A sound future

Stepping into the recording studio, it is hard to believe you are on a University campus. The state-of-the-art production desk and performance suite whisks you away to another world and you could be in the heart of any leading music company or independent studio.
 
And that really is at the centre of the aims of Major Key Studios at the University of Wolverhampton – to introduce and prepare students for the realities of working within the music industry.
 
The University launched two foundation degrees in Music Industry Practice and Sound Production in February last year. Run at the Walsall Campus by the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure in partnership with Major Key Studios, the courses offer students practical hands-on experience, as well as the theory to develop their understanding of the business. The budding music moguls will learn about the staging and management of live performances, recording music and record sales, and, crucially, skills they can take straight to work.

Pioneering students

The courses and the independent recording studio itself have been a huge success – beyond the dreams of studio owners and lecturers Ken Banks and Phil Savage. Phil has worked with major artists including Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Judas Priest, Fine Young Cannibals and Duran Duran; and Ken is a top business consultant and product developer. Working with students offered a new challenge for them – but one they have relished.
 
“We have grown ourselves and we have both found this exciting,” Ken says. “This has exceeded our expectations but we always had a belief that young people are not frightened of doing new things – they are pioneers.”
 
The first group of students is now in the second year of their course and many have set up their own companies, or been able to use their skills to increase the success of existing businesses.
 
Paul Whitehouse, of Paul James Promotions, is one such success story. Paul, 47, has worked in the music industry for 30 years but realised the industry was changing, and decided to enrol on the course to enhance his skills.
 
He says: “The course itself covers virtually every aspect of the music industry, from the basics to marketing and advertising, and has opened up our client base a lot more. Every part of the course is excellent, whether you are a new or existing business.”
 
A bright spark in the second intake of students is Music Industry Practice student Shaun Tulloch, whose vocals and production featured on a recent Ministry of Sound album. Other students are setting up artist management and promotion companies, illustrating the breadth of the courses.

New presence in West Bromwich

Now Ken and Phil face a new challenge after expanding the business into the landmark West Bromwich arts centre The Public, due to open this summer. They have their own suite of rooms which includes two studios, control room, mixing and production suite, as well as a green room and kitchen.
 
Ken says: “We are tremendously excited about our presence within The Public. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to look at innovative collaborative projects within arts in general.”
 
In addition, the University is hoping to introduce a top-up degree in the subjects, to allow students to continue on to Bachelor of Arts level.
 
The future certainly looks bright for these innovative courses and the enthusiastic students who are hoping to carve a successful career in the music industry.
 
John Pymm, Dean of the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure said: “Developing courses with employers is an increasingly important aspect of our work, and I am delighted that we have been able to develop these Foundation Degrees in collaboration with MKS. They are no strangers to the pop music hall of fame, and our students are privileged to be able to draw on their enviable record of professional experience. It’s no surprise to me that numbers applying for the two courses are rising rapidly.”