An initiative launched by the Music Publishers Association (MPA) seeks to “nurture and teach the next generation” of people entering this core area of the business. Ben Gilbert explores their work and uncovers the advice both seasoned pros and accomplished newcomers have for their publishing peers.
The music industry is unlike any other. Dynamic, unpredictable and supported by vital cultural and economic heft, it understandably has an enduring and compelling pull as a career path across demographics. Like most industries, however, those who help sustain the business are exploring it from a range of angles and remain susceptible to many challenges as they seek to carve out a future for them and the people and products at the centre of their craft.
For the figures working in publishing, that’s why the launch of the MPA Futures Group promises so much. Helmed by the Music Publishers Association (MPA), a non-profit trade body with more than 200 members that has represented this field of UK music since 1881, the initiative is now in its second year. It remains focused on a headline goal to “nurture and teach the next generation” of young people new to this area of the industry.
But how exactly does the MPA Futures Group achieve these goals and how do they assess the challenges that await both for them and the people they represent? Moreover, what do the many years of experience, which are testimony to the membership driving the organisation, tell us about a business that has evolved beyond measure in the previous two decades and may well face further aftershocks to our traditional understanding of the industry across the coming years?
MPA Futures Group champions “young talent coming into our industry”
Deborah Smith, Director of Anara Publishing Ltd, joined the MPA Futures Group committee in July 2018 and was appointed co-chair covering Education, Training, Issues and Campaigns earlier this year. Working alongside Robyn Kennedy, the Chair for Networking and Social, she told Synchtank that although the organisation is still in its “relative infancy”, they have clear and defined objectives.
“I’m working with the MPA to ensure that the key issues that matter to those who are in the early stages of their career in music publishing are brought into their wider plans,” she explained, continuing: “We should be championing the young talent coming into our industry and the MPA Futures Group is a good channel to do so.
“We should be championing the young talent coming into our industry and the MPA Futures Group is a good channel to do so.”
– Deborah Smith, Director of Anara Publishing Ltd
“The people already working in publishing won’t be in the same positions forever so we should be nurturing talent for the future. It’s an opportunity for members to learn and have their voices heard in the wider publishing community. I also think that it’s important for people just starting their careers to see the work that the MPA do,” commented Smith.
Music publishing contributed £459m to the 2018 UK economy
Members of the group are able to access a range of training seminars and social events. These include peer mentoring schemes and the recent Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace event, which featured speakers from Help Musicians UK, Music Support, BAPAM, BMG and more. Naturally, they are eager to protect and expand the domestic music publishing landscape, which contributed £459m to the UK economy in 2018 and generated over a quarter of the national music industry’s £2.6b in export revenue.
James Paterson, Creative A&R Assistant at Bucks Music Group, has been a part of the MPA Futures Group since its inception and feels there are a range of core skills that allow industry newcomers to progress. “I try and speak to as many people as possible and make myself known, especially if they interest or inspire me. Try to be personable and show your passion.
“Try and go to as many things as possible, make a good first impression and build strong connections.”
– James Paterson, Creative A&R Assistant at Bucks Music Group
“You can’t fake a good work ethic and hunger to learn, people will recognise it in you if you are genuine. Try and go to as many things as possible, make a good first impression and build strong connections. There is an element of luck involved and being in the right place at the right time, but you’re increasing your chances of success the more you put yourself out there,” he said.
“Find a mentor and meet as many people as possible!”
Henry Marsden, Director of Bespoke Records, took part in the MPA Futures Group’s first peer mentoring scheme at the end of 2018 and recognises that the current leaders at the head of the industry and within publishing will not be around forever. “In 10-20 years’ time all those involved with the MPA Futures Group now will be at the executive level in their respective publishers, leading the MPA and UK publishing industry as a whole. We need to invest heavily in the emerging generation to ensure the industry thrives in the longer term.”
“We need to invest heavily in the emerging generation to ensure the industry thrives in the longer term.”
– Henry Marsden, Director of Bespoke Records
Manner McDade’s Clare Everson, who won the 2019 MPA Richard Toeman Scholarship professional award, said the organisation was “essential for how publishing adapts to the music industry’s ever-evolving structure.” Everson works closely with shesaid.so, a global network of women in the music industry, and manages acclaimed One Little Indian artist and composer Poppy Ackroyd. “Find a mentor and meet as many people as possible!” is her advice to those looking to follow her already impressive career arc.
“If we are to work towards equality of all kinds in the music industry, we need to start at an earlier stage, in schools and colleges, so I’d like to use my voice to inspire confidence and belief in young people wanting to work in music.”
– Clare Everson, creative manager at Manner McDade
She also called for a greater sense of unity across the business, in order to build a truly diverse and enduring future landscape within publishing: “If we are to work towards equality of all kinds in the music industry, we need to start at an earlier stage, in schools and colleges, so I’d like to use my voice to inspire confidence and belief in young people wanting to work in music.” In tandem with the MPA Futures Group, this is a keenly optimistic and heartening viewpoint that is set to colour and shape what comes next.
Click here to find out more about the MPA Futures Group and their upcoming activities.