School’s In: Steve Melhuish Interview

The Gen Editor Paul Reed has a chat with Music Industry veteran and MMBE (Managing a Music Business Enterprise) Course Coordinator, Steve Melhuish at London’s Music Business School about how the course can help you get on in the industry.

1) How did you start out in the music business?

“I got involved with Richard Branson in the late 60’s, there were around 20 of us working at a magazine in London and a few of us decided that it would be a good idea to sell mail order albums. We were the first to do this, we took out a full page advert in the Melody Maker and had a terrific response but it unfortunately coincided with a royal mail strike”.

“We had all of this stock to shift, so we opened what became the first Virgin Records store which I managed. I then went on to open several record shops, starting in South London called Bonaparte Records. That’s how I started out”.

2) How can the MMBE course help secure a foothold into the industry?

“About 12 years ago I started running various music industry management courses at the University of Kent. Since then, the industry has changed direction and the entire ideology has shifted. You can forget about Warners and all the rest, music has become much more DIY”

“The ethos of the MMBE course is that you will meet and greet people in the music industry. Our USP is that we offer genuine access- I don’t promise that it will get someone a job but it will give you a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet people such as Keith Harris (Director of Performer Affairs at PPL and Stevie Wonder’s Manager)”.

“As a result, our students have got internships and jobs but more importantly connections and the confidence to start their own businesses, we’re getting more and more positive feedback from former students- two have just recently set up a new music management company for example- They met on MMBE and it has given them a foothold and industry partnerships”.

3) On that subject, can you tell me a bit more about guest speakers on the course?

“80% of our guest speakers have returned to talk on further courses – people like Keith, Jon Webster (Chief Executive, MMF) and Henry Semmence from Absolute Distribution - these are people at the very top of the business talking about real issues facing the industry”.

“The profile of the guest speakers has resulted in increasingly more international sign-ups, people from Sweden or Finland doing courses through Skype and utilising the MMBE Learning Zone it completes the circle of digital enterprise”.

4) What is the biggest issues facing the industry right now?

“In a word, Spotify – it encompasses everything and supports this theory that music will become the ‘fourth utility’ in homes. That said, I think that the first decade of the 2000s will essentially be seen as a short blip, a transition after which artist will be able to monetise in all directions”

“Obviously, CDs sales have declined but vinyl sales are up. Downloading and listening online is fantastically convenient but people still want to own a piece of art and that isn’t going to go away.

“I agree with what Martin Mills was saying recently about Spotify and revenue from radio. Digital is a great source of revenue, especially for the independents with sophisticated catalogue such as the Beggars labels, Domino and Warp. There are all these different platforms and forms of revenue now”.

MMBE runs each Wednesday at MBS in Clapham, South London throughout the year and offers various courses, including a four-month fast track option. There is a free MMBE taster session on Tuesday 16 October, the current course is sold-out and the next course begins on 23rd January next year.

To find out more about Steve’s background in the industry go here

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