Ian Ramage | Today's Music Business

Our Music Business and Entrepreneurship tutor offers his take on today’s music industry landscape…


"The magic at the source of musical creativity, the idea, and the expression is very precious indeed and I continue to feel the need to emphasise how important this is…"

Alongside teaching students on our Music Business and Entrepreneurship degree, Ian Ramage is Vice President of Repertoire and Marketing at BMG and a powerful thought leader within today’s music industry. 

Propelled by a lifelong love of music and creativity, he was a recent guest on ICMP's Radar podcast hosted by artist/producer and student James Arlington

In this episode, Ian talks candidly about his career, his industry experiences and how the business has evolved.

Here are some key takeaways from the interview...

The move from analogue to digital has been huge

I made the jump from record company marketing to music publishing A&R ten years into my career in the nineties. This fundamentally altered my perspective on what I was doing. As it happened, it was a great thing, as it has served to give me a wide angle lens on the whole process of how the business works. 

Since then, the digitisation of everything has been utterly profound for all of us within the music business in terms of what we do and how we do it. 

The song is the most important part of the industry

The single most important thing is the song and the music. 

Although the way it is marketed and created has changed so significantly, the magical human thing is hearing a piece of music that connects. 

From the perspective of the creator and their joy, and the spread to people’s ears and sensibilities, the songwriting process is innately human, very pure, very wonderful and should be treasured and respected from here to eternity."

I think the discipline upon those of us in the music business is focusing on a skilled marriage of music and business. The business may now be a fast moving, digital phenomenon - yet we still need to be able to harness the power of the music itself. 

The music industry ecosystem needs to do more to support emerging artists

The most important single share of money into the business should find its way back to the creator. 

Of course, it’s important for more established acts to ensure they receive the royalties owed to them. However, it’s just, if not more, important to tackle the income of new or unheard artists. The next generation need to be encouraged to think it’s worthwhile and are able to create a living from their music. 

So we need to take remuneration seriously to provide encouragement, sustenance and support for the next generation of acts. 

If you add to this the frightening number of small venues at threat of closure, then we are lagging behind in terms of our support. 

In the business of music, the UK has been so powerful, punching above its weight in this more than any other sector outside of some notable sporting triumphs. In popular music, we have been staggeringly successful - so I find it equally staggering that successive governments have failed to understand, appreciate and harness its pure commercial potency.  

Indie music has always involved an element of risk

If you’re an indie musician, you are a business person/man/woman. 

And by taking this responsibility, you have to accept the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship - which inherently constitutes risk. 

There is always a risk that time, money, effort and energy will not provide a return. It’s not possible to do a return of investment graph for an indie musician. This is part of the challenge of operating in this world.

Music education plays a vital role in facilitating opportunities for new talent

In the sixties and seventies, there were an extraordinarily high number of rock stars who went to art college. 

The single biggest reason for earlier generations going to art college was the creative environment - and it was the closest thing in the sixties to the infrastructure, camaraderie, the human spirit and support that is provided by ICMP."

Effectively, it was trying to act as substitute for what we are now lucky to have now.

There is value in understanding business for all of today’s musicians

It's clearly an immensely positive development that intelligence/education is available on specific and different parts of the music business. 

From the perspective of the creative musician who wants to focus on music rather than become a business, there is great value in understanding some of the key/headline issues impacting the sector. 

By understanding the rudiments, it means they are better qualified to delegate responsibilities when it comes to appointing an agent or a manager. It's so valuable in preventing naivety and having the wool pulled over their eyes/ears when it comes to their own business dealings. 

All acts need to stay on top of the changes

The speed of change that we’re all subject to in the industry means everyone needs to stay on top of it.

Even established acts cannot afford to coast as the terrain on which they are standing is moving underneath them. If they want to carry on being successful, and maximise the potential income streams and public appreciation for what they're doing, then they still need to be switched on to the opportunities of the digital world.

Music business tutors have a role to play in supporting acts

There is a lot of information out there - perhaps too much - and the role of those who have lived through the changes such as myself is to apply some curation.  

It’s a process music consumers are navigating consciously or otherwise - and it’s the same for creators. There’s so much music and online stuff to consume, where do they begin? It’s a big challenge for all stakeholders in the digital music ecosystem.

Find out more about ICMP's podcasts.

Equally focused on Music Business & Entrepreneurship

The music business is an incredibly competitive environment – and over the last 30 years, ICMP has developed and refined a cutting-edge degree that now focuses equally on entrepreneurship. We’re the first music school in the UK to recognise that you need to understand not just marketing, management, finance, digital, creativity and all the structures and quirks that make the industry unique, but also how to forge your own path, create your own job, and change the future for the better. With access to ICMP’s fully equipped music facilities, exclusive industry events, masterclasses and a peerless contact network, we have it all covered.

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, email our friendly Admissions Team at enquiries@icmp.ac.uk or call them on 020 7328 0222.

School of Music Business
by ICMP staff writer
December 5, 2023
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