOW? What about those who attend this 100th edition? Who will make a good fist of what they are doing now, change up and do something different, or stop altogether?

I’d like to try and push that along and suggest we ask WHY we’re DIY and Indie, and HOW we can take this good practise and the message to further spread the word that what we do, the artists we work with, the events we organise, are brilliant, for everyone, and to perhaps make a dent in that portion of the population we seem not to be reaching. We have to do more I think.

 

 


Skunk. Idiots and Loveliness. 6 Things I know after cycling 1000 Miles for charity.

I’ve almost (6 miles away) completed this epic challenge for Dementia Research. I signed up to cycle 1000 Miles and raise £400. I increased the money when I reached £400 quite quickly. I’m now just shy of the £1k as well. Brilliant and thanks so much to all those who have supported with kind words and donations along the way!

I have been on the pedals for such a large chunk of my life (in fact there are few times when I HAVEN’T had a bike) and in the last few months in particular. I can’t help but notice some THINGS about cycling in my area of London. THINGS that I’d like to SHARE.

  1. People smoke a tonne of skunk in rush hour traffic in London. Great fugs of the stuff coming out of cars and work vans (and really fancy motors too) at 7, 8am and 6, 7, 8pm in the thickest and densest traffic. If I were an eager cop I’d get a little stand and do spot checks (higher proportion of painters and decorators I reckon).
  2. Don’t knock on the back of the Audi A3 who’s just sitting in the bike lane pulling out onto Putney Hill and therefore made you almost stop and go round him. He *might* be on a first date with a young lass and feel the need to REALLY go at you. Imagine your best ridiculous Kurrupt FM type voice “Don’t touch the fucking car man”. Quite funny but also quite “could-have-had-a-knife-or-ANYTHING”
  3. London has some totally lovely – STUNNING – bits. Richmond, Hyde, Regents Parks of course. But also Morden Hall Park, Beverly Brooke, Reddington Lock. Loads of places. Best done first thing in the morning as sun is coming up. Saw deer loads of times on my way into work these last few months and I swear I had a much better day after that nature therapy!
  4. There are idiots on the roads and they are not all behind a wheel.
  5. Cyclists are mostly blokes and they ALL want to race you.
  6. Cycling tells you a good deal about yourself. Like you might not always be first to get there and your bike may not be worth like the deposit on a house, but you do get there, and in fine form to boot. You get better by doing it and you enjoy it when you can feel yourself improving.
    One thing I saw on someone’s teeshirt one time was:
    2 steps to happiness.
    1: Get on your bike
    2: Ride it.
    I agreed then and I agree (more) now.

Once again big thanks to all donations and raise a glass to my lovely dear departed mum Judith, with whom I do have the odd conversation while out on the pedals!


DIY

I started this post in Dec 2014. Just getting round to publishing it now for some reason…

I bought and have been enjoying the Don’t Make a Scene fanzine brought to us by Adventures Close to Home a few weeks ago, and have used this as a learning resource once already… will do that again, for sure. It has had me thinking even more than usual about the brilliant and the paradoxically less brilliant DIY scene. I want to share some of my own thoughts about it.

In 1999 or 2000 my band Billy Mahonie embarked upon our first UK tour which had been booked by an agent. We acquired these “necessary” accoutrements of a “successful” band each time very much by accident. (except the labels – these we knew we needed and wanted, and we sought those out very much on purpose. Then fell out with them. More on that later). When asked by Simon Williams when we were about to release our first single, “Who does your press” I simply replied “what?”. I knew not what “doing your press” meant. And same with getting an agent. We met with an infamous bloke who passed us onto his new junior, who went ahead and booked us a bunch of shows both here in UK and abroad. I’m still friends with him now. Got very much out of that game and now enjoys a different role in music. Still playing in bands a lot. Lovely bloke. (connected maybe?).

Anyhow. That first tour we hired a van and set off, and had a nice folder with a sheet for all the shows booked, with info and details about how and when to arrive, where, and at what time we would have soundchecks, dinner and so on. This was all very well organised and I loved it.

The thing was, for the show at the Packhorse in Leeds, there was no info. Just an address. No mention of fee. I was worried. It felt a little like we were going into the unknown. We WERE going into the unknown!

We got to the show and found the promoters – a lovely bunch going by the name Cops and Robbers, and quickly realised that there had been no cause for concern AT ALL. We were fed (a lovely home made curry at the promoter’s house, where we stayed) and paid more than all the other shows paid. The show was rammed. And we got to play with Polaris who were fucking awesome. And I still maintain some kinds of contact with various members. Notably Neil Turpin who is the one of the finest of drummers.

This may well be just an anecdote. I refer to the fact the my band Billy Mahonie were very much learning (or not) on the fly. I refer to the fact that Cops n Robbers, despite being awesome promoters and lovely people, hadn’t sent the information to the agent, meaning we didn’t have it, and there was some resultant anxiety – which may well have turned into some kind of sourness had things gone awry in some way.

But it was great, and they were great, and they still are I notice. Brilliant.

 


Our fault

I know that my friends in the EU and me will continue to enjoy continued strong relationships moving forward. Indeed, I’m vowing to make extra effort to develop our friendships all the deeper. I know that we don’t need a political union in order to do this.

I’m not tempted to call out anyone who I know voted to leave either. I am certainly not going to go and request they unfriend me, as I believe that to be a root cause of the problem. I’ve had some quite intelligent discussions with leavers. Of course I profoundly disagree and I’m utterly empty inside at this result.

Telling people to unfriend you is fucking childish: “Either-agree-with-me-or-fuckoff.”

There are people not like you, who like music, art, creativity and are perfectly rational, actual human beings. What is more, if you really do seek to bring folks to your side how are you going to reach them!? Isolationist elitist pricks!

Izzard, Festivals, Industry, The City, Music Industry, Academia be DAMNED. Clearly the “people” don’t give a hoot. In fact they’ve mobilised against this. They’ve mobilised against you. They’ve mobilised against me.

Those people in London looking to make their statement in a referendum for London to stay in EU: YOU ARE VERY MUCH THE PROBLEM!

The sickening thing when I write this is that voters have been convinced by stealth, by sinister players YET FURTHER away from their concerns. I’m hardly the voice of the working man (I feel a good distance further from it right now than ever) and my complacency and that of “London Northerners//Working Class” is shameful.

When watching the results come in last night it was crystal clear that it was poor areas versus rich. I found myself rooting for the big (rich) metropolitan areas. What the fuck!?

It’s my fault, and my fucking bourgeois complacency.


Work Abroad FFS

(this had been sat in my drafts for too long!)

In 1992/3 I spent a year living in Aix-en-Provence for college and upon returning would often get a hard time for starting too many anecdotes with “when I was living in France…”, like a pretentious student version of Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses. The truth is that it was a magical time and it still has a profound influence on who I am and how my life has been shaped.

Chris Waddle had just left Marseille and there was graffiti about the stadium demanding that “Chris! Revient!”. Kids were still walking about with that mullet hairdo of his. It made me very proud.

I taught English for a while after college and have all the understanding of what it feels like to get to a place for the first time and understand nothing.

Angered since the summer I have wanted to write about English players not playing abroad for a wee while. It’s been interesting watching folks go on and on about our national team but not enough noise is made about the fact that English players travel terribly at present.

There are a few thoughts which have come to mind… Last time England played in a semi final at the world cup there were 4 Rangers players and one Marseille player. The best they’ve done for yonks.

Euro 96 and Ince was at Inter and Gazza at Rangers.

Not massive differences to the 2014 squad which had one Celtic player (keeper Fraser Forster).

Same when Lineker was at Barca, Beckham at Madrid and so on…

Alan Shearer recently admitted in some TV show that he would probably have been improved by a move abroad. Ashley Cole has come out saying that English players are too afraid to go abroad. I think he’s right,. But it’s sweet coming from him, nipping over to Rome in the twilight of his career.

I was so disappointed when Campbell went to Arsenal instead of to a big EU club. (And he goes on like he’s a big wordly bloke too!)

When Wilshire is touted as having the possibility of a move to Juve, you just *know* that he’s not going to go.

Since living in France (did I tell you I’ve spent some time there?) I am a subscriber to l’Equipe – their sporting magazine. It’s so impressive how supportive they are, of their exports. They’ve a weekly roundup of who’s done well in the English, Spanish, or Italian leagues. They’re rightly very proud of how well their lads do, around the place. And look how well their national team does. Think of Germany, Holland, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Spain. And think of where a good % of their players play. ABROAD.


Reading, and not. And Stress. And writing from beyond the grave.

I just finished You Shall Know Our Velocity and it’s the second of Dave Eggers‘ books I have read in which the narrator speaks from the grave. Ok the first time it was a dog and a short story, but this time the narrator himself. I was surprised you didn’t get to read about how he does die but it made for a weird feeling of expectation when reading the book.
I wondered if I’d read any other dead folks narratives and I remember just one (again a short) – in Julian Barnes ‘History of the World in 10.5 chapters‘. This time involving loads of cooked breakfast in bed.
The above are not the reasons I am writing. It’s something to share I reckon, to have finished a piece of fiction. For me at least.
In times when I am particularly stressed or anxious about something (usually work) I generally cannot read fiction. I struggle reading at all but factual stuff is by and large easier to read than anything creating a world of it’s own.
I spoke to some folks recently about this and they had their own stuff they couldn’t do when stressed. Theirs was reading anything, listening to BBC Radio “Particularly Radio 4 and Steve godawful Lamacq” and another was “I totally stop taking in the outside world. World shrinks to the room that I’m in..” Funny what stress can do to you right?
I get advised often enough to breathe very deeply and through my nose if possible. This helps a great deal to alleviate stress and anxiety. And it’s dead simple. Do it.
Then take a big deep breath and open up a book.

Can’t be arsed

I’ve had two quite connected emails today one from an artist another from an industry person.

Artist says please don’t remove me from the bill, because in spite of not mentioning the 6-weeks confirmed show on my website I have bought a train ticket and I can start to promote now less than a week before the show. And in any case, I promote events myself and would never expect the artist to do the promoting for me.

Industry person says the argument that PAY TO PLAY PROMOTERS ARE COMPLETE CUNTS doesn’t totally stack up and that given they’re the bank, holding the risk, what’s so bad about promoters trying to protect themselves in the face of a tide of lazy bands who promise 30 mates and bring nobody.

There’s a lot of grey between the two arguments. And to start from either position is wrong.

One thing is certain: when you’re doing a show and you check the acts websites and the show isn’t mentioned, it’s just completely soul destroying. This process could be got through far quicker by just handing out some money to some acts, and not actually doing the “event” part.

Christ, my band used to make our own flyers and posters on top of what the promoters did, and hit the promo *hard*.