Last week, The Orchard proudly hosted the final grand plenary of The Orchard Lab @ London Met, a unique partnership between education and the music industry, which aims to boost the employability benefits of the future generation of music industry professionals.
As part of this groundbreaking initiative, 3rd year Music and Media degree students at The London Metropolitan University were divided into groups of 4 or 5 and assigned an online marketing and promotional Orchard campaign to plan and execute over a 12 week period. The groups were given defined objectives and given access to a pallet of tools within The Orchard’s Marketplace, an ecosystem of apps for industry professionals to assist their campaigns. Students interfaced with The Orchard, management companies, record companies and in some cases the artists themselves.
This unique hands-on industry experience was further enriched by a series of guest lectures given by some of the industry’s top players, in a bid to aid the student’s marketing efforts, these included the likes of SoundCloud, Spotify, Webdoc, Polydor Records and a host of others.
The program culminated in a final presentation of the three most outstanding campaigns. Three finalist groups were given the opportunity to showcase their work to a panel of music industry experts, many of whom had been guest speakers at The Orchard Lab workshops that ran throughout the semester. Given The Orchard’s deep involvement in guiding and monitoring the students’ work closely throughout the module, it came as no surprise that the quality of work demonstrated by the finalists was nothing short of impressive. It was perfectly evident that the students had an innate ability to work in a digital environment and were successful in identifying the strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement of their respective artist’s online activities.
Two groups in particular, those working on artists Mike Viola and Rachel Sermanni, were successful in gluing together some of the disjointed elements of the artists’ social media presences partially by integrating apps such as FanRx, Songpier, Thinglink and Bandsintown with the artist’s social media platforms. Likewise, the group working on singer songwriter Judith Owen were exceptionally good at grasping who the artist was and what would appeal to her fanbase; in this case it was a content driven campaign, completely free of gimmicks that might have failed to capture the attention of her more mature audience.
Needless to say that the judging panel of a dozen industry specialists, from D2C expert Owain Kelly (Fanfare Media), to digital savvy artist manager Erik Nielson, who works with the likes of Elton John and James Blunt; openly commented on the high quality of work presented by the students. Further praise came from the usual suspects at The Orchard: Colleen Theis (Managing Director, UK & EU), Chris Tams (International Marketing Director) and founder of The Orchard Lab himself, Scott Cohen, who told the audience that the level of work presented was “virtually indistinguishable from the types of campaigns run by music industry professionals.” Record of The Day, Music Ally, MusicMetric, SoundCloud, Spotify and Webdoc representatives sitting on the panel also agreed that the standard was exceptional.
The program is an eye-opener for all those involved, so much so that one wonders why collaborations such as The Orchard Lab @ London Met aren’t common practice within the music industry, when numerous disciplines such as Science for instance have been partnering with related industries for decades. The Orchard recognises the benefits of narrowing the gap between academia and industry. Not only can it aid research, discovery and experimentation in a business that is no longer formulaic, such collaborations can also help companies identify their future workforce. Yes, there were areas of weakness and naturally some students showed greater promise than others but overall one cannot deny that it is the duty of the present generation of industry leaders to nurture the talents of the next generation of entrepreneurs that will breathe new life into this rapidly evolving industry.