Matt Grimes and Iain Taylor
BA (Hons) Music Industries Course Leader and Lecturer
Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your course?
Iain: I’ve been teaching and researching Music Industries and popular music cultures in a Higher Education setting for almost ten years, and hold a PhD in the subject. Prior to becoming a full-time academic, I was the PR and Marketing manager of a 750 capacity venue in Glasgow, coordinating the promotion of live events and club nights. As a musician and recording artist I’ve released music through a range of Scottish independent labels including Glasgow-based indie label Olive Grove Records, Hebridean micro-label Lost Map, and the now defunct Fife-based Fence Records.
Matt: I’ve been teaching and researching Music Industries and popular music cultures in a Higher Education setting for almost 15 years, and will soon hold a PhD in the subject. Prior to becoming a full-time academic, I had various portfolio roles within the music industries. I started near the bottom of the industry ladder as a roadie working in the 1980’s UK and European DiY punk scenes. I have been a tour manager, stage manager, live sound engineer, worked for a number of small DiY punk record labels/distros, and worked in the Glastonbury Festival production offices for 15 years. I have also previously coordinated music stages at a number of other UK festivals and dance events. As a musician I played in a number of DiY punk bands in my teens and early twenties, and then moved on to producing and Dj’ing acid house and techno music in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. I still occasionally produce and DJ acid house/techno music when time allows.
Together we bring a combination of real-world industry experience, research expertise, and creative passion to the work that we do with our students.
What is the philosophy of your course?
We’re living through a period of rapid and extensive change for the music industries. In a very short period of time, digital technologies and new online platforms have transformed the way that people discover, consume, and pay for music. Our course is based on the philosophy that in order to make a living from music, you need to understand how value is created from music, how this is changing, and how people relate to it in 2020. The structure of the course is designed to provide our students with the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to navigate this ever-changing music landscape, and to develop innovative and challenging new ideas about what the value of music is today.
If you had to name one thing about your course that makes it distinct, what would it be?
Our course isn’t just a music industries course based in Birmingham. It’s a music industries course with Birmingham, and its music industries, at its heart. We collaborate with local businesses, artists and brands, and work to put our students at the centre of all of the cool, exciting, creative work which is coming out of Brum! We also work with big international names in music, with ongoing relationships with UK Music, Kobalt Publishing, and many more. Our connections, partnerships, and collaborations happening locally, nationally, and globally are what makes us distinct.
Why is Birmingham a good place to study?
Iain: As a non-brummie, and relative newcomer to the city (I moved here from Glasgow four-and-a-bit years ago), I can honestly say that I was surprised how much I love Birmingham! This city has a killer music scene, amazing arts and cultural events, and the best food in the country, hands down. Even better, so much of the really cool stuff happening in the city comes from its thriving independent sector – creative and vibrant local businesses who take risks and make exciting things happen. Most importantly, it’s a city where if you want to get involved with what’s happening, whether that’s in music, arts and culture, food, or any number of combinations of all three, there are so many opportunities to do so. Who wouldn’t want to study in that kind of environment?
Matt: As a Londoner who moved to the Midlands 25 years ago, I thought that London would be hard to beat for music and music culture. However, Birmingham certainly steps up to the mark in that respect, and it has a vibrant inclusive underground vibe to it, that is somewhat missing in London these days. You can really feel part of the various diverse music scenes Birmingham and the region has to offer.
Why do you believe it’s important to study a degree and why might students want to study your course?
We’re not going to tell you that if you want to work in music you need a degree, because that simply isn’t true. However, the value of a degree (and, in particular, this degree!) is that it offers you a space to develop skills, connections, and a detailed knowledge of the professional and creative environment that you’re looking to go into. It offers you the chance to learn from people who have been there. It offers you the chance to not only learn how things are done, but to question why they are done that way, and ask whether you can do it better. It gives you the space, and the skills, to be critical about how music is made and consumed. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you a space to experiment – to take risks on things that might not work, to get feedback and input on your work, and learn from those mistakes before you go out into a very competitive professional environment. It’s a space to develop, grow, and find out exactly who you want to be.
Where will the students be based in their time here and what will their learning environment be?
You’ll be based at our city-centre campus in the heart of Birmingham, right next to Digbeth – Birmingham’s Creative Quarter and home to much of its music, arts, and culture. However, we firmly believe that learning shouldn’t just take place in the classroom. You can expect to spend time out-and-about with site-visits to local venues & music businesses, walking tours of the city’s music culture, field trips, and more!
What can students do to help prepare them for the course?
Listen to more music! Take the time to listen – properly listen – to artists and genres that you normally wouldn’t pay attention to. Try to put your own taste aside and think about what it is that makes people relate to them. Start a blog and write about your own relationship with music. Go to more gigs, and start conversations with people working there – the person taking tickets on the door, the merch-person, the bands. Ask about their experiences, and listen when they tell you. Read about what’s happening in the music industries, and why they’re happening. Publications such as Music Week, or blogs like CMU or Music Business Worldwide are a good place to start.
What’s your favourite element about working at Birmingham School of Media?
The best thing about working here is the people. There’s a real sense of community to the staff and students in the School of Media and we get to work with an amazing range of media researchers, practitioners, and professionals. We’ve got people here with decades of experience working in positions of influence in the UK’s creative industries, as well as some of the leading scholars in music, media, art and culture. It’s an exciting and stimulating place to be! Plus, the fact that we’re based in an incredible campus with exceptional facilities certainly helps as well…