Aimed, locked and loaded at 18, or are you? (Part 1)
The Music Industry is often misconstrued to be an unattainable or unrealistic career path for a lot of young people, and this was certainly the case for me when I was at school. When I was at school, there was undoubtedly a sense that the Music Industry was an unreliable, cheap & risky path to take compared to that of the Engineering or Medical Industries.
My favourite subjects at school were Maths & Art, which a lot of teachers couldn’t quite understand. In Maths there’s always one correct answer, it’s a subject in Black & White; whereas Art is the opposite, there is no right or wrong, all Art is subjective, and you can express yourself freely. The narrative was constantly pushed that Maths was the “realistic” subject to further study and take into my later career, but Art was treated as more of a “fun” subject.
Due to the overwhelming feeling that my ability in Maths & working in teams simply could not go to waste, Engineering was the perfect industry for me to explore, right? Well, not if you haven’t been exposed to exploring any of the other options.
After completing my A-Levels, I enrolled onto Mechanical Engineering at Newcastle University. I was incredibly excited for a fresh start and a new beginning, hoping that I would naturally enjoy the course, and kickstart my new career. However, it wasn’t this simple, and went downhill relatively quickly. Due to my lack of interest for the course (and partying too often), my attendance started to lower, and I slipped behind in my lectures and overall understanding. Once it got to the end of the university year, I knew I needed to change my course.
Although I didn’t do very well in most modules in the Mechanical Engineering course, my strongest Module was Electronic Engineering, and so whilst in denial about any possibility of exploring the Music Industry, I transferred onto Electronic and Computer Engineering. The events that occurred in the next 6 months were not surprising.
I had been DJing in Newcastle for about a year at this point, so I decided to contact the Newcastle Student Radio Station and set up my own Bi-weekly Rap & Hip-Hop Show. It consisted of a 1-hour DJ Mix, followed by a short segment highlighting a lesser-known UK Artist, that I felt my audience should go and listen to. Overall, the feedback for the show was excellent, and over a period of 2 months, my show was in the top 5 most listened to shows on the station. At the time, I thought this may spark some motivation into staying at Newcastle, but it did the opposite. Seeing how much I enjoyed hosting the Radio Show, preparing the mixes, and interacting with others in the industry made me incredibly curious to see where this route could take me. I’d finally found an industry that I could see myself in. Shortly after this, I contacted the university and dropped out.
I continued to DJ from home, and began regularly uploading mixes to SoundCloud, and building an online persona and audience. The DJing was going well, my mixes were consistently reaching a good number of listeners, and the feedback was great, but nowadays it’s difficult to maintain a lifestyle consisting of only DJing – most DJs nowadays have their own brand or produce music as well as DJ. Having thought about this and speaking with my parents, it seemed like Sound Engineering was a sensible option – merging both my technical and mathematical abilities with the Music Industry.
By chance, shortly afterwards I was put in contact with Si Tew, a Producer, Sound Engineer & Entrepreneur – who (luckily!) was looking for an intern. After speaking to Si about my ambitions and interests, I began working with Digit on their Sample Packs. From here, Si taught me the basics of music production and sound engineering, and I haven’t looked back since.
In the second part of this 2-part blog post, I will explore the economic side of the industries mentioned, and how although it may be presented otherwise - the music industry can be an incredibly beneficial and realistic route to take for young people. If presented with the right information, there are many opportunities and schemes being led to help young people enter the music industry, and pursue their creative goals.