OLLO Chat | The Role of Educators in the Music Industry

Keeping up to date with the latest developments in the rapidly changing worlds of music and pro audio can often be a somewhat daunting pursuit. Here, OLLO Audio co-founder and CEO Rok Gulič talks with accomplished record producer Adam Moseley (U2, Roxette, Rush, The Cure) and his former student Lawrence Biancardi – who is now a pro mastering engineer based in the UK – about the role of educators in the music industry…

RG: Is it important to establish a good relationship between mentor and student?

AM: Yes, it is. You should be able to work with each other, and like each other. When I was starting out I was helping my mentor at the time with anything that was needed. There was a friendship that I didn’t expect to be there. I think mentoring is an incredibly important part of anyone’s journey. It’s about giving back. We’re all making music, it should be fun. If it’s not fun, then you should be doing something else. The job is hard enough, so working with personalities you don’t enjoy working with every day, should not be a question.

RG: Lawrence, does your mentor play a role in building your confidence?

LB: Yes of course. When I first properly met Adam, I came to his studio and showed him a few tracks. I was thinking I was going to take over the world with my music. Adam was nice and pointed out things that are important. He inspired me to take notice and understand them. I think first someone has to plant that seed and show you what these things are in order for you to recognise them and develop an ear for them.

RG: Mentors need technical skills and people skills. Adam, how did you approach your own learning path?

AM: I realised pretty quickly the most important thing was: don’t screw up. Learn as much as you can and put as much effort in as you can, because it was very competitive when I was starting out at the age of 20. I think one of the most important things for anyone entering our business to remember is to be politely persistent. Sometimes students who couldn’t get in would turn up to the first class and ask if it’s at all possible to join. If they do that, they’re in. That’s the most important thing, to want in enough to actually turn up, even with low chances. Others might just send me loads of emails but never show up.

RG: Is it hard work or talent first?

AM: The same goes for engineering students and artists that you work with. Some artists may not be that great but they nail a pop tune and they think they’re the best thing ever. With other artists, sometimes their insecurities push them to do better and better. In that respect, you need to find the balance between confidence with ego and enough self-checking to do better and to review. I really believe that if someone wants to do something, they can learn.

RG: Is being self-taught important?

LB: If you’re curious, I think you naturally put in the hard work. If you enjoy something you’re going to spend countless hours doing it and you’re not really going to think ‘someone owes me money for doing this’. It’s your passion, your hobby.

RG: How important is it to gain knowledge of the technology in order to stay relevant?

AM: Today you have to be aware of what came before. Everything is a progression. Sometimes technology takes a huge leap and sometimes it’s just small incremental changes. You have to stay current. I worked with tape and later with MIDI and now I use plugins. It’s ever-evolving. Technology is there to be a tool. You need an idea and a knowledge of how to use the tools available.

RG: With so much technology available, how do you select the right tools for the job?

LB: A lot of it is research, asking questions, trying out… Luckily we’re in a plugins era where it’s easy to try different things, replicas of hardware tools etc. There’s so much content online to help with exploring. I think that once you’ve used them and learned from your mistakes, you understand the nuances of the tools that you have, and after a while get a real grasp of them.

RG: What are the first steps for a student to take in order to actually make a living in this industry?

AM: Realising no one is going to come and knock on your door saying ‘here’s this amazing opportunity that will save you for the rest of your life’. Every moment you have to create, network, and don’t expect to get paid. If you do it right, you’ll get paid later on in the journey.

Constantly educate yourself and be the kind of person that people will want to work with. Earn that trust. To do that you need to get experience by working. You can only work if you’re going out and you’re finding artists, offering to do a mix for a little money, and if they like it, nail the job for the full album. The big thing is: don’t expect to start where you want to land.