A bit about me first of all.
I’m a married man in my 30s. No dependants (yet), and currently waiting to move into my first bought property.
I’m studying for degree in Music Production at BIMM Manchester, in my 3rd year, and due to graduate in 2020.
Having never been to university previously, I decided – after 13 years of working jobs I had no passion for and was only doing so I could pay my bills and play music – it was time for a change.
Music has always been my biggest love in life.
Having played in bands since my teenage years, I eventually started to self-record material with a bandmate. The quality of these recordings is definitely questionable but it was enough to spark an interest in production.
So, at the age of 30 I decided to enrol at BIMM to study music production and pursue something I truly loved.
It’s been a ride, to say the least! Lots of mistakes were made, loads of lessons were learnt. That said, I wanted to share 5 pieces of advice for both current and future students that I feel would greatly help them in their own educational journey.
Here are 5 key lessons I’ve learnt as a mature student
Network, Network, Network
Although the idea of networking can sound awful and forced, once you realise that everyone is in the same boat then it becomes second nature to reach out and start a conversation with someone.
The value of my degree has not just come from learning in the classroom, but also from being able to meet other people in the industry that may be able to help my career further down the line.
It’s very easy to fall into a routine of just going to lessons, but the time spent studying is invaluable and it’s important to make the most of it and give yourself a head-start before you finish.
One of the key things I’ve learned about networking is people are generally happy just to have a chat – you don’t need to only contact people who you think may be able to offer you work.
Absorb as much advice as possible from as many people in the industry as you can because you don’t know what doors will open for you later on.
Get A Foot In The Door, ASAP
At the end of my second year I came across Producer Hive, a music production/tech blog that focuses on gear reviews, music tech news and music studio setups.
I contacted them and was offered a trial article (which was successful).
Shortly after this I began writing beginners tutorials and gear guides. One such article was a complete beginner’s guide to home studio equipment. Within a couple of months, they had me taking on more responsibility, like managing their music tech news section.
After proving myself as reliable, my conversations with the Producer Hive team became more and more frequent and eventually developed into discussions about the future of the site.
This led me to become involved with the business development side of the project, moving on from simply writing to networking and gaining contacts within the industry to help grow and develop the site.
Aside from just looking good on a resume, seizing this opportunity has already led to more connections in the industry from music tech companies who fit into the demographic of the site and its articles.
After graduating, this will potentially help give me a foot in the door for more work as I’ll already have a portfolio to show and valuable contacts in the industry.
You’re Never Too Old To Learn
For me, I would say studying in your 30s is definitely worth it.
While it was daunting to enrol on a course as (probably) the oldest person in the year, once I’d started I realised that age doesn’t matter at all and you’re never too old.
My advice for anyone choosing to follow this path however would be to prepare for a lot of hard work and sacrifice but also prepare to be immensely rewarded!
Even though there is an age gap between me and the majority of others on my course, it’s still important to keep learning, in fact a lot of simple tricks or workflow tips I use regularly have come from peers at university.
Manage Your Time Wisely
The music industry is famously unpredictable and what I’m coming to realise, is that flexibility is key. Being a master of several skills gives you a much better chance of success, particularly in an environment where most work is done on a freelance basis.
While making contacts and setting yourself up for after you’ve graduated is valuable, the importance of managing your time efficiently can’t be underestimated.
For a mature student like myself, this usually involves a tricky balancing act of life, bills, relationships, studies and a job.
Of course it helps to be studying something you are passionate about so you can throw your whole self into it. But for me, setting aside time in the evening or weekends for coursework was essential (including nights off).
It’s easy to burn out in term time when you have a lot on, so manage your time wisely but don’t forget to give yourself a break.
Focus On The End Goal
If you’re going to pursue a music degree in the hope that you’ll walk out at the end with your dream job, then you’ll probably want to re-think your choice.
I’ve always had an end goal in mind and have put small steps in place to achieve this from day one. Looking back now, I can see how I’ve improved my skills and also how much closer I am to achieving my end goal.
I think one of the most exciting things about the music industry is no two careers are the same. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the industry who have all reached their career goals on a different path.
For me I’ve found working towards an ambitious but achievable target has actually opened doors to other areas I hadn’t even considered previously.
I have a few more boxes to tick before I finish, but I’m confident I can achieve my final few goals before my studies finish and before re-entering the ‘real world’!