How to educate yourself in the business of music

Navigating your way around the business of music is no mean feat. It’s not unheard of for musicians popular enough to play 1,500-capacity venues to rely on external employment to earn a living wage, which is why having a working knowledge of frigid but fundamental topics such as royalties, merch and self-promotion have rarely been more critical.

Those seeking employment within the industry in an off-stage capacity face occupational hazards too – unpaid internships are often a necessary evil promising experience and exploitation in equal measure. Education is power, though, and there are several highly useful events in the Scottish music calendar which aim to get you clued up.

BBC Introducing Musicians' Masterclass

The BBC Introducing Musicians’ Masterclass takes place on March 21, giving new artists the chance to get an understanding of behind-the-scenes aspects of the music scene as well as receive tips on recording, performing and writing. For the past two years it has been held in London, but for its third year it goes UK-wide, with the Glasgow leg being hosted at Pacific Quay. Although the event is invite-only, the sessions will be streamed live, as they were in 2012.

Thursday, March 21
11am Zane Lowe in conversation
1pm Ally McCrae and Jen Long: Mastering online: Panel on how artists can maximise their profile with the social media tools at their disposal, featuring guests Laura May-Coope (Radio 1 social media producer) and Cath Hurley (Charm Factory)
2.30pm Huw Stephens: Your say: Session led by the results of the BBC Introducing survey aimed at discovering what life is like for unsigned musicians in 2013, with speakers Nigel Harding (Radio 1 music policy executive), Geoff Ellis (DF Concerts, T in the Park) and DJ Jackmaster

Perth Music Expo

A welcome new player is Perth Music Expo, a free networking conference which takes place at Perth College on March 28-29 with a range of panel discussions and live music. With an eclectic selection of speakers lined up their insights are guaranteed to fascinate. To attend the event you must register as places are limited.

Thursday, March 28
Making money making music: David Scott (The Pearlfishers), Rod Jones (Idlewild) and Ian MacKinnon (Selective Service) discuss how to carve a career today’s music industry
Keynote speaker: Ronnie Gurr, former V2 A&R credited with signing Stereophonics
Live: Conquering Animal Sound + Copper Lungs + The Age
Friday, March 29
Live music in Scotland: Andy Dunlop (Twin Atlantic tour manager), Steve Robertson (Inverness Ironworks and Belladrum) and Stephen Hume (Stirling Tolbooth) discuss the live music industry in Scotland
Employability in the music industry: Jim Gellatly (DJ and columnist), Louise Henderson (No Half Measures) and Sheena McDonald (Musicians’ Union) discuss the relevant skills required to gain employment in the music industry
Live: Young Aviators + Bear Arms + Tailors

Wide Days

Wide Days, which is hosted from Edinburgh University’s Teviot Row House on April 10-11, is a convention which seeks to eliminate the jargon of commerce and provide honest, informed clarity for its audience through seminars and showcase gigs. That may sound slightly daunting but organisers of the two-day event eschew formality by approaching subject matters with an off-the-cuff ease. Running for the fourth consecutive year, its popularity is testament to its ability to nurture understanding in music business, while the success of artists such as Rachel Sermanni and PAWS highlight the importance of Wide Days as a platform for new music. Register for free tickets for the live showcases and/or order a delegate pass for the seminars (enter the promotional code widepopcop before March 31 to receive a £5 discount).

Wednesday, April 10 & Thursday, April 11
The role of indie promoters: Panel featuring Hannah Currie (MILK, LAID) explores the role of the promoter and their contribution to wider music realm
The fine art of publishing: Seeking to identify what makes a good publisher and how to develop this
Singing from a different song sheet: Dave Hook (Stanley Odd), Findlay Napier and Cathie Rae discuss how artists from diverse musical backgrounds  can help each other
A&R you brave enough: Taste-makers listen to music submitted by attendees and provide an appraisal
Wide initiation with PPL: Get an introduction to PPL and pose that music business question you’ve always been afraid to ask
Selling music online: Representatives from EmuBands, Scotland’s leading digital music distribution company, demonstrate how to prepare an online release and maximise its impact
Online toolbox: Whether managing mailing lists, releasing music or selling tickets, there is an online platform offering a solution. Scott Cohen (The Orchard) looks at the essential services and what they offer
Getting the picture: What makes a good press shot and where do so many artists, events and labels go wrong? Jannica Honey and Euan Robertson provide a step-by-step guide for providing suitable pictures and avoiding mistakes
Registering with collection societies: Jamie Gilmour (We Were Promised Jetpacks manager) talks through everything you need to know about working with PRS, PPL and MCPS
The negotiation: Cut through the legal jargon in this mock contract negotiation with the Musicians’ Union. Topics covered will include publishing, synchronisation and composition, as well as aspects of a record deal
Q&A: Donald Macleod – the man behind promoters CPL, the Tartan Clef Awards and owner of Glasgow venues The Cathouse and The Garage
Thursday, April 11
Live: Siobhan Wilson + Washington Irving (Pleasance Theatre); Fatherson + Fat Goth + Roman Nose (Electric Circus); Garden Of Elks + Saint Max & The Fanatics (Sneaky Pete’s)


goNORTH takes elements from all of the aforementioned with their annual creative industries festival in Inverness. The schedule for this year – its 13th – has not been announced yet, but expect panels and workshops on June 5-6. As well as music, the festival also delves into the world of broadcast, publishing, fashion and digital. And best of all, everything is free as long as you register in advance. Pivotal to goNORTH’s success are its evening showcase gigs, scattered across the city centre, with solo artists and bands invited to apply for one of 50 slots before April 1. The Pop Cop has helped choose the acts and organise one of the stages for the past two years.

Reloaded Info Sessions

Another relevant event that took place in February is the Reloaded Info Sessions, held in Stirling’s Tolbooth every year. Organisers there deliver talks and one-to-one advice workshops featuring individuals of differing areas of expertise, from gig promoters and DJs to journalists and bloggers. Keep an eye out for the next one in 2014.

Leave a Reply

Go Back