Eight Steps To Becoming A Sound Engineer

As a Partner at Dalton Koss HQ (DKHQ), I regularly visit educational institutions around the world to give Master Classes and lectures on careers in the audio, music and creative industries. Over the past 36 years I’ve earned my living as a live sound engineer, tour manager, studio engineer, record producer, artist manager, A&R consultant, rehearsal/recording studio owner, record label executive and more recently as an educator. Discussions with early career professionals always trigger the question, how did I get started on my 36-year career in the music industry? What was my personal journey? One of my most frequently asked questions is, “how do I become an audio engineer?” It’s an interesting question as there is no standard route into the profession. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see a mainstream advertisement in the jobs pages of a newspaper for an audio engineer. I maintain that working in the audio production/music industry is not a job or even a career, but it’s actually a lifestyle, which requires a huge amount of personal commitment. If you are looking for high pay, hedonism and fame then a career in music and audio production definitely won’t be for you.

The music industry does an incredibly clever smoke and mirrors trick where it tries to make itself appear revolutionary and anti-establishment. In reality the music industry is probably the world’s most compliant, conservative and least revolutionary art form on the planet. If you want to be creatively cutting edge and revolutionary then try fine art, fashion or architecture as an art form. To help re-align perceptions of both employers and students, I have organised a number of speed dating with industry events in the UK, USA and Australia. At these very popular events students meet music industry managers and owners and speak to them one-to-one. Results are always positive from both sides of the table. Students start to realize that the product may be music, but ultimately, they will experience a very similar working life to everyone else. The job description may include activities that might seem like social occasions e.g. going to shows, visits to the studio, riding on a tour bus, but being involved in these activities from a work perspective is very different from hanging out with your mates.

The music industry is first and foremost a business and a very serious financially focused one at that. Whether you end up working in the independent music world or for a major international music label, you will be expected to work very long hours in a highly competitive work environment to achieve measurable successes often under difficult circumstances. You may get to wear skinny black jeans and Converse to work, but this doesn’t mean that you are working any less then your friends who have to wear a suit and tie to work in their office jobs. There will be long hours, with the potential for advancement if you perform well, the potential for dismissal if you don’t, good bosses, bad bosses, troublesome clients, all the standard workplace related experiences will apply. There will definitely be some cool perks, but trust my 36 years of experience, they will be very few and far between and they’ll definitely be hard earned. Anyone who is hard working, creative, passionate and motivated will fair extremely well in a music industry career. Here is my personal eight-step guide to become an audio engineer: –

  1. Start working with sound equipment: Audio equipment has never been so cheap and much of it these days is software based. Get your hands on as much equipment as possible and practice your skills. If you believe Malcolm Gladwell’s theory (I do) then 10,000 hours is the magic number. Start clocking up those hours now. Audition microphones, recorders, effects, plug-ins; work out what they do and how they can be used creatively and correctively. Spend all day mucking about with audio equipment, discuss audio equipment with like-minded folk when you’re not mucking about with audio equipment and then when you go to sleep dream about audio equipment – it’s a lifestyle remember?
  2. Enrol on an appropriate audio degree:There are a plethora of different degree options out there so find one that suits you. The role of audio engineer is a diverse one e.g. live audio, post-production, programming, maintenance, design installation, broadcast, mastering, music production, etc. Go and visit the different institutions, that’s what open days are for, and see what they have to offer in terms of degrees/diplomas structure, equipment, exit qualification and consider teaching staff experience. Ideally the educational institution that you choose will have lots and lots of project work (remember that 10,000 hour rule?) so you’ll get plenty of hands on time. A degree in audio production on its own will not be enough to secure you some work so in addition go to a recording studio, rehearsal room, music venue or local theatre and try to make friends with the sound crew. Tell them you’re interested in what they do, and ask if you can hang out and watch them work. Find out about the job and then work out what you want to do and start doing it.
  3. Read some books:There are lots of books (I’m currently writing my third one), magazines and web sites out there. Read as much as possible about audio engineering, music production, mastering, equipment and everything connected to audio and music production. Audio engineering is an incredibly complex industry but the information is out there but it will require you to actively research the industry. By reading you’ll understand the history and context of the industry and that will make you a much better and more employable engineer. Become familiar with different kinds of sound equipment; do lots of research on the Internet, check out the websites of sound companies, studios, record companies, producers, etc.
  4. Learn to use different audio software: You probably already have a favourite piece of software, which you love to use. As a professional you need to be confident in using all of the tools available. Find out about the other software packages available that you don’t use including: ProTools, Cubase, Reason, Cakewalk, Sibelius, Digital Performer, Live, Ableton and Logic.Most of the manufacturers of these products have free demos available on the Internet. Go on the different forums and speak to the audio gurus about issues that you are having. Watch lots of Youtube videos that show you the shortcuts and hacks.
  5. Get familiar with lots of different types of music: As a music industry professional you’ll be working with music that may not be to your taste. It’s vital you critically listen to as many different types of music as possible. No one is asking you to like this music but you do need to understand the mechanics and how it operates. Spend lots of time critically analysing different musical genres that you wouldn’t normally listen too. This is probably the most single important skill you can train yourself to do. A good educational institution will have critical listening sessions as part of their program. When learning how to record, mix and edit music you should also know about the wide variety of music available in the world. Here are some of my learning principles:
    • Listen to different types of songs.
    • Analyse different types of sounds.
    • Try to catch each and every beat.
    • Think “how did they do that?
    • Learn to create your favourite music and even the music you don’t like.
  6. Be honest with your weaknesses and commit to improving yourself:
    After you have completed a project, look back and critically reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Critically discuss with your peers, employers, and teachers about what you have created and work out how you can make it better. Commit to being better next time by adjusting your workflow or being better prepared. Where necessary, make amends with the parties at the receiving end of your mistakes (e.g. musician, performers, a missed cue on stage or in the mix).
  7. Expose yourself to the ever-changing audio technologies:
    Chances are, there’s a better way or better tools to get your job done today than there were 6 months ago. However, whatever technology you are considering to use needs to be thought through in the context of what your project actually needs. Technology should always serve what you are trying to achieve in the project, not the other way around. Think of technology as the tools of the trade but do not become technology obsessed because it should be about the music and not the tech. If you apply a piece of tech to a project ask yourself is it helping the artists express whatever it is they are trying to express? If the answer is NO then you probably don’t need that side chained, frequency sensitive plug-in gate ducking the out-of-phase room microphone in the mix.
  8. Be entrepreneurial and become the CEO of your own brand. Just like Bonds sells upmarket underwear and JB HiFi sells electronics, you sell something that is unique — YOU.  This includes your identity, personality, work ethic, goals, aspirations, fears and much more. Think of yourself as a brand, as your own public relations, sales and marketing department all in one, and you need to be the CEO of that brand. In the creative industries, self employment and working on short term contracts is the norm so know how to sell the best version of yourself and position your image that will be favourable to all. Your digital footprint (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.) may be a huge factor in you getting that vital paying gig, so actively manage your brand.

Tim will be hosting the following music industry sessions over the next three weeks:

Tim Dalton is a Partner at Dalton Koss HQ with over 38 years of international experience as an audio engineer, record producer, record company executive, A&R consultant and educator. Originally from the UK, Tim has worked internationally with David Bowie, Sir Paul McCartney, Simple Minds, Elvis Costello, Faith No More, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Transvision Vamp, Primus, De La Soul, and Atomic Kitten.

THE ART OF A&R

One of my most regular and popular Master Classes that I deliver to early career music industry professionals is ‘The Art of A&R’. A&R spelt out is Artist and Repertoire. The A&R department of a record company is responsible for:

A. working with the talent who are already under contract, and:

B. finding new talent; that is seeking out new material and acts to sign in an attempt to develop a roster of artists for the company.

The A&R department’s staff are frequently involved in all aspects of an artists’ relationship with the record company, including the initial negotiations and the signing of the recording contract, the rehearsal arrangements and production, and promotion divisions of the record company. The training of new creative, entrepreneurial forward thinking and business savvy A&R managers is, I would argue, central to the very survival of the music industry.

In a time of crisis and collapsing sales of recorded music in the music industry, creative and entrepreneurial A&R workers are more important than ever. Only by continuing to create new products and value can record companies compete in this rapidly changing market. The reorientation of A&R instruments and strategies are critical to meeting the consumer’s needs in the present climate. The relationship between the product/artist and the fan has to become closer through the use of new marketing and production instruments and strategies. New tools like. for example, fan community contests, new gatekeeping functions, new financial opportunities and new technologies afford record labels the chance to rally against falling turnovers. Even if record companies concentrate on buying and selling copyrights and catalogues in the future, A&R departments will be important as a gatekeeper to maintain the company’s A&R guiding principles and policies. In other words, A&R managers and departments are there to ensure the quality of artists and content associated with the record company.

To be able to survive this crisis new challenges have to be conquered, new requirements fulfilled and new opportunities seized. As a result of collapsing sales in the music industry, recording labels have less capital at their disposal. Production and artist development budgets have been dramatically reduced. When I worked in A&R we had at our disposal lavish budgets. That said nothing stifles creativity more than wealth. As such, it has become harder for labels to invest in new artists and to develop their careers. However, the business of finding and recruiting new artists still operates as it has done for decades. There is no shortage of hard working, talented artists who want to become stars but it seems to have become harder for labels to earn money with the music they are producing, and as a result they have less budget for their development.

To withstand the drop in sales, new income streams have to be found to ensure the development of, and investment in, the careers of new artists. As long as record companies are developing, releasing and selling new artists, a turnover is guaranteed. A&R management not only involves the process of scouting for and finding new talent, but also acts as a gatekeeping tool allowing record labels to meet the company’s A&R guiding principles and policies, even if finished products are being signed to the label. Even if labels decide to concentrate more on buying, selling and monetizing copyrights rather than developing and producing new artists and/or products in the future, A&R management will remain one of the most important instruments. To be able to conquer the current crisis and to compete economically, record labels have to recalibrate the instruments of their A&R policy.

I recently gave my ‘The Art of A&R’ Master Class in Sydney, Australia at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) to a bunch of highly creative and motivated undergraduate students. During this session I realized that I was lacking some ‘takeaways’, so in order to re-address this gap, here are some possibilities and ideas:

  1. Closer artist/fan relationship. Major labels in particular still have a very impersonal system of information distribution for fans and end-consumers. It has become more and more important to show ‘the person behind the star’. by revealing to fans and consumers the real lives of their idols and stars with all their strengths, weaknesses and mistakes, The product can gain an emotional value This personalisation evokes compassion (a Dalton Koss HQ key word). The fan feels bound to the star, both emotionally and personally. By being transparent about the recording process through daily or weekly updates, pictures and videos of the work in the studio on the artist’s website, blog, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts it is possible to show the fan how a record is made. Fans learn to appreciate the intrinsic value of music by seeing the intensive work required before a final product can be bought in the store. Its time to fully exploit social media and turn it into a powerful marketing tool.
  2. Product development process. Fans could be actively engaged in the production and development process of artists via demo listening, remix contests and artwork contests. Demo listening
 would allow various versions of song demos that had been uploaded to the artist’s Bandcamp or SoundCloud accounts and fans could vote which songs should be produced as part of the next album. Modern young audiences are familiar with this format because of the numerous TV talent shows that exist. Remix contests are already a very popular means of creating a more personal relationship between artist and fan. Fans could download the audio stems of a song for free, or even for a fee, allowing them to create their own version of their favorite artist’s new song. By selling these audio stems another source of income could be generated. Their creators could upload these finished remixes and the fan community could vote for their favorites. Within the scope of a digital or physical release the most popular remixes could be sold guaranteeing a further income stream. For the re-release of the 1976 David Bowie single ‘Golden Years’ an iPhone app was created which allowed fans to create their own remix. The app was made available the same day that the EP ‘Golden Days’ was released, with remixes by well-known producers. For artwork contests
, the fan community could be asked to upload pictures or graphics they associate with the artist or with the artist’s song. After a vote by the fan community, the most popular ones are then included in the booklet artwork or even as the cover.
  3. Improvement of product policy. With the introduction of the compact disc (CD) from 1986 onwards, sonic quality reached a new high with the added bonus that CDs had more ‘space’ than a 12” vinyl record. To boost the income of successful singles, subsequent albums were often filled with inferior songs, of live or rehearsal versions, just to fill the empty space. Some of this material was of rather dubious quality and I’ve heard a number of my own live mixing board recordings end up as a ‘bonus track’ on records. It is important that the quality of the whole product is high and sadly this just hasn’t being the case. My main problem with digital dissemination is the poor sonic quality of MP3 and MP4 files; they sound awful. All the other creative media have moved into High Definition (HD) or Ultra High Definition (UHD) e.g. TV, Cinema, photography, yet music’s sonic quality has gone down the quantity over quality route. If music production moved into HD or UHD mode then the process of developing the product may take a little longer and be more costly but the product would be greatly improved and have more customer appeal. Who knows there may be an end consumer who is willing to pay a premium for an album of near perfect production and of a super high sonic quality?
  4. A&R competence of imprints. To cover a lot of different music genres, major labels are forced to depend on the A&R competence of their imprints. Through imprints, which specialise in non-mainstream and niche music markets, major labels get the opportunity to uncover underground trends earlier and to develop them. As such, imprints are talent pools, experimental research and development laboratories for their parent companies. Not only do they develop the performing talent they also develop A&R management talent too. For this reason niche imprints need fostering and developing.
  5. New strategies of market cultivation. According to record company marketing guru, Marcel Engh, A&R policy has to be the basic element of modern music marketing because it provides and produces the value of the value chain in the recording industry, the content is the strategic factor of success. As the developer of true value, A&R policy has to remain the foundation of record labels. A company’s turnover has to grow not only through artist copyright but also through comprehensive use of the 360-degree contract. Very controversial but worth considering?
  6. The use of new technologies as instruments of A&R policy. With the rapid growth of the Internet, it has become easy for unknown artists and musicians to share their music over the World Wide Web. With Web 2.0 artists can present themselves with their biography, pictures, videos and their music. The challenge of using the Internet as an A&R instrument to find new talent is the access to vast numbers of new and unknown artists. Fan communities can act as gatekeepers to show A&R departments which artists are likely to appeal to potential customers. Relevant indications include the number of plays of uploaded songs, the number of profile views and the comments written on an artist’s wall, all very useful metrics. The popularity and media presence of casting shows helps record labels increase their income. But developing long-term careers with the winners doesn’t appear to work all the time. It is hard for the artists to compete against the following season’s participants and often the winners of one year disappear from the screen when the next show begins.
  7. Public Subsidy. During the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, automobile companies had recourse to financial support in several countries in order to be able to survive and avoid bankruptcy. Keeping these unprofitable automobile companies afloat translated into decreased job loss and maintaining industry activity until post-financial crisis. It’s very controversial but maybe something similar could also occur in the music industry? In a postindustrial service based economy, the creative industries, in which the music industry resides, employs significant numbers of people. Increasingly, governments are recognising that public subsidy may be part of the business model for the the creative industries.

Through the reorientation of instruments and strategies of A&R policy, record companies can overcome the recent sales collapse. However, the industry needs fresh ideas and creativity when it comes to selling new products and artists. The days of sitting back and waiting for the big money to roll in are long gone. It has become difficult for record companies and artists to promote and sell their music. Only with good ideas, extraordinary marketing tools and instruments can companies maintain the consumer’s interest in buying music. Major labels, in particular, need to return to developing long-term artist careers instead of relying on one-hit wonders and TV talent shows, even if these do provide some short-term increases in turnover. Successful long-term careers are the key here; the re-imagination of past business models, such, as the three or five album deal is probably the solution. Sign talent with a view of developing and growing it along with its audience over a significant period of time. In order to do that we need new, creative, entrepreneurial and media savvy A&R managers and workers.

BEVERLY LUCAS IS A GLOBAL CEO

Beverly Lucas is the CEO for Knight Composites a global company designing and manufacturing high performance wheels for the cycling and triathlon industries. Originally hailing from Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, Beverly is the true definition of a multinational company leader. Like many CEOs of international companies, Beverly’s hard working pragmatism and dedication has led her to global success.

Beverly explains to Dalton Koss HQ the importance of being politely pushy and why it is easier to run a global company when you are living and/or working in a number of countries across different time zones.

I started racing when I was 9 for my local club, the Rutland Cycling Club, the oldest UK cycling club. Riding and racing your bike against your twin sister instils an independent spirit. My mum still tells me today that she knew when I was 4 years old that I would be the one in the family to fly the nest and go abroad to become an amazing leader. My mother’s support has been the one constant in my career for which I am continuously thankful.

I like to think that I have my mum’s dedication. She has always pushed and encouraged me. If I am honest, my leadership journey has been relatively easy. I never experienced sexism in the cycling industry; I have only been treated with the upmost respect. I think this is because I always maintain my ground, fighting for what I believe in. It stems from having determination, fire and passion and making it clear that I will not be trodden on. I have never let my gender get in the way of what I wanted to do.

My leadership journey started at Felt bicycles. In addition to having a strong work ethic, I had a brilliant boss by the name of Bill Duehring. He always steered me in the right direction and is the great-uncle I never had. Bill shaped my career, giving me advice to become the great leader I am today. If I can be half the person Bill is, then I would be happy. Bill encourages his staff to succeed. He was and still is my mentor.

When I moved to Bend, USA, in 2005 I became one of their first telecommuters. Bill had faith in me to continue my job no matter where I travelled. It takes a certain individual to work from home in a management role for another company. It requires work life balance. Felt was a real success story for me. I was one of the few women in the cycling industry in a management position and I’m proud to say I helped put Felt on the map with its first Tour De France team. It was wonderful to do this for Bill and he still thanks me today.

In 2007, I became pregnant with my second child Cameron and my husband and I decided to buy a bike shop in June/July of the same year. I just finished working for Felt, I was within three weeks of delivering and I was the volunteer coordinator for the Cascade Cycling Classic. Simultaneously, I was consulting for elite athletes, managing their contracts. It was at this time that Jim Pfeil came to me with (then) Edge Composites wheels and told me that the company needed some guidance. Jim called me and asked if I would consider speaking to Edge’s CEO about product globalisation.

I started to research Edge and I was impressed with their product considering they were a small company, but I uncovered that Edge didn’t own their own name or IP and a Chinese company was ripping them off, so I knew they needed help and I started to work for them from Bend. We then relaunched the company under a new name the following year at Eurobike and it was incredibly successful. I also took ENVE to their first wind tunnel tests using my connections at Felt. The results were less than spectacular and I recommended that they needed an aerodynamicist to assist their composites engineers with a much faster design.

At that time, the Australian cycling team, Fly Virgin Australia, was sponsored by, and using, ENVE composites. As an avid Formula 1 fan, it caught my attention whilst watching the Melbourne (Australia) Gran Prix back in 2009, that Jenson Button’s F1 team, then Brawn GP, were also sponsored by Branson’s outfit. I used this connection to basically blag my way into the Brawn GP compound in Brackley, UK, to discuss the potential of having Brawn GP aerodynamicists help with our wheel designs. An alliance with Brawn GP would have been massively expensive, but their Head of Trackside Aerodynamics told me about Simon Smart, who had an engineering background with Red Bull and was also a big cycling fan. At the time, he was already involved with a couple of brands in the bicycle frame industry and was rapidly becoming renowned as one of the top aerodynamicists. I had a beer with Simon and we got along like a couple of old mates.

We started working with Simon and before we knew it, we had the Smart ENVE System. It is about having the courage to believe in what you think is ground breaking and pursuing that thought. This courage sets you apart from others and is essential in being a leader. It was watching the Melbourne Grand Prix at 5am that I had the light bulb moment of gaining better aerodynamics via Formula 1 race engineering. It is about trusting your instincts. I went after the Brawn GP to work on wheel dynamics and a successful partnership was borne out of that. It was fun!

After working for ENVE and spending a couple of years – ironically – working in the bicycle industry in Melbourne, I was approached by Jim Pfeil and Kevin Quan and asked me to join their quest to create the world’s fastest bicycle wheel. I immediately responded with yes! Initially we didn’t have a brand name and tossed around some ideas. It was my partner Sean who approached me and suggested to call the brand Knight, my dad’s surname. Taking on this name was sentimental for me. My dad passed away when I was young. He introduced me to cycling, sharing his love and passion for the bike with me from a very young age.

Knight Composite 65 Custom Wheels
Knight Composite 65 Custom Wheels

I was asked to be the company’s CEO by our investors. This proposition took a little longer to agree to. Heading up a new company is a huge risk, especially as a parent with the responsibilities of two children. It takes a lot of courage and faith to move out of a regular job with a regular paycheque to owning your own manufacturing company. Unyielding hard work, devilishly long hours and very little sleep – it’s hardly a glamorous role and certainly not one for the faint hearted.

However, this risk has paid off with Knight Composites comprising of an amazing team of people creating fantastic results. Each person is 100% committed to our brand and products. The whole team works incredibly hard, but we all love what we do. Like any cycling team, to make it to the top you have to be prepared to sweat and work with your teammates; you’re in the race together. I’m incredibly proud of what we do, who we are, where we are going and how much fun we will have in getting there. Being the team leader – or CEO – is just the small print.

Knight Composite wheels are used extensively by  triathletes and cyclists.
Knight Composite wheels are used extensively by triathletes and cyclists.

Some key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership include:

  1. Dedication; a large quantity is needed.
  2. Courage; you have to have faith in your own ideas and courage to see them through.
  3. Face-to-face conversations and relationships; building trust, confidence and integrity across all your professional relationships is necessary to build a successful career.
  4. Confidence; it is important to believe in yourself and see any program of work through to the end.
  5. Humility; it is important to understand the perspective of others and what it is like in their shoes. I am lucky that I have worked at the global level with different cultures so I find it easier to get on with a diversity of people at multiple levels. I always love to help people, getting them where they need to be. I thrive on other people getting a kick out of what we do.
  6. Creativity; be creative in how you make things happen, identify the gaps and see the synergies.
  7. Build strong partnerships; each partner will bring something to the table. I have amazing staff here in Bend and you need to trust and empower your staff. I am not full of my own self-importance.

Face-to-face communication, whether on Skype or flying to meetings, is the best way to communicate. This is incredibly important in Europe and Asia, where discussions around a table are still far more respected than emails and phone calls. This human side to a working relationship is incredibly important, something that emails and phone calls cannot replace. Cycling is a business, but most of us are in this industry because we love it! There’s nothing better than getting to know your business partners in and out of the conference room by putting a ride together after work or going for a swift one down to the local pub! That’s the difference between business travel being a chore and actually becoming an opportunity to experience other ways of life. It was a lot easier to travel when I was young and single. It’s difficult to leave your kids when you have an important job to do but I have never missed Molly and Cam’s birthdays yet!. It is really hard to keep a work life balance of being a good mum and employee. Most of the time I think I am pretty good at this, but it does require hard work. 

I attribute a lot of my success to my mum. She taught me dedication and instilled a sense of just keep going; basically resilience and strength. I am fortunate to have amazing people in my life that I can count on. They provide a great support network and will be honest with me, calling me out when required. In essence, it’s actually easier to run a global company when you are experienced in living and/or working in a number of countries and across different time zones. I think you have to be prepared to put in the hard yards and make the effort to travel to other countries to really understand the mechanics of global business.

Azjer Airgas Pro Team with Knight Composite wheels at an international Pro Race.
Azjer Airgas Pro Team with Knight Composite wheels at an international Pro Race.

I don’t subscribe to the view that you can be a rounded leader by only ever working from one desk in one city – for example, how can you possibly head up global sales or global marketing if you only have a one-sided geographical and cultural perception of how industry and commerce work in other countries if you don’t actually live it? You can’t be parochial about business matters and equally you have to learn to empathise with the people you’re working with. I have such phenomenal friendships with past business partners because I spend time getting to know them.

My health and wellbeing is central to functioning across multiple time zones. I don’t do yoga because I can’t spend more than ten minutes in a group setting without laughing. My back yard comprises of 350miles of off-road trails. I don’t ride as much as I would like to, but I often choose to ride and run on my own, avoiding groups, so I can think and plan accordingly. My personal time is pretty haphazard anyhow and I can’t stick to a daily regime. The only constant in my life is school pick up and drop off. If I need to clear my head, I take a break and go for a run or ride.

I am totally dedicated to what I do. I am a research junkie. I am a tech geek. I am not a TV watcher as I don’t really have time for TV. This time researching keeps me ahead of the game and my competitors. I am lucky to have a lot of common sense and find the time to talk to a lot of people. I look at what other companies are doing. It is mind blowing as to what is out there. I love my job. I do have a sincere passion for what I do but I also care about what everyone is doing.

For those who want to create their own business or product within the cycling industry, my advice is to reach out to knowledgeable people even if you don’t know them. Ask people to help you. For the most part, 90% of people in the cycling industry are in it because they love it and they are happy to help you. Across any industry, there will be handfuls of people who don’t care and will not give you the time of day. You will quickly learn who they are. Don’t be afraid to reach out. LinkedIn has been an amazing tool for me that I use daily; ultimately you need to learn how to communicate yourself to the greater professional world. Don’t be afraid to be politely pushy.

To learn more about Beverly and Knight Composites, please click on the links below:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beverlylucas

Knight Composites: http://knightcomposites.com

Beverly looks after her health and wellbeing through a number of sporting activities including skiing.
Beverly looks after her health and wellbeing through a number of sporting activities including skiing.

EMMA GRELLA, KATE PALETHORPE and ANNA THOMSON ARE THE CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS BEHIND FONDO

Emma Grella, Kate Palethorpe and Anna Thomson are the co-founders of Fondo. What started as a creative passion project to address the current market gap for modern and trendy women’s cycling kit, has metamorphosed into an entrepreneurial business that supports women cycling at all levels.

Dalton Koss HQ talks to Emma, Kate and Anna about their desire to grow Fondo while simultaneously improving women’s cycling across the globe.

We all met while working for a food company. Anna and Emma were in the marketing team, while Kate was in product development. Someone came up with the idea to enter Around the Bay in a Day as a team. Coincidently the three of us had just started riding bikes. We entered the event and bonded over the riding learning curve, laughing at our first attempts of riding in cleats.

Our first cycling kit purchases consisted mostly of drab patterns and heavy text logos. As we continued riding we noticed there wasn’t any fashionable cycling kit for ladies that wasn’t pink. This is how Fondo started. Instead of lamenting the lack of fashionable, fun and sexy women’s kit we created a new line that moved beyond pink lycra and florals. We discussed the concept for about 12 months before we actually took the jump into manufacturing.

When we started Fondo it was almost by accident. The three of us were at a crossroad with our careers. We were, and still are, working full time day jobs while we manage and grow Fondo in our spare time. When we initiated Fondo it was as simple as lets just do this. We became creative entrepreneurs overnight. Moving from the conceptual design of the kit to manufacturing has been the hardest part in realising Fondo. A lot of time went into researching cycling clothes manufacturing. We found that many of the companies that manufactured cycling kit were not flexible, preferring to stick with their designs rather then meet the needs of a new customer. As Fondo, we wanted flexibility to design our own kit and not rely on other designs. That was the whole point of Fondo, to design something new, fresh and appealing to women across all age groups.

Anna, Kate and Emma in the stylish and sexy Fondo kit.
Anna, Kate and Emma in the stylish and sexy Fondo kit.

We eventually found a manufacturer that was willing to design our kit but unfortunately this company didn’t take us seriously. There was the usual discrimination that women’s cycling constitutes a small market. The manufacturer wanted to use their own branding and had different ideas as to what our product should look like. It was a difficult 6 months; we knew what we wanted but didn’t know how to get there.

Using our networks, we eventually found another manufacturer who was based in Italy, one who produced good quality products and had an excellent reputation. Our account manager was also a woman and she understood what Fondo was trying to do and supported us in realising our company. She was very patient and explained all the manufacturing nuances that one doesn’t know if you are not in the manufacturing industry. By being flexible, our designer was open to our ideas and most importantly provided us with an excellent chamois for our kit (a must for anyone who wants to be comfortable in the saddle!). All of the sudden our concept became tangible.

When we received our first prototype, we were very excited – it was amazing! Emma made a trip to Italy to oversee the manufacturing process. It was a wonderful experience and was very reassuring for Fondo being a small and new business. The owner of the company, a wonderful older Italian man, spoke to Emma during her visit. Keeping in mind that this company makes kit for pro peloton teams, the owner was highly supportive and encouraging of our work emphasising that we are the new and young generation filled with fantastic ideas that need to be realised. Receiving these words made us realise that Fondo was at the right manufacturing company.

Having a go is the key; we would not have done this as individuals. We had to put our own time and capital into Fondo. Since we started Fondo, we have received a lot of support. Fondo has also reciprocated by giving a lot of support to women’s cycling. To hear our customers and networks confirming how well Fondo is doing is really nice and satisfying. As we continue to ride we know what we like and want for Fondo. We listen to women and our customers and tailor our designs to address the issues they raise. Fondo injects fashion for women who are into cycling and are fashion conscience. Although Fondo took time to develop, we are doing what we love and delivering a product to fill this large gap in the market place.

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; just keep going. Don’t let your fears stop you.

Developing Fondo from a passion project into a successful business taught us some key lessons including:

  1. Communication: with three co-founders of Fondo we have to make decisions collaboratively. Everyone needs to be kept in the loop across all decision-making.
  2. Honesty, Integrity and Trust: You need to trust in each other and have the confidence to make decisions.
  3. Courage: move beyond your fear by just doing it. Two sayings we apply at Fondo are: “This time next year you wish you started today” and “It is always to beg for forgiveness then permission”.
  4. Inquisitive: always be inquisitive, ask questions. It is the only way to become knowledgeable.
  5. Respect: be respectful to everyone around you no matter if they are your customer, colleague, family member or friend.
  6. Passion: love what you do. Being passionate moves beyond fun as it gives you that edge. Fondo doesn’t feel like a job. It is fun. We never thought we would be those people who love their work.
Fondo supports women's riding at all levels, from sponsoring women's racing to hosting a monthly women ride in Melbourne, Australia.
Fondo supports women’s cycling at all levels, from sponsoring women’s racing to hosting a monthly women’s ride in Melbourne, Australia.

There have been a few challenges growing Fondo from a passion project into a business. When we started to design the Fondo kit, we wanted women to freely mix and match tops and bottoms, a bit like finding the right bikini for your body shape. However this makes ordering challenging – it can be difficult to know what sizes to order when we haven’t been in business long enough to experience any trends.

Overseas manufacturing is also a challenge. Waiting for designs and stock can be stressful at times, specifically where there is high customer demand and no product to fulfil that need. Additionally, we have to be mindful of northern hemisphere holidays, for example, the whole of Italy shuts down in August, meaning Fondo has to timetable and organise production and manufacturing to avoid being caught out. As mentioned earlier, finding a reputable and good quality manufacturer took time.

All of Fondo’s co-founders work full time in day jobs, so we need to be organised and ensure we meet at least once a week to make decisions and discuss our next steps. Fondo’s success has come from networking, both face-to-face and online. We have learnt to be open. There is always someone who has a connection and can assist. Never underestimate the power of a conversation. Fondo receives a lot of support from the local community especially from the many wonderful female cyclists. The women’s cycling market in Australia continues to grow. Fondo has opportunities in this market place and being a business led by women for women strengthens our brand in this space.

Two years ago, we joined a ride at Tour Down Under. Most of the women were left behind as the men sped off into the distance. We learnt a lot from this experience so when Fondo hosted a ride to Wilunga Hill for the 2015 Tour Down Under, we ensured no one was dropped whether they were female or male. Fondo’s customers came from across Australia, totalling around 75 riders. It was wonderful to meet our customers. There was a steep hill, but we all made it shouting and encouraging each other along the way. There is nothing more powerful then getting a group of women together to egg each other along. We all rejoiced and connected through the love of cycling.

Fondo kit is sexy and fun simultaneously and beautifully manufactured in Italy.
Fondo women’s cycling kit is simultaneously sexy and fun and beautifully manufactured in Italy.

Our next greatest challenge will be moving Fondo into the international market space. We have just launched a Fondo Ambassador program to advocate and promote our business internationally. Catching up once a week to discuss these initiatives is important for growing Fondo beyond our Australian shores. These weekly meetings form part of our business discipline; it is our Board Meeting. It can be risky going into business with your friends but we put our friendship before Fondo. We all have different skills sets. It helps to cover all aspects of the business. Emma is Fondo’s self appointed Chief Financial Officer, Kate is Fondo’s legal team and Anna leads and manages Fondo’s marketing, PR, networking and brand ambassador. We believe that women and physical activity will receive investment in the long term.

At Fondo, we all believe in looking after our health and wellbeing. We do a lot of cycling, practice yoga and meditation and support exercise in general. This keeps Fondo going. All of us need to have reflection time in a relaxing environment. Creating the second Fondo range was draining and hard. There was a lot of pressure, high expectation and we didn’t want to release something poor or second rate. We did a whole range and then scrapped it because we weren’t happy with the idea. We are releasing a new Fondo range very soon; we are incredibly excited.

We keep an eye on fashion trends and work with people who can help achieve Fondo’s vision. We stay true to Fondo’s philosophy and founding principles. There has been a conversation about designing a men’s range, based on feedback from male cyclists, but at the moment we really want to focus on women.

We need to create new visions for Fondo’s product line. What is next and how do we achieve this? If we don’t continue to create, we run the risk of doing the same thing. Once you are in a business there are always new opportunities. It is important for all of us to step out, carefully address each opportunity and then focus on delivering just one creative idea. It is important for us to keep having a go until one of the ideas is successful.

To learn more about Fondo and how to be part of their monthly women’s rides, please click on the links below:

Fondo website: http://fondo.com.au

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: FondoCycling

Fondo-4

Album Rescue Series: David Bowie ‘Tonight’ by Dr Ian Dixon

You might remember him from such extravagant masquerades as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke; from outrageous publicity stunts such as proclaiming himself Satanist (Sandford, 1996), born again Christian (Leigh, 2014), bisexual, Nazi apologist (Trynka, 2011), even an alien. You might recall his feminine make up, his Kabuki and Kansai suits, his “screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo” (Bowie, 1973), his double reinstatement of the Pierrot theme (1967, 1979) or just pacing before a bulldozer surrounded by clerics of varying denominations in Ashes to Ashes (1979). That’s right! The inimitable David Bowie.

In the late 1960s, Bowie’s band, The Konrads, played at weddings, was ignored and booed off stage then, in the 1980s, Bowie played to audiences in the hundreds of thousands for the Serious Moonlight tour. During the 1970s he was hounded by the press for sexual excess and conspicuous public perversion then succumbed to monogamous marital reclusiveness in the 1990s. He has played, sung, written, arranged and produced for mega-stars such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, supported lesser-knowns such as Mott the Hoople and generally championed bands globally for their prog rock adventuring. He’s terrified himself with the constant threat of ‘madness’ as exemplified by his beloved brother Terry’s schizophrenia. He’s slept with more people than you could poke a stick at: everyone from Marianne Faithful to Nico, Charlie Chaplin’s widow, Oona O’Neill Chaplin, transsexual Romy Haag and supermodels Winona Williams and his scintillating wife, Iman Bowie.

Above all, Bowie represents the triumph of high art in popular music having firmly wedged himself into the zeitgeist with iconic songs like Space Oddity, Starman, Rebel Rebel, Heroes, Fashion and Let’s Dance while exemplifying the very spirit of rock creativity and its synthesis with art and literature, referencing works from Sigmund Freud’s Interpretations of Dreams to George Orwell’s 1984. David Bowie acts on stage and screen (especially noted for his exemplary physical gyrations in the stage play version of The Elephant Man in New York, 1980). He writes music in irreconcilably contrasting styles, even movie soundtracks for Nicolas Roeg’s (see Big Audio Dynamite) confusing extravaganza: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and the downbeat realist drama Christiane F. in which he plays himself (as he did in far more capricious vein in Zoolander (2001)). More recently, Bowie performed in The Prestige (2006) alongside Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (Batman, Wolverine and Ziggy Stardust on the same screen! Now that’s a film worth seeing).

This is David Bowie: inexhaustible, inspired, insecure, admirable, charismatic, a man with impeccable manners and a reputation for rapidly writing songs that go from 0 to 100 in seconds. Fame (1976) was apparently penned with John Lennon in less than twenty minutes (Sandford, 1996)). In short, the man is a genius (antiquated modernist term though it be), which prompts the question: how did Tonight (1984) mess it all up so irrevocably?

Tonight, produced by Bowie, Hugh Padgham and Derek Bramble followed the unprecedented commercial and artistic success of Let’s Dance: his top selling album in which the production smarts of disco-funk king Nile Rodgers met with the sharp guitar excellence of Stevie Ray Vaughan (before the latter left the tour in a helicopter: disdainful that Bowie had matched his own outrageous egotism (Sandford, 1996)). Bowie’s 16th studio album, Tonight, reached number one on the British charts. Yet, despite its commercial success fans still whisper that the success was merely ‘off the back of’ Let’s Dance, which had skyrocketed Bowie’s fame.

Tonight is the album Bowie biographer Paul Trynka called, “a perfect storm of mediocrity”’ and “leaden white reggae” (2011, p. 408), and Melody Maker (1990) refers to as “rotten”’. The album relinquished Bowie’s former acumen at predicting the market and trailed the reggae wave by some years (Leigh, 2014). Tonight, the album after Bowie’s telepathic ability to predict the market, saw him leave behind the music-fashion predictions that had secured his place at the top of the pops – folk-rock, glam rock, theatrical grunge, techno and ambient, disco-funk, plastic soul and new romanticism. Tonight represented a loss of confidence on Bowie’s part and a switch to mainstream as a source of inspiration rather than underground music, which had serviced the master for over a decade. Where previous fare had included The Velvet Underground, Brian Eno’s ambient music and classical composers such as Gustav Holst, Hanns Eisler and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tonight relied on sources from The Police, Laurie Anderson and The Thompson Twins.

Relying heavily on the 1980s big drum sound, even the dance anthems of Let’s Dance succumb to the tragedy of falling behind, but Tonight brings it home and nails the coffin shut on a decade of unprecedented reinvention and primavera excellence in popular music. 1983 was the year that dedicated Bowie journalist Charles Shaar Murray, “David’s number one cheerleader in the British press”’ (Leigh, 2014, p. 153), stopped documenting his albums. Having said that, this album represents moments of impeccably slick production, excellence culminating in the seamless pop icon Blue Jean. Indeed, Tonight fairly defines the self-conscious interplay of tasteless narcissism and artistic pursuit (that’s a compliment).

However, a closer scrutiny of the individual tracks leaves us wanting for an album worthy of the Bowie oeuvre. The songs combine the would-be sublime with the loud ordinariness of a moribund fad. Tracks such as Loving the Alien mix orchestral strings in the background in a fashion already exhausted by E.L.O. and Bowie chooses to ride the “leaden white reggae” wave headfirst into oblivion (Trynka, 2011, p. 408).

On Tonight, lacklustre guitar riffs by the otherwise stupendous Carlos Alomar remain a sad indictment hung on Bowie. Tonight plummets his hard-won mega-stardom into the absolute mediocrity of an absolute beginner (neither was his reputation rescued by his subsequent album, Never Let me Down, which in Bowie’s own words was “apocryphally awful”: plastic emotion succumbing to pure schmaltz). Perhaps, on track two of Tonight, Bowie was offering himself advice by repeating the affirmation: ‘Don’t look down’, as the resurgence of his monolithic cocaine addiction propelled his personal paranoia to sheer megalomania.

Where are the incisive lyrics so prevalent in Scary Monsters? Where are the sublime melodies which saw seasoned musicians such as Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Marc Bolan consulting with a 23 year old Bowie in 1970 (Vizard, 1990)? Some say his cocaine addiction all but wiped out his former genius: a phenomenon Bowie likens to having Swiss cheese for a brain: far from decrying this fact, Bowie celebrated it when he appeared on Parkinson (2002) touted as the “Peter Pan of Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Bowie’s version of God Only Knows is not only embarrassing, it’s one of the most disingenuous tracks in rock history. The delivery, in the words of biographer Paul Trynka, is akin to a “pub singer punting for wedding and bar mitzvah jobs” (2011, p. 408). In this sad, crooner version of The Beach Boys’ 1966 classic, jaunty epistle, Bowie experiments with his ever deepening vocal delivery: a rumbling, bass register assisted by decades of chain smoking. This quality would be exploited to far greater effect on Heathen (1999) as he had done on Diamond Dogs (1974) and Let’s Dance (1982). On Tonight’s God Only Knows, however, everything from sentimental strings to turgid tempo, the ‘big sound’ rim-shot drums to the super-charged romanticism announces that this was simply a bad choice. With this version (and to his credit), Bowie’s tongue is firmly wedged in his cheek, but the delivery is so cringe-worthy nobody seems to have noticed the irony. The song begins as saccharine-schmaltz with a semi-shouted Sprechgesang quality weaved in for good measure then descends to pure bathos. With God Only Knows, Bowie outdoes the stain on Across the Universe: his previous highpoint of pure awful on Young Americans (1975) (when teaming up with John Lennon on the inspired Fame – an iconic track not even the pretentious 1990 remix could overshadow).

The eponymous track, Tonight, features steel drum and marimba rhythms (supplied by Canadian, Guy St. Onge) and played without the authenticity of Jamaican verve, even though Mr Bowie is ‘familiar’ with Jamaican culture (particularly Jamaican women) since his teen years in South London directly after the Second World War. There are, however, some exemplary backup vocals on this track, which also constitutes a beautiful synchronicity of timbre between himself and Tina Turner (the grandma and grandpa of rock together!).

After the haunting excellence of China Girl on Let’s Dance (even though Bowie ultimately despised his version), Bowie attempts again to resurrect some of the genius performance from Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot on Tonight’s next track Neighbourhood Threat. Regrettably, Bowie fails to achieve the ‘messed-up’ resignation of Iggy (even though Bowie had produced Pop’s album during a period of unmitigated creativity in Berlin: 1975-1977). Bowie himself declared the song ‘disastrous’, mentioning a plethora of different musical styles tried and failed in attempting to resurrect the song. To Bowie’s credit, however, this desperate anthem of street survival, Neighbourhood Threat, contains some perfect scintillation of bass guitar and drum combinations, notably, this time-tested pop music convention kicks the song off immediately. This effectively reinvents the song in a new genre, which is no small feat. In the past, my friends spent many a debauched night playing song-for-song: Bowie-Pop-Bowie and debate the merits of the differing versions (Iggy invariably won!) Neighbourhood Threat oscillates between glossy disco backing singers and three-chord guitar riffs including inspired contrapuntal movements between competing melodies as Bowie peels off: “Will you still place your bets, on the Neighbourhood Threat?

And so we arrive at Blue Jean: the listener sighs, ‘at last!’ as the album really takes off. This song represents all that could have been on this lively, but flawed album. The hit-parade anthem Blue Jean employs a characteristically remote vocal delivery, yet remains a capricious interpretation, sporting lyrics such as: “She’s got a turned up nose”. This is counterbalanced against an impassioned screaming of: “Sometimes I feel like. Dancing with Blue Jean. Somebody send me!” Senseless lyrics though they may be, the subtext of being out of your head in love with someone bad for you fairly drips from the vinyl (yes, vinyl, which dates-stamps this particular critic irrevocably). Indeed, even the deliberately fake, ‘cracked actor’ vocal rift finds its perfect place in this hit tune. The driving double-time beat of the verse leads seamlessly into the middle eight and chorus. The hit retains a genuine improvisational quality floating over the slick arrangement: the superb placement of shrieking, grunting saxophone riffs (played by the man himself) sets off the exemplary guitar solo played lovingly by long-time Bowie axeman, Carlos Alomar.

Wouldn’t it be sublime to leave this album at this point so we won’t even have to mention Tumble and Twirl, with its impulsive 6/8 time signature and gurgling, hyper-romantic Robert Smith-type vocal delivery? The song (and alas most of the album) reminds us of the tragedy of conscious postmodern caprice believing its own hype. Indeed, I Keep Forgetting (Leiber and Stoller’s reworking of Chuck Jackson’s original), and Dancing with the Big Boys makes the listener want to rip the album off the player and put Scary Monsters back on (lest we keep forget that Bowie was once the giant of progressive, edgy popular music). With a decisive rim-shot, the album ends: the big brass nightmare is over and we are left in a welcome abyss, where the absence of noise is somehow meaningful by comparison. Is the album too clean – did he not smoke enough ganja to render effective, dirty reggae (it was, after all, not his drug of choice (Leigh, 2014))? Was it all just a waste of space and vinyl and unsmoked ganja?

Yet I resist the urge to do just that and, as I cogitate the theme of this collection: Album Rescue Series, I must acknowledge that it is the very genius of Bowie’s former glory that raises the bar for the artistic and commercial success of such a venture. Ironically, this means he is judged harshly by fans and critics. Indeed, the album represents a clash between commercialism and artistry. On reflection, the advancement in engineering is exemplary; the sound is clean and seamless to the very edge of technological capacity in the 1980s. We must pay homage to Bowie for venturing even further into new terrain creating a synthesis of reggae and white cynicism, for maintaining a modicum of intelligence within the lyricism. In the notoriously shallow zeitgeist of the 1980s it stands out as experimental (within tight, commercial parameters) and colourful. Perhaps his old buddy Christian Bale should play this album during his scathing (ironic) indictment of 80s pop in American Psycho (2000).

Bowie has, and will always have, extensiveness and inclusiveness in his music – ever increasing range vocally, musically and inter-disciplinary influences: far from a mere follower of the market. We must acknowledge that the contemporaneous market had painted Bowie into a corner. The pressure to emulate the commercial success of Let’s Dance or the artistic excellence of Scary Monsters must have represented extraordinary insecurity for this mega-star. The music on Tonight is crisp, inventive, unique and (largely) unpredictable. Bowie is to be praised for continuing his experimentation with musical styles beyond mega-stardom. Thus, within David Bowie’s musical milieu, Tonight is an album definitely worth playing. Although other Bowie albums might be written off, there is, in Tonight: sweat behind the market positioning; pain behind the commercialism; excellence in the production; and sheer balls in the risk.

DBtonight_back

The Album Rescue Series (ARS) book will be launched on November 16th 2015 during Melbourne Music Week. The ARS book will feature 35 albums that the press and general public considered to be far from exemplary of a particular artist. This book rights those wrongs. The ARS book is a contributive piece of work by music academics and scholars, each of whom take a unique approach to rescuing an album. David Bowie ‘Tonight is written by Dr Ian Dixon, our first in a series of guest academics. Dr Ian Dixon is a well known Melbourne-based film and television director who is also one of the world’s most eminent David Bowie scholars. (Follow Dr Ian Dixon on Twitter @IanIandixon66)

Why Study For A Music Degree?

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius)

Over the last couple of months I’ve spoken at a number of careers fairs around Australia, where I’m described as a “music industry veteran”. This is actually quite an accurate description because over the last 36 years I’ve had a number of different international roles in the music industry ranging from stage hand, live sound engineer, studio engineer, record producer, tour manager, artist manager, entrepreneur,  music company owner and operator, A&R consultant and record company executive. As well as all this hands-on international industry experience I’ve spent a lot of time as an academic studying and teaching about the music industry. So I must be some kind of expert?

At these careers fairs I’ve really enjoyed talking to potential degree students and their parents. It’s an interesting conversation because there are two completely different narratives being discussed simultaneously. Firstly, there’s the conversation with the potential teenage student and secondly there’s the conversation with the accompanying parent(s). In most cases it’s the teenager that’s desperate to work in the music industry and it’s the parent putting on the brakes. The big problem here is that many parents would prefer their offspring to have a “real job”. A degree in any music industry subject e.g. audio production, performance, music business, etc. is probably going to be the second most expensive item bought during anyone’s life time, second only to property. At around +$40,000 (Aus) it’s a tough decision on how best to invest this money so early on in a career.

The music industry is a viable career option for many people, but only for those that are educated and trained to work in the industry. The modern music industry is a complex and multi-faceted operation with a need for a wide variety of skill-sets. For example, the Australian venue based live music industry entertains over 41 million patrons, contributes $1.21 billion to the national economy and employs almost 15,000 full time jobs (Music Victoria and City of Melbourne, Live Music Censure, 2012). On top of the live music venue-based industry there are other very vibrant sectors within the cultural industries such as audio production, events management, theatre, arts management, broadcasting management, content management and intellectual property management. As with any modern industry the correct education and training is vital if you want a career within these sectors. Various educational institutions provide high-quality, professional arts and entertainment education combined with training in an integrated, socially inclusive environment that allows for a diversity of voices and collaboration between individuals. Students should be encouraged to pursue excellence and innovation through creativity, critical reflection, individual endeavour, exploration and experimentation, unconstrained by style or genre and informed by scholarship and best practice. Any worthwhile educational institution should value its artistic and academic integrity, as well as its engagement with the entertainment industry to ensure currency of its programs. My advice would be to undertake some research and visit the institutions that appeal on open days. All their programs differ; as do their campuses and their staff.

Tim Dalton backstage and on stage with students at 5 Seconds of Summer.
Tim Dalton backstage and on stage with students and industry practioners learning about tour logistics, audio and lighting for 5 Seconds of Summer.

There are two educational routes that can be taken here. The traditional ‘sandstone’ universities and TAFEs where initially uptake was fairly slow but now a significant number of three-year degrees are on offer. The other route is via the plethora of private institutions. The private institutions tend to condense a degree into two years and are slightly more expensive than the traditional institutions. I’ve worked in both types of institutions and there are pros and cons to both. Whatever institution is chosen the teaching staff involved in the delivery of music industry degrees should ideally be a combination of industry practitioners, professional qualified educators and to a certain extent academics.

While traditional manufacturing industries in Australia and throughout the western world are in rapid decline, the music industry is a viable career choice. The job description may include activities that might seem like social occasions e.g. going to shows, visits to the studio, riding on a tour bus, but being involved in these activities from a work perspective is very different from hanging out with your mates. The music industry is first and foremost a business and a very serious financially focused one at that. Whether you end up working in the independent music world or for a major international music label, you will be expected to work long hours in a highly competitive work environment to achieve measurable successes often under difficult circumstances. You may get to wear skinny black jeans and Converse to work, but this doesn’t mean that you are working any less then your friends who have to wear a suit and tie to their office.

Music industry degrees, as we know them today, have only being available for the past 20 years. Prior to this, particularly in the UK, education in the music industry came indirectly from various art school degrees. This non-direct form of music industry education worked very well if we look at the evidence; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Clash, etc. Simon Frith in his 1988 book Art Into Pop tells the intriguing and culturally complex story of the art school influence on post-war British popular music. Art Into Pop tells the story of how artists went from life drawing classes to the recording studio and to the top of the charts all over the world. It’s a story of how rock and blues infected youth music with Bohemian dreams. The late 1970’s was a unique time when punk musicians emerged from graphic design, fine art courses and fashion departments to disrupt what were, by then, art-rock routines. I know because I was there. The other way into the music industry was by accident e.g. brother of drummer becomes drum tech etc. In the very early stage of the developing music industry this route was viable, but definitely not any more.

Tim Dalton teaching music students how to create fantastic mixes.
Tim Dalton teaching music students how to create fantastic mixes.

Much of my work is what I call ‘stakeholder engagement’, ‘knowledge brokering’ and ‘thought architecture’. This involves engaging in active dialogue with music industry employers and connecting them to the higher education institutions where I work. The industry tells me what type of people they want and I tell industry what types of people we are outputting. Ideally we meet in the middle somewhere. This can be difficult as it takes 2 to 3 years for institutions to educate a student. On top of this we need to be mindful that the students we are currently producing will be in the job pool until 2065 and onwards. With this type of time frame it’s virtually impossible to guess what skills will be needed in the music industry 30 or 40 years from now. What is known is that students that have developed skills such as: Learning to Learn (L2L), independent research and critical analysis, oral and written communication, time management and are creatively entrepreneurial will always be in demand. These are pretty much the skills that the music industry has always wanted and are the skills of those traditionally exiting from the art into pop route.

A number of employers are sceptical of degrees in this field and I’m often confronted by CEO’s telling me that they don’t have a degree and that they don’t see the need for them. This happened to me at one of Europe’s largest audio hire companies. The managing director told me that he thought the best route into the industry was through mentoring and working your way up through the ranks “just like we did”. I did point out to him that 90% of his employees had degrees and that while I had worked my way through the ranks I also had a good first degree and a number of postgraduate degrees. I made my point by walking around his very large warehouse with him pointing out the ex-students that I had taught. A degree is a starting point to an accelerated career in any given field.

The above-mentioned audio company starts all of their new employees on the bottom rung of the ladder, but their assent is much more rapid than those without degrees. I once popped into this same company after a Glastonbury festival to find all the ‘newbies’ in the car park with buckets of hot soapy water and sponges cleaning the mud off 100 metre long multi-cores. One ex-student made it clear to me his disdain for this type of job stating “I didn’t spend three years at university to end up doing this”. A few years later I met the same ex-student mixing front of house sound for an international mega star band playing at the local enormo-dome gig in Melbourne. I reminded him of how his BA Honours Audio Technology and his practical experience had landed him this top job. He rather bashfully agreed.

Music students jamming in a creative and supported music environment.
Music students jamming in a creative and supported music environment.

One issue confronting high school students contemplating undertaking a degree in the music industry is their perception of the music industry. Often this is solely grounded in media representations of the music industry and as such is an inaccurate one. The music industry does a clever smoke and mirrors trick where it tries to make itself appear all revolutionary and anti-establishment. In reality the music industry is probably the worlds most compliant, conservative and least revolutionary art form on the planet. If you want to be cutting edge and revolutionary then try fine art, fashion or architecture as an art form.

To help re-align perceptions of both employers and students, Dalton Koss HQ has organised a number speed dating events with industry in the UK and Australia. At these very popular events students get to meet music industry managers and owners and speak to them one-on-one. Results are always positive from both sides of the table. Students start to realize that the product may be music, but ultimately, they will experience a very similar working life to everyone else. They’ll have long hours, with the potential for advancement if they perform well, the potential for dismissal if you don’t, good bosses, bad bosses, troublesome clients, all the standard workplace related experiences. There will definitely be some cool perks, but trust my 36 years of experience when I state that they’ll definitely be earned. Anyone who is hard working, creative, passionate and motivated will fair very well in a music industry career.

Working in the music industry is not a job, it’s probably not a career, rather it’s a lifestyle and as such you can’t measure it with the standard metrics. Many of the young adults I meet at career fairs aren’t sure what they want to do. Indeed I’d be very skeptical of any 15 year old that has a clear life and career plan. If you are planning to spend/invest a heap of money on a degree then my advice would be “Do what you love and love what you do”. It doesn’t really matter if that degree doesn’t become your final career. Use the time to indulge your passion; it’s probably the only time in your life when you can do this. How many English literature students become famous poets? Not many but any degree is always going to open doors in the future. Over the course of your professional life that investment/spend will be repaid many times over.

Managing The Talent

I am not certain if the above title is misleading as it’s often disputed that you can’t actually manage talent. For approximately 30 years I have been involved in the management of talent, also defined as artist management, in one form or another. I have often been asked, “What do you actually do”? Good question. Ideally the management of talent should be career development planning. This can range from: sourcing new talent, developing material and pitching to record companies, publishers and booking agents. It can be likened to a good coach working with either a sporting team or an athlete. However, in the music business, this career development can often turn into fire fighting and damage limitation. Ex CBS head, Walter Yetnikoff, described the role of artist manager in his 2005 book Howling At The Moon as “A manager is a cross between a Rabbi, Priest, guru, banker, financial adviser, friend, psychotherapist, marriage guidance counsellor, sex counsellor and business partner”. In essence, there is no solid job description with a list of selection criteria for the role of artist manager. It is the number of skills that the manager has at their disposal and can be deployed at various stages of an artist’s career that hopefully, gets the right results and the job done. The hours are long; the work is hard, its underpaid and nobody ever says thank you.

Burning Tree outside the front door of my old company 'Tim Dalton Productions' in Hull, UK.
Burning Tree outside the front door of my old company ‘Tim Dalton Productions’ in Hull, UK.

The music industry is a volatile, dynamic and a rapidly changing area of business, that’s why we work in it right? As such the music business is not exempted from the repercussions of unplanned, uncalculated and unstructured activities. Therefore, as it is with every modern business, each manager needs to know her/his role and what is required to play that role. The role of the talent manager is now more than pitching to labels or simply supervising other elements that contribute to the artists’ success. What it is about is creating visibility and value (building equity and mind share) and developing revenue streams. Artist managers are now evolving into creative business development managers. Not quite the men in beige offices sat behind their spreadsheets, Venn diagrams and BCG quadrant charts but definitely getting there. This is a far cry from the trailblazers like Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin), Andrew Loog Oldham (Rolling Stones), Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols) Brian Epstein (The Beatles) or my personal role model Bernie Rhodes of The Clash.

In 1991, I solo managed my first band, Opik, a group of art students back in my hometown of Hull, UK. I met them the first week of starting a documentary film making degree in the university’s refectory when I shot my mouth off to them about my previous 14 years worth of exploits in the music industry. Within weeks we had inked a deal with major record company BMG’s imprint DeConstruction Records and became Kylie Minogue’s label mates. We bought two very cheap rundown Victorian houses and installed a recording studio across the attics with our advance. We lived, worked and breathed music and had our very own alternative bohemian lifestyle for the next few years; it was a total breeze, it didn’t feel like a job. There was a sense of community and collaboration, well we did live together. Due to our creative output and hard work we became one of the few bands on the label’s roster to actually recoup our advance and make a profit. We also made some serious kick ass music too.

On tour with Primus in Europe. We stopped at the top of the San Bernardino Pass enroute to Italy for a snowball fight.
On tour with Primus in Europe. We stopped at the top of the San Bernardino Pass enroute to Italy for a snowball fight.

At the opposite end of the spectrum I managed Finley Quaye, which consisted of some very hard work, lots of upset, sleepless nights, pain, suffering and where every single penny was well and truly earned. The metaphor I often employed at the time when speaking to record company colleagues was that it was like dragging a three legged elephant up Mount Everest in a blizzard with a broken piece of string, with no pants on while juggling.

I have this unproven theory that the greater the talent the more difficult it becomes to manage. Finley proves this theory. A man of immeasurable creative talent, good looks, a songwriter, performer, actor, painter, the list goes on, he was the complete artist. I once had a very serious ‘career development’ meeting with Finley about his disruptive behavior and his ability to completely destroy any pre-made plans. The result was lots of tears (him not me), lots of hugging and promises of behavior modification from that point forward. The next day at Air Studios in London he turned up on time and sober ready for the recording session (a first) and asked if he could leave his backpack under the mixing console for safekeeping. Thirty minutes later everyone in the studio was laughing uncontrollably, feeling very heady and slightly sick. It didn’t take to long to work out why. Finley’s backpack contained a canister of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which he’d opened and effectively gassed the studio. Session cancelled, at great cost, lots of technicians and musicians with laughing gas hangovers and a very irate angry record company. This behavior was too much for me to handle, time to move to a safer and easier gig. This lack of respect for his own career development has led to Finley being homeless for the past 8 years and in dire health, if you believe the Internet.

Sadly these types of stories are all too common in the modern music industry. Artists start to believe their own publicity, indulging in unprofessional behavior and then blame someone else when the shit hits the fan. Ian Hunter’s 2014 book The Great Ones Are Always The Cracked Ones elucidates the nightmare of managing former Kooks front man and songwriter Max Rafferty. Hunter’s story is a sad one of lies, betrayal and ultimate failure. But this is a two way street, in the past it was always the shylock managers that were the villains; those archetypal managers with the huge cigars and Rolls Royce’s out shilling the rubes. This is an old American term for planting an accomplice in the crowd to drum up enthusiasm for a dodgy product. The etymology of the terms comes from ‘shilling’ meaning conning and ‘rube’ was a name for a country bumpkin and was heavily used by circus folk known as ‘carnies’. A classic example of how not to manage a band would be Bill Collins and Badfinger. Despite being signed to The Beatles’ Apple label and selling millions of records, the band never saw any of the money. Partly as a result of miss-management, Peter Ham and Tom Evans both committed suicide. Artists and creatives in general are vulnerable human beings and require a high level of compassion (a DKHQ key word). In the music business, version 2.0, compassion and duty of care are both important concepts.

Outside Tokyo airport with De La Soul.
Outside Tokyo airport with De La Soul.

Ironically the music business is improving in direct contradiction to the decrease in music sales. The Association of Artist Managers (AAM) has recently published its Code of Conduct for Managing Artists. It’s all common sense stuff, which good managers should be adhering too rigidly. I like to think that at DKHQ we always run ahead of the pack, being at the cutting edge of current thinking. To this end I would like to see all students studying music/entertainment management get free membership to AAM as part of their education. The Code of Conduct is influencing and positively driving improvement in music business. To ensure that this code is understood and adopted in succession planning by the music industry, it has entered the curriculum at various higher education institutions teaching music and entertainment industry management. As a music industry veteran, I regularly speak to early career music industry managers via master classes and guest lectures. I think engagement at this level is very important as it fosters good practice and establishes some of the basic ground rules.

A career in the music industry, and in particular artist and talent management, is never going to be a mainstream career choice. It’s unlikely that you will ever see a national newspaper advert for an artist manager but it’s a great rewarding profession and the jobs are definitely out there for clever creative managers. In the often repeated words of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager “I’m Elvis’ manager because he says I am and, because I say I am”.