Questions I haven’t asked Dave Allen

I’m going to be speaking with Dave Allen on Tuesday this week. Dave is Director of Artist and Music Industry Advocacy for streaming music service Beats Music. He also happens to have been the bass player for one of my favourite post-punk / new wave bands of the 80s. No, not Gang of Four – I’m talking about Shriekback.*

Dave is going to give a presentation about Why Musicians Should Embrace Streaming – and then he and I are going to sit down and have a chat.

I’ve been preparing for the conversation, which will be live in front of an audience at Birmingham City University (it’s free, and there are still some seats left – but you’ll need to book now) – and I thought I’d share with you the questions I’m going to be asking Dave to continue the conversation.

Of course, that means he can read these questions ahead of time should he wish. That’s absolutely fine – I’m not trying to trip anyone up. I’m asking these questions to try and find out the answers, as well as to open up the dialogue a little further and take it in some interesting directions.

That said, I may play devil’s advocate from time to time. So here’s what I have in mind…


Learning at a distance

Summit meeting between @jezc and Max Headroom (@profofpop) about research

I spent the day today working at home with my colleague Jez Collins and after a lot of planning, writing and brainstorming, we had a Skype meeting with Professor Tim Wall to talk about (among other things) the ongoing development of Masters programmes at Birmingham City University.

I’m already the award leader on an MA in Music Industries, and our first intake was in February. We’re recruiting for the September intake now.

It’s been going really well, and we have a small but really engaged group of music industry postrgrad students who are doing great work in Popular Music as Culture and a module in Enterprise. You can check out the students’ work at their blog.

Today we looked at two new developments for next semester’s intake – one definite, and one likely. The first of those is the MA in Music Radio. As far as I know there is no such Masters degree in the UK, focusing specifically on music radio. It’ll be great to bring some of the elements of music programming into the mix, as well as get the students working on practical projects and academic work in this area.

My colleague Sam Coley and a couple of our third year undergraduate students are shortlsted for a Sony Radio Award for a programme they made about the 30th anniversary of UB40’s Signing Off album, and Sam has been making a series for XFM recently, celebrating the 25th anniversary of classic albums. A great series to listen to… and a great person to have around when you’re delivering a course like this.

The other development – and it’s not finalised, but we’re working on it – is the Distance Learning version of the MA in Music Industries. We’re looking at developing a new module specifically in Online Music Enterprise as part of that distance learning course, and I think I’m right in saying it would be the first Music Industry MA to be delivered online. Given my set of interests, you can probably imagine how pleased I am to be involved in putting that together…

I’ve had feedback from quite a few people saying they’d love to do the MA in Music Industries, but they can’t move to Birmingham to do the course for whatever reason. Well – if all this goes to plan, we may just be within sight of solving that particular problem.

Exciting times…

Masters of Supervision

Masters Supervision Class Photo

For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been doing a course at the university: being trained in the fine art of Masters supervision. Along with a bunch of other staff members (several pictured above) from different faculties, I’ve spent my Wednesday afternoons analysing and reflecting on how we help our Masters students do independent research and write dissertations.

There’s more to it than you might think, and while the parameters are usually fairly clear, there are lots of things that may pop up along the way to complicate things, and which can potentially derail things if you let them.

To finish the course, there’s a 3,000 word essay in which we think about the things that we’ve learned and analyse the ways in which they might be implemented and understood in our own context. For me, that’d be the two degrees I lead on: the MA in Music Industries – and the MA in Music Radio, which launches in September.

But naturally, the best thing about the course was the opportunity to take time out alongside other colleagues to think and talk about what we do, how we do it and some ways in which we might do it better.

We focused quite a lot today on the idea of building a postgraduate and research culture – which is actually something we do really well in the School of Media at BCU. So we were able to talk about some of our successful strategies (both online and off) and how we try to foster a really collegiate, supportive and social environment for the students, as well as quite a thriving research centre with lots of interesting stuff going on in some quite cutting edge areas. I never fail to be impressed with some of the cool stuff some of my colleagues are working on.

It was the final session and so I took a “class photo” (with a couple of abstentions). Nice bunch, the conversations about what different people do in different disciplines is always interesting… and we got tea and biscuits.

Not terribly far away day

BCU Media Away Day #bcumediaawayday

We had a BCU School of Media “Away Day” today – though it was just a few blocks up the road in another university building called The Pavilions, at our sports ground. Food and coffee and an opportunity to do a bit of blue sky thinking with a bunch of colleagues you don’t always get a chance to spend much time with.

The morning had three main strands to it, which were sort of inextricably interwoven. The first was the extent to which our courses are vocational, the second related to the 50/50 balance of theory and practice we’ve always emphasised, and the third was the range of skills that are taught on the course and how the shift in the media landscape impacts upon things like specialisms within the degree.

In the afternoon we talked about more pragmatic things like student retention and completion, the new building for the school, and the funding cuts faced by universities in general and media departments in particular.


Smart people? In the music industry?

Photo by Birmingham City University

So, it’s official – we’re going to be launching our MA in Music Industries this year, and you can come and study on a post-graduate programme that I’m going to be teaching on, along with a bunch of very cool and interesting people.

The course kicks off in September, but it would probably pay to apply pretty soon, as I suspect it’s going to be quite competitive.

Naturally, there’ll be a focus on things to do with music online, music as culture, music as commerce and music enterprise. You can go down the traditional research dissertation route, or conduct a major practical project. It’s pretty flexible, and we’ll work closely with you on what works best for you.

It’s a one-year full-time degree, or two years part time. If you’re interested, here’s the information and contact details – and this here is the application form [PDF].

Hope to see you in September.