Sunderland aims to become cradle of music industry as top musicians help launch pioneering new programme

Top musicians will be helping Sunderland students prepare for careers in the music industry with the launch of a pioneering new course.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 11:31 am
Barry Hyde and Dan Donnelly outside The Peacock in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD
Barry Hyde and Dan Donnelly outside The Peacock in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

The BA (Hons) Modern Music Industries course, which aims to nurture, develop, and produce the music artists of the future, will be led by some of the North East’s most prolific musicians.

The programme will be run by the University in partnership with the Northern Academy of Music Education (NAME) – made up of Barry Hyde, from the Futureheads, and business partner Dan Donnelly, who has performed with Celtic Social Club, The Wonder Stuff, and The Levellers.

The first cohort of around 30 students will be based in music studios in the art and cultural heart of the city, and will offer unique opportunities for a fresh wave of artists looking to break through.

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Barry Hyde and Dan Donnelly. Picture: DAVID WOOD

The University said, led by musicians, for musicians, the course aims to fully equip students for life in an industry that has undergone a radical transformation during the past 20 years.

Barry said: “You used to have to go to a recording studio, a recording studio you would have to pay thousands of pounds to hire for the hour, day or week.

“Today, we live in a time where music technology dictates, and people have direct access to that technology. You can make an album in your bedroom – the ability is there; in many ways now is a great time to be a music artist.”

Professor Arabella Plouviez, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries at the University of Sunderland

Students will be partly based in Birdland Studios, located in renovated rooms above The Peacock, while the academic side will take place in rooms at the nearby Fire Station venue.

“It’s exciting,” says Barry. “(Students) will be working directly with music industry professionals who have a vast knowledge of the industry dating back to the mid-90s.

“We are professional artists who are still making and releasing music on an international level. This is a programme designed for the 21st Century music business.

“It’s no longer enough to be just a musician; you have to be a business-person, an entrepreneur, an A&R specialist, a social media expert.

“And although you will learn all of these things, we haven’t forgotten the most important factor of all – making great music.

“The aim is to make a creative explosion and we will be here to mentor and guide these self-motivated musical artists.”

In an industry that is notoriously fickle, and 2020 has been a brutal time for creative industries, but Barry believes the programme will help students stand a better chance of success.

“There is undoubtedly a lot of luck involved in this industry,” he adds. “But you can make yourself more lucky. And this programme will equip you with that very ability.

He added: “I don’t believe, and will never accept, that art is a secondary career. The music business alone generates billions of pounds every year.”

Professor Arabella Plouviez, Dean of Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, said: “Sunderland as a city, has a strong tradition in music and, like all the creative industries, it becomes even more important as part of how we move forward from the current challenges.

“This new programme that NAME is launching in collaboration with our faculty is a really exciting opportunity for musicians to learn about the contemporary music industry, develop their own creative voice within that, and draw upon the vibrant scene locally, regionally nationally and internationally.

“The new premises will put students at the heart of the city’s cultural centre offering a truly integrated experience that will provide an amazing to start their careers.”

Find out more about the Modern Music Industries programme at

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