Queensland based Joel Edmondson, head of state music industry organisation QMusic, explores modernising and diversifying music industry education to help artists and industry professionals adapt to an uncertain future.
There is no shortage of professional development opportunities for emerging artists and music industry professionals in Australia. Universities, industry colleges, state music industry associations and individual practitioners offer a variety of choice for people who want to get some practical insight into how our business works. But in an industry undergoing such rapid change, how can a standardised curriculum keep pace with the contemporary realities of being a working musician, manager, label owner, or publicist?
Music entrepreneurs of the future will need to have the same set of competencies that characterise innovators in other professional disciplines. Music education, and the music industry at large, needs to start looking beyond its own narrow worldview for solutions to the big picture challenges that our future artists and industry professionals will face. There is a whole world of cutting-edge management and innovation literature out there that has generic application to the music industry. Songwriting, production and music marketing will always be really important, but the next evolution of music industry education in Australia needs to incorporate a greater focus on the meta-skills that will enable an effective response to the economic and sociocultural realities of ever-present uncertainty and flux.
Music entrepreneurs of the future will need to have the same set of competencies that characterise innovators in other professional disciplines.
Even though there has never been one sure way of innovating within the music industry, the relatively rapid transition from CD to streaming over the last 10-15 years is proof that any strategy, no matter how successful, has a limited lifespan in this technological age. Each year some new social media platform arises that disrupts assumed ways of successfully promoting an artist’s work. Constant change is the new normal, and we need to be able to adapt as things change unpredictably, because they will. It is therefore the adaptive ability itself that counts above all else, and something people in the music industry need to learn if they’re going to make the most of things in an uncertain future.
The ability to think critically and imaginatively about the future is a skill that can be taught, as it is already in business management classes around the globe. Being able to reason about and plan for multiple potential scenarios is fundamental to artists and industry professionals of the future being able to develop strategies that are less likely to fail when things don’t go to plan. The music industry’s current problems exist not because new technology enabled consumer opportunism/internet piracy, but because the industry didn’t see it coming early enough to proactively respond. Greater foresight will prevent similar problems arising in the future, and enable individuals and organisations to capitalise on the potential opportunities.
Constant change is the new normal, and we need to be able to adapt as things change unpredictably
Music entrepreneurs also need to have greater situational awareness. Although music has a timeless and universal quality, its role in our society and our economy is transforming all the time. We need to be able to dream up creative answers to big questions like ‘What will be the role of music in society tomorrow?’ or ‘How can music be used to shape society differently?’. In many ways, these questions will be answered by the inevitable convergence of music with other facets of life. For example, I imagine that a future dominated by health-conscious individuals obsessing over bio-data streaming from their fitness trackers might take an interest in music that’s proven to have a positive physiological or psychological impact. That would completely change the way people listen to music, and in turn, what’s popular. Being able to imagine the possibilities is key to getting ahead of the curve.
Now is the time for our industry to engage in dialogue with outsiders to come up with novel solutions to our problems
Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN’s) flagship business development programs RELEASE and CONTROL are unique in the sense that they offer an opportunity for label owners and music managers to engage with psychologists and business experts from outside the music industry and get a totally different perspective on their trade. Now is the time for our industry to engage in dialogue with outsiders to come up with novel solutions to our problems. If we are going to thrive in an uncertain future, then we need to start with a change in mindset that can accommodate uncertainty. Music education that develops the adaptive ability of students would be a good place to start.
Joel Edmondson – QMusic Executive Officer