Music: Week 2

We are now onto our second week of the TICE music programme and just like last week, the group loved everything they were learning about. This week, they were introduced to some pretty important people with significant roles within the music industry.

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In the first session of week 2, the guys were introduced to Dr. Kitty Porteous – yes, that’s right, a doctor of music – who is the relationship manager for music, working for Arts Council England. Everyone listened inventively to what she had to say about her job and what it takes to receive funding from the council. Kitty told the group of artists the council has helped and how they could potentially receive funding through the most popular methods of national portfolio, strategic and grants for the arts funding. She spoke of grants that were probably more suited to our music beneficiaries with what works best for bands and individuals. Kitty also gave some advice to the lads on how to “craft your application”. She added, “It’s so hard, I’m not lying it is really tough”. The group felt much more comfortable in getting involved – questions such as “Is there a minimum amount you have to ask for?”. Kitty was ever so helpful and happily informed the group with her vast knowledge and expertise. She further explained the process of the funds and that artists could ask up to a whopping 90% to be paid for by the Art Council! I think talking to Kitty really gave the group an insight on the business side of the music industry, a topic that’s vitally important but generally never covered in much detail.

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In the other half of the first session the group had the absolute pleasure of being introduced to the creator of NARC magazine, Claire Dupree. She prioritises with local bands/artists and for the last three years many of them have been on the front cover. This seemed to encourage the group that they could also be featured in a magazine if they pursued their careers in music and got involved in more activities. NARC has been around for 10 years and Claire emphasised to the group that she loves her job and is extremely passionate about what goes into the magazine – but she’s also passionate about local bands. She exclaimed she’d “never get another job again”, that working for herself is the best thing she’s done and there’s a lot of flexibility when working for yourself. Everyone in the group were hanging onto her every word and there were even some questions at the end:

What do you look for in a band?

“To be able to be interesting and different. Be recognisable, get out of the city to different places, it creates a bit of a buzz.”

When do you cut off, there has to be a little time to just relax?

“I’ve got so much to do; you just get on with it. It is important to take time off and just relax.”

Claire also added that she is always happy to hear from local bands which was handy for the guys to know as some people in the group are in a band or wanting to pursue a career down that route! It was an absolute pleasure to meet both Kitty and Claire – their advice was a huge element in the student’s development this week.

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In the second session of week 2, the students were lucky enough to visit the mighty Blast Recording Studio based in Newcastle City Centre. Blast is one of the leading studios in the North and have previously worked with top artists including Arctic Monkeys, Thin Lizzy, Maximo Park and Lulu James (to name a few). Dean Thompson, a fantastic recording engineer based in the North East, stopped by to share his wisdom on all things technical. They were given insight on acoustic treatment of rooms, types of microphones and their appropriate settings, compression, EQ, equipment positioning…many key terms, it was impossible to count! What was particularly fascinating, was Dean’s ‘insider knowledge’ that he openly shared with these students – weird little tricks including placing the mic outside the room, with the drum inside, giving it that extra dimension and creatively playing with sound. These are things you simply wouldn’t find in a text book, making this Ladders experience that little bit more unique and special.

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To follow up their new batch of ‘studio lingo’, our Ladders students were introduced to the following four local bands:

Chasing The Grind – Hard Rock/Metal.

Shannon Powell & Afnan Iftikar – Vocal & Acoustic.

Kay Greyson – MC, Hip-Hop.

The Gods Of Small Things – Indie Rock.

The plan of action was for these bands to record their latest tracks/covers whilst the students are in behind the scenes to set up, record and mix the tracks with everything they have learned so far in mind. Their most important roles were to listen critically to the recordings and advise the band on various aspects of the recording process. It was certainly a lot of responsibility but through teamwork and support by both Sam and Dean, the evening ran smoothly.

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It was particularly great to have a variety of genres in the recording studio, allowing each Ladders student to apply their knowledge to their own speciality. Not only this but the experience gave everyone a much more rounded approach, looking beyond their specific tastes. Many questions were asked which suggests that these students were consistently alert in this whirlwind of an opportunity.

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Overall, the session summarised a very important point: there are no rights or wrongs in music. Not only performing and composing but also engineering can be approached in a creative way, leaving endless possibilities for the future of sound. This week has certainly been an eye-opener for these students, allowing them to interact and practically challenge themselves in one of the most influential yet hidden roles in the music industry. I look forward to seeing how they use their experience from this week and apply it to the Ladders course and beyond.