Ever dreamed of becoming a music producer? Lisa Murphy’s here to make that dream a reality…
What is a music producer, how do you become one and where are all the music producer jobs? Blank Studios manager, music producer and teacher Lisa reveals why she’s ready to change the music industry forever…
Their work is shrouded in the realms of the mythical.
How can someone take Britney Spears’ vocals and churn out a tune like ‘Toxic’? Or the chaos of Foo Fighters live and arrange it all into ‘Everlong’? And where the dickens does Finneas O’Connell even start when it comes to a track like Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’?
Music producers. Also known as technician magicians to us mere mortals. But is the mystery of their work all too convenient for those currently working in the industry? An industry still dominated by wealthy men?
Lisa Murphy thinks so. A music producer herself – currently managing one of the North East’s leading music production facilities, Blank Studios, working alongside the likes of Holy Moly and the Crackers, Cortney Dixon, Bigfatbig, Martha Hill, and one of this year’s Glasto favourites, Pigs Pigs Pigs… (well, seven lots of Pigs!) – Lisa has found that music’s marginalised groups, particularly women, not only have less opportunities to break into the industry, but also experience more socioeconomic barriers to accessing the technical areas of the music business.
Which is why she ready to instigate change. Enter, Access Music Production.
Or AMP, for short. See, AMP is a social enterprise Lisa (along with her wide-ranging network of music industry contacts) has started in a bid to help underrepresented people in the North East access the knowledge, skills and job opportunities they’ll need to work in the field of music production.
From September, AMP will begin a bespoke programme of workshops and activities that will bring aspiring music makers together, introduce them to top industry experts so that they can learn from the best and make important connections for the future, and get them on the desks in some of the region’s most elite recording studios to learn the craft.
Fancy finding out more? Yeah, us too…
What’s AMP CIC all about?
AMP CIC stands for Access Music Production. It’s a brand new community interest company based here in the North East. The idea is to provide a platform to try and instigate as many projects as possible to give people the opportunity to experience how to use music technology in their music making.
The mission of the company is to provide access to music technology training, music producing software, industry experts and workplaces to everyone through our projects, regardless of any individual’s background. We want to remove the barriers to accessing this part of the industry.
Why did you feel it was important to set up the initiative?
As a music producer who has been involved in both education and industry for so long (over 20 years now!), I’m really aware of the barriers to getting a foot in the door in this industry. There’s a lot of focus on having the skills, but also so much emphasis on who you know and how you can get someone to give you a chance to get started in music production.
If I had £1 for every time I’m approached by a young graduate or someone with a love of music asking for an opportunity to get involved in a recording session just for some experience, I’d be rich!
But the thing is, we do want to help. I say ‘we’ – I mean local studios, producers, tutors, mentors. But the majority of us are self-employed and need to also make a living for ourselves. We can’t afford to give up much, or sometimes any, of our time to support people who want to learn in the workplace. And this is a problem, because I know so many people in the industry would love to be able to develop people to work alongside them and move the local music industry forwards.
And why now?
The last couple of years, with lockdowns and a lack of live music opportunities, we’ve seen a lot of people trying their hand at music production at home. There are lots of online resources to help with this, but nothing takes away from connecting with your local music community in order to further your skills and network with real projects in the music industry. This is why, now – as the music industry has an opportunity to refresh and restart after Covid – is a great time to be focussing on these kind of projects and support.
Tell us about the AMP CIC team – who is involved in delivering the training?
This is difficult to answer without missing someone out! The ‘team’ for me doesn’t just comprise of those who are currently involved in the meetings or delivering the projects, it’s also all those behind the scenes who are supporting and providing ideas and connections, as well as those who will deliver on the future projects we offer. So, it’s huge and constantly evolving!
An absolute key person who I must mention by name here though is Laura Brewis. Laura is a founding member who has brought so much to the development of AMP already. She also runs a fantastic CIC called We Make Culture, based in Sunderland, which has had huge success running music making projects to enhance the lives and opportunities of their participants. A wonderful example of this is their YMP project, who’s young musicians will be able to link up with AMP to develop their music production skills further.
Where did the idea for AMP come from?
The idea to setup AMP CIC really came from the many funded projects that I’ve been privileged to be involved with over the last couple of years. One in particular – an Arts Council funded project called Women in Music Production – really opened my eyes to how marginalised groups perceive their barriers to accessing technical areas of the music industry and the lack of opportunities to help them overcome these barriers. I felt like I was in a position in the local industry to be able to do more by bringing people together to help instigate projects and setting up AMP.
Tell us about AMP’s first programme, Making Tracks, which starts in September. What will this involve and how can people apply?
Our first project is being delivered in partnership with Sage Gateshead and has funding support from Youth Music. It’s aimed at helping people aged 16-25 develop skills using music technology to support how they make music, either as songwriters or music producers, working on their own music or with others.
As with everything we do, we aim to demystify studio spaces and allow people to get hands on with technology. Learning music production is really about experimentation, practice and understanding what the technology can do for you to help create new and interesting sounds to influence the music you make.
For this project, we’re going to have two groups to allow participants to have individualised learning at their level. The beginner’s group will be delivered at Production Room studio while the intermediate group will be at Blank Studios, in order to give a varied experience and access to different technology in different environments.
Both programmes will be delivered by experienced musicians and music producers, as well as guest workshops throughout the course, and local musicians and producers Holly Rees and Frankie Jobling will be leading the workshops alongside myself.
You can apply to take part in the course on Sage Gateshead’s website.
Will all your programmes be targeted at a younger demographic, or do you intend to branch out AMP’s services to reach older groups, too?
AMP CIC was set up to support under-represented groups in the North East music industry to access music production skills and environments. For us, it doesn’t matter what your background, status, age, ethnicity or gender is. We want to make the music industry an inclusive place for all. We hope that the projects we offer will help to do this.
Research is key to achieving the right offer. We’ll always be reaching out across our social channels to gain feedback and ensure that we’re meeting our aim to provide a diverse and inclusive offer to meet the needs of the North East music community.
What have you got planned after Making Tracks?
We’ve got so many ideas that I’m excited about! Not all of them ideas will get realised unfortunately, as one of the big barriers for getting involved with music technology is a financial one. We do everything we can to address this by applying for funding support and working with local partners to secure funding, but funding is highly sought after and very competitive and is often a long process to undertake. There will be other programmes where funding isn’t a consideration which will also be available, possibly more quickly too.
The next programme we have in the pipeline is Women in Music Production: round 2. I mentioned earlier the first round of this programme I ran in ‘20/21, to support more women into what is often seen as a traditionally male environment. As a woman myself working in this industry, I’ve encountered many of these barriers and situations throughout my career, so this project is one that’s really close to my heart. There’s loads of information about the first round, as well as a brilliant short documentary from the participants, on the project’s website.
How much is the North East involved in the wider British music production scene?
The music industry is changing. No longer do artists and music producers need to be based in London to make a career for themselves. Look no further than Sam Fender – although he has expanded his team, the management (Owain Davies), engineers and producers (Mark Broughton, Bramwell Bronte) that he works with are still North East based.
The local music scene is exciting and bursting at the seams with homegrown, grassroots talent. You only have to switch on the local radio at the weekend to hear these artists on BBC Introducing shows in Newcastle and Teeside…. And these artists are recording with North East producers! Many of whom I know and work with and will be involved in AMP CIC projects.
So, I guess the answer is that we’re a region which has and continues to establish itself in the music industry. I honestly believe that, if we invest in our industry here at home and provide opportunities for people to grow, we can retain the great talent of our music makers to continue to really establish the North East music scene on the British map.
What do you feel is the biggest myth about producing music that you’d like to bust with AMP CIC?
That music production is something really difficult to understand and work with. It’s not!
If you’re introduced to it the right way and given the time to experiment and practice, you will get better. I think everyone thinks that you have to be super skilled and experienced, using lots of fancy gear in a pro studio, before they can call themselves a music producer. That’s simply not true. Make music for you and learn the production skills that help you make the music you want to make. If that’s a basic level, that’s fine; if it’s in-depth and highly technical, that’s also fine!
Every journey is individual. You don’t need to compare yourself to others. If we’re all making the same music, the scene would be pretty boring!
And what would you most like to achieve with AMP CIC?
The most rewarding thing that we can achieve is to see others grow in confidence and ability through an opportunity or support we’ve given.
I’d like to see this generation of North East music professionals have a positive impact on the next generation – not because of who they know or where they’ve come from, but because we worked together to make these opportunities possible for them.
Regardless of where they have started, I hope that the people who join our projects develop a love of music technology and a passion for life-long learning in this area of the industry.