Learning the Music Business

I have written a positioning report on skills, Higher Education and the music business for UK Music, the industry’s ‘trade body of trade bodies’. It was published online yesterday and can now be accessed at the link below.

The report has been presented to all the members at Executive level at UK Music internally, as well as to their Skills Board. It feeds into the creation of their Music Academic Partnership (MAP), which seeks to join industry with academia in a number of new initiatives covering skills, teaching, research and educational policy. It is also being circulated amongst academics working in this and related areas. The MAP is intended as a springboard to build the conversation between the sectors in the coming months and years, which I’m looking forward to engaging with.

Learning the Music Business: Evaluating the ‘vocational turn’ in music industry education

Toby Bennett, King’s College, London


Download the full report and executive summary from UK Music’s website, here.

This report responds to the ‘vocational turn’ in music education at British universities – expressed in the appearance, since the turn of the millennium, of a raft of undergraduate courses specifically aimed at preparing students for work in the music business. Presenting insight from a series of interviews with practitioners and educators, the report shows how, despite their popularity, such courses are often criticised for failing to equip their graduates with the necessary skills to work in music. Moreover, both sectors express severe doubts over the value to industry of Higher Education as a whole – particularly as generators of employment. It suggests that persistent misperceptions and mistrust between individuals and between sectors may prove more of a barrier than provision itself.

There exists an alignment of interests, however, in the desire to work more closely together to build a mutually beneficial developmental culture. In this light, the report proposes that new intersections between industry and HE should be mapped and argues that previous attempts to do so have been marred by unclear conceptual frameworks (separating knowledge from practice and creativity from commerce), which invariably presume a linear movement from education into work. It makes recommendations towards developing new frameworks, vocabularies, and collaborative networks, and identifies opportunities for future research.

Learning the Music Business was presented to the Executive and Skills Boards of UK Music in May 2015, comprising representatives from across the spectrum of the music industry and from Creative & Cultural skills. UK Music describe the report’s findings as ‘fascinating and provocative’, ‘important reading for both music industry and higher education leaders’ and providing ‘grist for the creation of the Music Academic Partnership’ – the latter a new initiative to support collaboration between a select group of educational institutions and the membership of UK Music.


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