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Bridget’s Blog: Music education and the industry – how can we help connect the dots?

5th May 2023

What’s in a word? It’s rare that we stop to think about the precise definition of the seemingly simple words we use every day. For me, the word that’s been on my mind lately is ‘industry’ – in part due to the fact that the English National Plan talks about ‘Industry Pathways’ but also since in the next couple of weeks I’ll be speaking at two ‘industry focused’ events. But what does that term really mean?

Well, according to Google: An industry is a group of companies that are related based on their primary business activities. In modern economies, there are dozens of industry classifications. Industry classifications are typically grouped into larger categories called sectors.

So, when we talk about the Music Industry, we can assume we’re talking about ‘a group of companies that are related’ to music. However, currently for most of us often we use the term ‘Music Industry’ to refer to the pop or contemporary music industry – bands or artists, record companies, festivals, recording studios, and more. But what about all of the other businesses who are focused on music in some way? For the Music Industries Association (MIA) – one of our key national partners – their members are primarily made up of instrument makers (including technology as an instrument or resource for music making), manufacturers, suppliers, and shops. Then there is the classical music industry, music venues, and of course the music education industry. We quickly begin to see that the ‘industry’ is in fact an expansive, interconnected web of organisations and individuals working both behind the scenes and centre stage, in wide-ranging and sometimes surprising ways.

Perhaps then we should simply talk about the Music Sector? Not least because the young people coming into this music sector are likely to be spread across several industries. The ‘portfolio career’ is something I remember talking about when I worked for Youth Music back in the noughties and it’s here to stay. It’s very possible that many of the music teachers we engage with through our events, training and resources – have you seen our new A Common Approach sections yet? – will also be in some way with instrument makers, suppliers and retailers.  By visualising this as a Venn diagram where the Music Sector is made up of overlapping industries, we can start to identify more easily these exciting scenarios where industries can work together!

Music Mark is proud to have over 70 Industry Partners working with us to support music education across the UK. If you are a Music Mark Member you may well have met many of them at our conferences, used and enjoyed their products and services, read about their work in our newsletters or explored the list in our directory. Collectively they all have a passion for music and helping to support musical learning. There are practitioners, resource writers, publishers, exam boards, instrument makers and suppliers, software and hardware developers, lawyers and travel experts. Connecting them into the music education industry is part of what we do. But we ourselves are part of a Venn diagram too – one that represents the membership associations. Some of our members and partners are also members of the ABO, the MU, the ISM, the MTA and the MIA, and I love it when we are able to celebrate that overlap.

Our next partnership venture is a joint event with the MIA in Birmingham on 25 May, the Industry x Education Interface.  It’s neither a conference nor an expo, but a chance to put into practice the Venn diagram – to help two industries meet as a sector! Tickets are free and open to all so do come along if you can.

And what of those ‘Pathways to Industry’ for young people? I am confident that, together, we can find ways to support them in discovering the industry that interests them the most, and I will be working with national contacts to explore how we can help highlight these routes. However, I urge us all to remember that when we refer to ‘industry,’ we might actually mean ‘sector.’ Perhaps by considering ‘pathways to industries’ we can better connect and celebrate the diversity of the music sector and support the portfolio careers that many young people will pursue.