Peter Hook, one time bassist for Manchunian legends Joy Division and New Order, may soon go by the title of Dr. Hook. The 56-year-old musician has launched a music industry degree in conjunction with The University of Central Lancashire to help educate students in the pitfalls of the business.
The BBC reports that the masters degree will focus on management and promotion, combining music, academic and business experience into a singular course. The degree is designed so that bands and musicians can learn from Hook’s mistakes.
“One of the great things about education is that it should stop you making mistakes,” says Hook, “and I have made a lot of mistakes.”
As part of the infamous Factory Records lineup during the ‘Madchester’ era, Hook saw the follies of his fellow musicians and label boss Tony Wilson (as chronicled in the comical 2002 film 24 Hour Party People) and his poor business decisions in managing acts like The Happy Mondays and A Certain Ratio, as well as the financial disaster that was the Hacienda night club.
“The way that Factory worked, it was full of very creative people who never looked after business – and that’s why all those businesses crashed,” says the bassist, “They were based on very idealistic ideas, very creative, very naive. What I’ve learned is that life is a balance between idealism and realism.”
Hook has designed the new degree as a way to mentor students and help then benefit from his own experiences in ‘how not to’ manage a business. “In Factory and the Hacienda – and in many ways in New Order and Joy Division – we never really looked after business,” reveals Hook, “they only rumbled on because Joy Division and New Order’s success paid for all our mistakes.”
The legendary bassist is bringing his status as an elder statesman to bear on the new music degree, based on the academic assistance he’s already provided. Hook says he’s already helped students with university dissertations written about the era that made him, as well as giving careers talks across British schools.
The University course is a way of ‘giving back’ to the young people who will make up the future of the music industry, “because it’s pretty grim out there” reasons Hook, “this is quite a logical and important step in helping young people.” Adding that, “everybody comes out of courses full of ideas, full of ideals, and when they get to the job – it’s completely different.”
Hook chalks up his own personal mistakes in his early career as coming from naivety, “you come from the classroom and arrive in a place like the Factory club and you’re dealing with a thousand drunken punters every Friday night – that’s the business end they have to learn about,” he explains.
Remarking on the current climate of reality television and talent shows like The Voice and Idol, Hook was scornful of the idea that such formats were helpful in founding music careers. “The thing that makes me laugh is – what would Simon Cowell have said to Ian Curtis?” He would have said: ‘Goodbye.’”
Aside from his former friend and bandmate, Hook also wondered how other figures of his generation would fare in today’s musical climate, including the singer for the recently reformed Stone Roses:
“What would [Cowell] have said to Ian Brown or people who I count as important in my life? They would have dismissed them. They don’t have technical ability, but they’ve got something called soul.”
The new degree at the Univeresity of Central Lancashire is seeking to combine this ‘soul’ with an understanding of the “dirty end” of music as a business. “The two things are equally important,” says Hook, “we’ve got to give [students] a rounded perspective.”
Les Gilon, the academic charged with spearheading the course, concurs. “It’s about the love of music, rather than the love of money,” he noted, urging that the course would integrate the business end of band management and promotion. But that it was also equally important for students to “support the music that they love – to make it financially sustainable.”
Former operations director for the Ministry of Sound and studio owner, Tony Rigg will also be contributing his experience to the course. The industry figure championed Hooks initiative, telling press that “we’re bridging the gap between academia and employment and equipping them to set up their own enterprises.”
Hook isn’t the first bass player to invest in music education. Michael Balzary, better known as Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, founded the nonprofit music school, the Silver Lake Music Conservatory, in 2000. While royal Beatle survivor, Sir Paul McCartney founded the Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts in 1996, and it remains one of the UK’s leading institutions for music, sound technology and theatre.
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