Carli, a freelance assessor on Youth Music's Incubator Fund, shares her personal experiences breaking into the music industry, and her tips for making a music project appealing to young people.
Written by Carli Adams, NextGen Freelance Assessor for Youth Music.
As a young person trying to establish a career in the music industry, I can appreciate first-hand the difficulties that are faced – the lack of appropriately paid roles, holistic support, and leadership opportunities to name a few.
During my first year of University, I started exploring the different paths into the music industry only to find out that so many of these entry level roles and opportunities required at least 2 years’ experience in a similar professional setting. I thought, “How can they expect me to have all this experience if I’m studying for my degree?”. So, like any other young person accepting the reality of pursuing a career in the creative sector, I buckled down and looked for as many opportunities as I could.
Ultimately, opportunities came to me through people I had met and who were impressed with my work ethic, but it meant really having to go above and beyond my degree. Thankfully, I was in a position to do so, but that isn’t the case for a lot of people.
I’ve met so many other young creatives and learned about the challenges they faced and how they differed and resonated with my own. Not every young person is the same or faces the same challenges – intersectionality is key and should be kept at the forefront of this conversation.
The Youth Music Incubator Fund
In July 2020 Youth Music released their report, A Blueprint for the Future, which highlighted that “despite the overwhelming tenacity, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit in young people, current routes for them to move from education to employment are not fit for purpose”. It felt like I was finally being seen, and not by my peers, but by an organisation that holds enough power to make a change.
Following the report, Youth Music announced their Incubator Fund, providing grants to music organisations to open up access to sustainable careers in music for people aged 18-25, particularly those who are underrepresented. I knew I had to be a part of it somehow, so I applied to be a Freelance Advisor – supporting Youth Music to make grant decisions for the Incubator Fund.
After having assessed the first two rounds of funding, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a music project appealing to young people. So here are five ways you can do that.
1. Express a clear understanding of the needs of young people
If you’re going to create a project that is aimed at helping young people, consult them! There have been so many instances where projects aimed at young people demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of what they need, thus showing that they’ve had no hand in the shaping of the project.
This may be one of the most, if not THE most important factor to consider when working with young people. The Incubator Fund was informed and shaped by consultation with young people and employs them as advisors as these proposals concern their development – take a page out of their book!
2. Provide holistic support
This is a key part of the Incubator Fund application form, yet I’ve seen many applicants completely disregard it or only mention it without actually providing any evidence as to how this would be delivered. It’s becoming more and more evident how important addressing good mental health, building resilience, and wellbeing in the workplace are, especially amongst young adults, therefore applicants should be mindful about emotional, financial and access needs of the people they’ll be working with.
As the aim is to attract candidates from various backgrounds, you’ll need to reflect on what support they may need to participate in your programme – this can range from access costs to creating an accessible application process, to presenting a workplace that is inclusive and diverse.
3. Include leadership opportunities in your proposal
This fund is all about the power of supporting and nurturing young talent so that it can thrive and succeed beyond this programme. It’s about long-term sustainability and career development. Whilst there are many development programmes for young people, few include pathways to employment after training or participating in a specific project. Highlight how you will support those who you work with and what tools and resources you will equip them with to ensure further employability.
4. Allow for the programme to be shaped by your participants’ interests
One of the great things about the Incubator Fund is that it’s just as beneficial to the organisations as it is to the young people. This is a great opportunity for organisations to learn from young people about where their interests lie, whilst also teaching them about the music industry and all the skills they need to succeed. Allowing young people to tell their stories and decide to explore what’s important to them shows that you are appreciating their ideas, thinking innovatively, and can only add value to the work you already do.
5. Partner with relevant and exciting individuals and organisations
You want to show that your programme is associated to some reputable partners that young people will want to work with or learn from – this will enhance your offer. It’s important when choosing these partners that they are representative of the different people, roles, type of work you can encounter within the music industry. Keep an eye out for young creatives in your field who are finding success in their work and bring them on – give different examples of what success looks like!
Round 3 of the Incubator Fund is now open, find out more about how to apply.
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