James Gordon - band member in Akoosticka

Each week we feature one of our current students or alumni, as we chat to them about their AMS Online experience and the cool projects they're getting on with alongside their degree. They tell us about their Online learning experience, how they work and perform alongside a degree, and their current musical endeavours. This week I chat to James Gordon, a current student based in Southport in the North West of England who is currently studying online for a Masters in Popular Music Performance. He tells us about balancing his masters with his music teaching and gets us up to speed with what his band Akoostika are currently up to.

Where are you from, and where you studying from?
I was born in Liverpool, but live up the road in Southport, a seaside town in the northwest of the UK.

What do you do alongside / in addition to your music degree?
I work full-time as a guitar teacher at Rimmers Music here in Southport.

What is your instrument / skill / profession?
I'm a guitarist and, out of necessity, over the last few years I've become a singer, too.

What drew you to study with AMS Online?
I'd always regretted not finishing my degree when I was in my early twenties and instead ran off on tour around the UK with an unsigned band and dreams of becoming a rock star. That band broke up six months later and rather than learn my lesson and going back to Uni, I ploughed on with trying to make it in the music industry. Fast-forward fifteen or so years and a friend mentioned AMS Online and Shaun Baxter (who I was already a fan of) and how they not only offered distance learning but also recognition of prior learning and industry experience so that I wouldn't have to start from square one again. A quick email just to see if I was eligible (I wasn't sure I'd be up to the task, if I'm honest, I thought the academic part of my brain had probably atrophied after nearly twenty years of rock and roll!) resulted in a really smooth and welcoming admissions process and before I knew it, I was enrolled to do a music degree with you guys.

How do you fit study into your day-to-day work and life?
With more difficulty than I originally thought. One of the perks of my job is that I don't have to work a crazy amount of hours to get by and as most of my students come for lessons in the evenings, my days are largely my own. Still, finding the time to get everything done proved a challenge, especially as deadlines loomed. I had to put a couple of other pet projects on hold and I missed out on most of the newly released TV shows, films and bunch of sleep, but it was all worth it in the end.

What have been the benefits of online distance learning for you?
I've spent ten years building up my teaching practice, so upping sticks and moving to a new city in order to study and also find a new job seemed like too big of an ask. I'd made peace with the idea that I wasn't going to be able to get a degree. Distance learning meant I was able to still work full-time while studying and the flexibility of doing it all from home and in my own time was a huge bonus, too.

Akoosticka Duo Photo

Are you in a band or currently working on any cool projects?
My band was one of the projects that was put on hiatus while I finished my degree (check out http://akoosticka.co.uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/akoosticka), though once I'd finished, we were booked to headline the acoustic stage of the Yewstock Fesitval in the summer, so we reformed to do that. Now that I'm studying for my masters, the lads are also helping me out with a performance for it. And we've got another full band project in mind, too, so that's bubbling away.

After my degree, I took the songs I'd recorded as part of my course, added some finishing touches, remixed them, did a video for each one, knocked together some artwork and then released them as an EP, with a limited run of physical CDs. That's available over on Spotify, iTunes, etc. and is also up for free on my website or bandcamp page.

What is on the horizon for you - in the near future, or after finishing your degree?
The biggest thing is finishing my masters in music with AMS Online. Getting a first in my BA gave me enough of a kick up the backside to make me think that I might be able to go further, to do more. It's hard going, but I'm enjoying it.

Check out James’s music on his website or bandcamp, and follow Askoostika’s progress here.
You can discover more about the online courses we have available , including our Masters in Popular Music Performance, on our courses page, and you can contact us to find out more on how to apply.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for next week’s feature, we speak to Drew Lowe, guitarist and online BA student who chats to us about how part-time distance learning works around a touring lifestyle.

James Gordon
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jaymzgordon
Twitter: @jaymzgordon https://twitter.com/jaymzgordon
Spotify Profile: https://artists.spotify.com/c/artist/1pE531JDxH7n7FOLEITRAg/profile

Words: Izzy Trott

AMS Online Mobile

Digital Education: Vital in the Modern Music Industry

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If you are a musician or producer already making a name for yourself in the industry and seeking the opportunity to expand your industry-savvy skill set, then digital learning can prove to be a powerful asset. The modern music industry can be a challenging ground to navigate and juggling your musical aspirations amongst life’s other commitments can be a struggle. Digital learning is becoming a vital and popular model of education and is an attractive alternative to traditionally taught practices for musicians who want to work, gig, tour and travel alongside learning and developing new skills.

AMS Online brings this opportunity straight to you, affording you the flexibility to learn when and how you want to. With online mentoring from world-class Industry professionals, offering gold standard tutoring which is personally directed to you and designed to enhance your learning experience to its maximum potential.

In a time-starved world, where cuts to music and arts funding is worrying, it is understandable that working musicians are keen to spend their time gigging and performing as much as possible. Online learning gives you the chance to work and study at your own pace, perhaps even gain a new perspective on the industry you are already part of, learn more about the business of your craft or develop new technical and production skills.

Just because you’re studying online, it doesn’t mean you’re limited to work only from home. You can study from anywhere around the world (we have a wide global student base, including America, Australia, China, Nigeria, Thailand and many more). If you are based in the UK, you also have access to the facilities at your closest AMS centre – so you can have the best of practical independent learning, on your terms and even attend a graduation ceremony when you finish your course, if you wish to!

What’s more, if you’re already an industry professional, with 5+ years of experience, you could be eligible for ‘Fast Track’ straight to the final year of our BA (Hons) program. Through what is known as a recognition of prior learning (RPL), we are able to reward you for your graft in the industry and give you the chance to hone-in and develop the vital skills you’ve attained in the real world.

Our degrees are validated by established and respected universities, so your qualification will be recognized world- wide. AMS Online is at the forefront of the online music education industry and is the leading UK Distance Learning provider with excellent pass rates, so your education is in safe hands.
Find out more about what AMS Online courses have to offer here and about our flexible entry points and part-time options designed to fit around your demands.

For enquiries please contact: Tel: 0843 224 9300 email: [email protected]

Words: Izzy Trott

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FREE Online Songwriting Course (4 Weeks)

We're launching a FREE online course - Songwriting: Creative Lyric Writing Approaches. Start date: July 23rd // Length: 4 Weeks


About This Course

Brought to you by the Academy of Music and Sound, this free course is intended to support both experienced songwriters and beginners alike, with fresh, new and exciting approaches to creating lyrical content.

Each week focuses on important elements of songwriting, featuring interviews, podcasts and activities. There are no assessed exams and no submissions necessary; although we encourage all students to participate in the group forums and interact with others studying the course; sharing work and giving and receiving feedback on ideas.


Students studying this course should have a basic knowledge of terminology used for song structure, although no prior education or experience is necessary. The only equipment needed is a writing pad and pen, a set of headphones/earphones and the energy and determination to improve lyrical output.


Christmas Number 1: Cultural Force or Forgotten Relic?

Since 1971, when Slade battled Wizzard for the coveted spot at the top of the charts, Christmas number one has been seen as an achievement of huge cultural significance in the UK. However, with the influence of pop radio dwindling, number one spot being monopolised by Simon Cowell’s X-Factor and guerilla campaigns aiming to get unlikely candidates to clinch it, is the Christmas chart battle still relevant?

When compared to previous festive chart battles such as Slade vs. Wizzard, The Darkness vs. Gary Jules or even the legendary Rage Against the Machine vs. That Guy from the X-Factor, 2017’s race can’t help but feel a little bit underwhelming. Speculation seems hard to come by and in amongst the stress and excitement of the season, the old chart battle struggles to find a place even in the back of one’s mind. One reason for this could be our potential candidates. A google search indicates that this year's race will most likely be between Ed Sheeran and Beyonce or...Ed Sheeran and Eminem. There is a potential wildcard in the form of a campaign to get Last Christmas by Wham! to number one for (unbelievably) the first time, but it’s hard to get excited when it’s overwhelming likely the crown will go to the man who has been omnipresent in Pop culture for the rest of the year anyway.

Another possible reason for the muted (or nonexistent) excitement for Christmas number 1 in modern times could be the effect that the X-Factor had on the charts. From 2002 onwards, Simon Cowell strategically planned his yearly karaoke competition to culminate in the release of a winner’s single which would, inevitably, due to the popularity of the show win the Christmas number one. This sense of inevitability took the excitement from the chart battle for many, with Dan of aforementioned band The Darkness stating “when it stops being a question of ‘who’s going to be number one?’ and starts being ‘which X Factor competitor is going to be number one?’ all the fun’s gone out of it. In a way, it’s changed British culture for the worse, because the Christmas number one was a cultural phenomenon.”

When considering the reasons for the change in attitude towards the charts, it must also be considered that the way people listen to music and the cultural monoliths that shaped the charts have changed considerably. Traditionally, people got their music from the radio and TV shows like Top of the Pops. This meant that popular culture was fairly homogenised, with people old and young often consuming the same music. However, in 2017, music has never been more accessible with the internet and streaming, which leads to people discovering different types of music and relying less on the traditional mainstream outlets. Radio 1 does still have an effect on the charts, as can be seen by Sheeran’s dominance, but it’s audience is smaller than ever and mostly consists of those under 30. For a Christmas hit on the scale once seen, a single has to reach people across various age groups.

The lessened interest in the charts is a self-fulfilling prophecy, with press and media outlets being more hesitant to cover the chart battle and people therefore thinking about it less. Online streaming means that many tracks from the classic Christmas canon enter the charts once again, which shows that appetite for quality festive singles isn’t going anywhere. But can artists capitalise on this and start releasing singles which reinvigorate the race for the once-coveted number one spot? Maybe next year.

Why Distance Learning is a Powerful Tool for Musicians

Are you a musician who feels like your playing or general musicianship has stagnated? Feel like you could benefit from a new approach? Got some bad habits that need fixing?

AMS Online could provide you with the skills and resources to massively enhance your musicianship, and with the flexibility of distance learning, you can make studying work around your life.

If you are an experienced musician, you may be suitable for our unique Fast Track BA course. This allows you to use your prior learning to bypass the first two years of a degree and begin at BA Hons (Level 6.) Meaning you can enhance your musicianship and earn a highly-regarded qualification without a four year commitment and at a third of the cost.

With the fast-track course, you have the option to complete your BA full-time over 1 year or part-time over 18 months, the latter would be the optimal choice for actively working musicians, producers or teachers. This grants you access to online lessons from world-class tutors, online mentoring and also allows you to use the facilities at your local AMS centre if you wish.

There has never been a better time to pursue distance learning, with The Guardian reporting that an increasing number of professionals are updating their skills by studying remotely. Furthermore, AMS Online is set up to allow the student to choose their own path and study topics which are directly relevant to their interests and career development. So whether you’re a performer, songwriter, producer, composer or an event manager, you can become more effective and more qualified studying at AMS Online!

For more information about the course and what is involved, head to this link - www.academyofmusic.ac.uk/amsonline/ba-hons-performance-industries/


The Importance of Streaming in 2017 and Beyond

It’s that time of year again. The time when a vast array of music blogs fight for your attention with their end of year lists, all vying to be the definitive voice on which music was the most influential.

If you use social media with any frequency, you may have noticed your social circle sharing their own listening habits and opinions. This week, Spotify launched their “2017 Wrapped” project, providing a variety of statistics on every user’s listening throughout the year including total listening time, top artists and top genres.

The increasing importance of streaming services within the music industry has been evident for some time now, Eamonn Ford of the Guardian claiming that “in 2017, if you’re not on them, you might as well not exist.” Despite some pushback from high profile artists such as Thom Yorke and Neil Young, it is evident that streaming sites are here to stay and getting your music on these platforms is an essential endeavour for any artist who hopes to compete.

However, the “total time listened” feature of 2017 wrapped shows just how widely used Spotify, in particular, is for music consumers. My own personal time amounted to 36,349 minutes, or around 25 days! Even at that, I’ve seen numerous friends with higher numbers and with Spotify alone having over 140 million active users,the amount of music being consumed is massive. This shows the vast potential for music to be heard on Spotify, which is particularly vital for small and unknown artists, for whom getting people to bother checking out a track can seem like a mammoth task.

The change in listening methods brought on by streaming has also seen a move away from albums and towards playlists which means single tracks are more important than ever. Being featured on influential playlists can give previously unknown artists worldwide exposure almost overnight. A recent example is former AMS apprentice Lewis Capaldi, who’s first single, “Bruises” was released in March and has now racked up over 30 Million streams on Spotify alone after generating a huge online buzz, taking him around the world playing shows.

For any musicians unsure about getting their tracks on streaming services, whether due to lack of confidence, being unsure about the process or being worried about the expense, I would highly recommend looking into it. I have listed some of the most widely-used distributors below, which offer a variety of packages and often let the artist keep 100% of royalties earned. Digital distribution is fairly inexpensive and essential to a musician’s career in the modern music landscape!

EmuBands - www.emubands.com
TuneCore - www.tunecore.co.uk
CD Baby - www.cdbaby.com
Ditto Music - www.dittomusic.com

New Start in Performance Industries (BA Hons)

New Years Resolution to further your career? There's still time to enrol on on of our exciting Online Degree Courses in Performance Industries!

And if you are an experienced musician you may be eligible to Fast Track onto the final BA top up year and do the whole degree in one year. All this at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home, whilst still working.

You will have access to the full course, mentors, tutors and the facilities of your local centre.

It's not too late to apply, take a look at our courses and contact us or fill out the application form on our website:


Fast Track to BA Performance Industries


If you have 5+ years experience as a musician, you may be eligible for Fast Track entry to one of our highly acclaimed Performance Industries BA degree courses.  You can complete your degree online over 12 months (full time) or 18 months (part time). Based anywhere in the UK, you have the freedom to work through the course material at your own pace, with your own personal mentor and access to your local Music Centre and its facilities.  

Contact: http://www.academyofmusic.ac.uk/amsonline/contact/[email protected]

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