My West London Life

Ewan Grant

March
17

We catch up with Ewan Grant, COO of Notting Hill Academy of Music and find out what sets the organisation apart from other music course institutions...

How long has NHAM been going and where did the idea come from?

NHAM is now in its fourth year; we took our first intake in January 2016 and we started a 6-month non-validated course. From December 2016 we began an academic cycle from September to June. The academy was set up to fill a void in music education; there are plenty of courses out there as 3-year degrees within music production and performance but we found there to be a lack of courses with an emphasis on music business, the way the revenue streams exists within the industry and how to turn your hobby into a career.

We would also get a lot of CVs sent to Relentless and found that most of them had traditional 3-year degrees. We need people that have experience in a fast-changing industry, are entrepreneurial and self-starters.

What types of courses do you offer?

We offer courses in A&R and Artist Management, A&R and Songwriting and a course teaching you how to be a Music Business Entrepreneur.

Can you describe a typical student?

The academy aims to tackle waning participation and diversity within music. It is important to acknowledge that there is no silver spoon in the industry and it is open to everybody from all walks of life. Our students are from diverse backgrounds and all ages. This is something we pride ourselves on.

What can an NHAM’s alum expect their career to look like?

There was a previous student, Daniel Owusu that dabbled within artist management and came on the course to get more knowledge. He ended up working for the academy after the course and used this as a networking opportunity. Eventually, Daniel got offered 3 different jobs – two within records and one in publishing. He went for the latter and is now A&R at BMG and I’m sure that Daniel will work in the recording industry in the near future. We also had a student called Glenn Sonko that came on the course with no previous music experience and was an ex-professional footballer. He now works at Atlantic and is Stormzy’s A&R.

Your students even sit in on real A&R meetings and attend industry events – NHAM is known for giving its students a real insight into music production and marketing – is this more valuable than academics in real-world terms?

We believe that there should be an equal balance between industry and academic rigour to be the best in the industry.

You offer nine-month courses as opposed to the standard three-year degrees, how do these differ in pace and content from other modern music courses?

The majority of what you learn in your first year at university is irrelevant by the second year and so on. Our courses are deliberately challenging and those who put the effort in will get the benefits. We offer loads of networking opportunities and real-life situations within the label. This gives the students the chance to take more than just a certificate away with them when they finish their course.

Can you tell us about Notting Hill Arts Club Recordings? Does the label recruit from your students?

The label is a development of the Arts Club that has been in Notting Hill for 21 years. The amount of talent coming through the Arts Club has been phenomenal – we have had the likes of Chase and Status, Mark Ronson and Disclosure perform here. Some artists are not ready to go through major labels as they need time for their development, so that’s why we set the label up.

So far, we have released two singles – one by the Grimm Twins and one by a band called Birthday Card. They are in the guitar band area, but we don’t pigeonhole ourselves and delve into any genres that are quintessentially British as we are proud of our heritage. We’ve developed relationships for the label with bands after they’ve performed at the venue, but we do give students the opportunity to be recruited. So, it’s non-exclusive to students and open for all.

NHAM is affiliated with Kensington and Chelsea College – how does this arrangement work?

It is exciting that we have a relationship with KCC as we want to add value to the local community. We currently offer an L4 course with the college and have a really good relationship with them. Our partnership with them is a way of integrating more into the local community, which we also have with the Metropolitan Police. We have taken initiatives with knife crime and run panels with the academy. There is a massive musical heritage in the area and to have a musical academy that offers a 9-month validated course on your doorstep can only bring a positive impact to the area.

Who would benefit most from the academy? Do students typically arrive knowing which area of the industry they’re most keen to go into?

A lot of students arrive not knowing what they want to do exactly but they are sure that they want to do music. The courses are set out to develop passion and introduce students to certain areas whether its publishing, records, management or live promotion – any areas of the creative industries that revolve around music. If you arrive on the course saying that you want to do one certain thing, you will probably come to realise that you’ll soon develop different interests; the industry is so multifaceted.

What’s your personal background in the music industry? How did you come to run NHAM and NHAC?

I played in a band when I was younger and started my own business at the age of 19 with no traditional education. By the age of 23, I had 3 record shops. I then moved to London and got into sales marketing and distribution, which I really enjoyed. I then moved on to the Ministry of Sound in the mid-90s and worked there for 8 years. I was GM of Ministry of Sound Recordings and set up Ministry of Sound Music Publishing.

I then started a joint venture with Relentless Records, as they were one of our clients. I got to know Shabs Jobanputra, founder of Relentless and the Arts Club. We worked on records like Craig David ft. Artful dodger – Re Rewind and 21 Seconds – So Solid Crew. By the mid-2000s, I went into artist management and left Ministry and decided to do a Masters at the University of Westminster that I completed in 9 months. I found some of the course exhilarating – but some of it was dull. After graduating, I ended up working for Universal – Island records and set up a record label there.

I was constantly asked to do masterclasses which I really enjoyed. I was aware of the Arts Club throughout that time from bands I managed. Funnily, I had a chance meeting with Shabs at Glastonbury Festival in a field at 2am; he asked what I was up to, set up a meeting, and from there the academy evolved. I started running the academy and then 2 years ago, I was appointed COO of all businesses and I could not think of doing anything else.

You’re based slap bang in the middle of Notting Hill Gate, do you feel the area lacks cohesion/ the old sense of community that used to define the area?

The state of Notting Hill is a cause for concern – tourists flock to Portobello Road immediately. With a bit of creativity, Notting Hill could be as vibrant as it was back in the day, throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Finally, what are you most proud of about the academy and its approach – and why?

We offer something unique that is not available anywhere else. No other music educational institution can offer the connections that we have in the industry.

Notting Hill Academy of Music, 21 Notting Hill Gate, Kensington, London, W11 3JQ; https://nottinghillacademyofmusic.com; 020 7598 5226

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