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article imageAjay Naik: revolutionising music education Special

By Adrian Peel     Nov 23, 2015 in Business
Leicester - The Leicester-based founder of Echo Factory, the only music school in the Midlands that offers degree courses in music performance and in music business, chats to Digital Journal.
Since opening its doors in October 2013, Echo Factory, located in Leicester's trendy Cultural Quarter, has offered its students something most other higher education institutions of its type don't, and that's a direct path into the music industry. The school's founder, Ajay Naik, a professional drummer with a business degree, explains how.
"After seven years in London building a music career, I eventually got into the business side," he recalls, by way of an introduction. "I started working with artists and musicians and managing them. I started doing consultancy for labels, for publishing companies. I worked in event management...
"So I got a really nice 360-degree view on a global level of how the music industry works. One thing that shocked me was that I saw thousands of graduates coming out of training places or universities with degrees in music performance, but the sad reality was 99% of them were failing to launch sustainable careers.
"If you want to be a doctor, you do your medical degree and you're a doctor. If you want to be an accountant, you do your accountancy qualifications - if you want to be a journalist, you do your journalistic qualifications.
"Why is it then if you want to be a musician, there is no set pathway? You can spend your whole life studying music, yet there's no guaranteed job at the end of it. I thought that was a fallacy and something that needed to be put right.
"I thought, 'If we were now to change things, what would we need to do? What skills and experience does the next generation of musicians and music industry professionals need?'
So I went to one of my contacts in the industry and spent a good two years really researching this in quite a lot of detail. I decided that Echo Factory was truly going to prepare students for the true nature of the music industry - not just on a UK level, but globally."
Echo Factory
Echo Factory
Vicky Berry
The forward-thinking entrepreneur, whose parents emigrated to the UK from India 40 years ago, goes into more detail about the type of courses on offer: "We teach things at a more contextual level and more importantly than anything else, the students get a huge amount of real-life experience... They're out there learning in the real world, rather than in a lecture theatre."
"We're just about to move into a new building and that has its own live venue in it," continues Ajay, providing examples of how this "real-world experience" is achieved. "Echo Factory also has its own record label, so the students are learning these skills in a very safe setting.
"The head of the Echo Factory Record Label is a chap called Tim Bulleyment, who headed up MCA Records. He's one of the most prolific people in the industry today, in terms of establishing artists and running record labels."
"At degree level we have two courses," notes the school's founder. "We have a Music Performance degree and we have a Music Business degree. The performance students, the musicians as it were, they'll be releasing their own material on the Echo Factory label and the business students will be the ones running the label.
"But of course it's all about quality - we wouldn't release any old rubbish. It has to be high quality and that's part of our course is that we're teaching students about quality and how to really go out there and produce things."
Discussing the interview/audition process for the performance degree and whether it's difficult to obtain a place on what must be a much sought-after course, the thirty-something businessman - whose staff roster includes rapper and beatbox musician Akshay Sharma - states, "What we're looking for, first and foremost, is a huge passion for music and a little bit of entrepreneurial flair.
"Now that's very hard to pin down on a 17, 18 year old because entrepreneurialism is a very wide subject, especially when all they've seen is school, but we're very good at identifying that little spark and I think a lot of it is down to passion.
"Every person who wants to make it in the music industry has this unquenchable thirst, there's that fire in your belly, and that's what we're looking for. Also you've got to play an instrument, but it's got to be in a contemporary setting.
"We're not a conservatoire. If you play cello and you see yourself playing in symphony orchestras, then there are better places to go to than us. That's not what we're designed for - we're specifically for contemporary music."
Finally, Mr. Naik has some friendly advice for anyone hoping to spend three years lounging around and playing music whenever they feel like it: "Are you someone looking to go to university just to have fun for three years? Well if that's all you're interested in, then there are better places to go to than us because we're gonna work you very hard," he says firmly.
"That's not to say that what we do isn't fun, obviously. It's university and it's a great amount of fun, but it's also working very hard because there is a clear set goal at the end of it."
For more information on this exciting institution for higher education, visit Echo Factory's official website.
More about ajay naik, echo factory, Music education, music technology, Drums
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