Work in progress: AIM, Women In Ctrl & Amazon tackle music industry barriers

Work in progress: AIM, Women In Ctrl & Amazon tackle music industry barriers

The team behind a new industry apprenticeship scheme have spoken about its potential to support new exec talent and inspire wider initiatives.

AIM’s Amplify apprenticeship programme has launched with Amazon Music, Women In CTRL and consultancy All Things People & Talent.

“It’s something I’m passionate about, lowering the entry barriers and getting paid roles to young people who want to enter into the industry,” Nadia Khan, AIM chair & Women In CTRL founder, told Music Week. “It opens it up in terms of diversity and to people from different backgrounds as well.”

Amplify’s focus is on women and non-binary individuals, to boost representation in the industry. 

In the first round, six apprentices secured placements at Bella Union (Brighton), Come Play With Me (Leeds), Fear Records (Manchester), and London-based Fire Records, Glasgow Underground and Heavenly Recordings, who are AIM members.

The roles will last 15 months and be paid the Real Living Wage, with Amazon providing a salary contribution from its £2.5m apprenticeship fund.

Khan said the Living Wage element is to “give apprentices the best start that we can”. 

“There are brilliant people and we just need to be able to give them the opportunity,” she said.

Historically, music industry entry roles have often been secured through internships. 

“I worked for over six months for free before I got my first paid role,” said Khan. “I had to pay rent, so I had to take a weekend job to be able to survive – that’s how I got my break. But if I hadn’t done that, then I wouldn’t have the career that I’ve got today.”

Ross O’Watson, head of label relations UK at Amazon Music, said Amplify provides a more secure opportunity compared to even a paid internship. 

“An apprenticeship is more formalised, it’s more structured,” said O’Watson. “There are guarantees for these apprentices about the level of training. Essentially, we’re encouraging the record labels to give them a pathway to the industry by [Amazon] contributing to those training costs and salaries.

“They’re going to come out of this with formal qualifications, as well as 15 months of solid experience. What we want to add to that is mentoring, further support and education, so that the apprentices are going to be in a really good position to embark on a career in music.”

The first round of apprentices on the Amplify scheme

As the UK government’s apprenticeship scheme does not have a specific music industry option, Amplify teams with independent labels using the business administration standard.

“Working in an independent label gives you the opportunity to get a really broad overview of A&R, digital marketing, all different aspects, and then you can figure out where you fit in and what you’re passionate about,” suggested Khan.

“It’s a broad enough role, which means there’s some flexibility and they’ll get a range of experiences,” added O’Watson. “It fits neatly with the available apprenticeship standard.”

The apprentices are employed as label assistants, providing both admin and creative support, as well as working with A&R teams on growing women and non-binary talent on rosters.

“We weren’t discounting labels that maybe had a gender diversity make-up in their company that was predominantly male, if they came in demonstrating to us that they wanted to use [Amplify] to progress change,” said Khan.

There are brilliant people and we just need to be able to give them the opportunity

Nadia Khan

As well as helping to lower barriers to entry, the long-term aim is to help tackle the challenge of label rosters being more representative in terms of women and non-binary artists. 

“There are so many great people campaigning and talking about change,” said Khan. “But actually being able to build a scheme will then amplify the messaging and create awareness around the issues, as well as inspiring others to create their own initiatives.”

“I found the prospect of working with a DSP platform really exciting, and making an actionable change as part of the supply chain,” added Khan. 

“It’s not just about the change within those companies or for those individuals. It’s also about amplifying the objectives and influencing other companies to tap into [Amazon’s] funds that they have to invest in the independent sector.”

Katherine Cantwell, Heavenly’s social media manager, welcomed a scheme where “the label gets as much out of it as the apprentice”.

“We get a lot of requests for work experience,” added Antonia Lines, programmes manager at Come Play With Me. “It’s not really something we’ve been able to offer because we don’t have that resource, either financially or in staff time to be able to train someone up. So it’s actually really nice to be able to have someone that we know is getting that development [with support from AIM], as well as the work experience.”

Olivia May, product manager, Fear Records, said Amplify has already had a positive impact.

“We’ve now been able to take on more artists because we knew we were having another pair of hands,” she said. “Our apprentice, Kaitlin [O’Connor], is brilliant, she slotted straight in.”

Kaitlin O’Connor, junior product manager, Fear Records, said: “We've all just come in and they've welcomed us with open arms, which is a great thing. I suppose going into something like this, you don't know how much trust they're going to put into you [at the label]. But I found that, straight off the bat, it's like, ‘You're here, you're part of the team.’ And then from the AIM side, it's very much like ‘You're a member, this is what we're offering you and this is how we can all work together.’” 

Mollie Taylor, label assistant at Come Play With Me, added: “I didn't actually realise how great AIM actually is, maybe in the north it just doesn't get spoken about as much as it should. There are so many great opportunities that I didn't even know about. So it's really exciting to be able to be offered that for free as well, through working with AIM.” 

“I think that's the most important thing, the accessibility of it all,” said O’Connor. “I didn't think that, a few months after coming out [of university], I'd be working in a job that was applicable to my degree, especially in such a competitive degree.”

“It's actually quite incredible for both of us,” said Taylor. “It was the time that both of us needed something and it just got thrown at us.”

“It’s pretty evident that all the apprentices are huge music fans, some of them are actually artists in their own right,” said O’Watson. “That’s obviously really important – the music industry is essentially comprised of music fans. So it’s exciting to see that passion for music.”

PHOTOS: Rachel Billings

(Back row - L-R) Nadia Khan, Antonia Lines, Katherine Cantwell
(Front row - L-R) Ross O’Watson, Kaitlin O’Connor, Mollie Taylor, Olivia May, Nina Radojewski, AIM head of membership



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