JULY 9, 2020

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After two beautiful years here in Denver, DIME has decided to move online indefinitely. They cannot say at this time whether or not they will have a future home here in Denver. But as many students head into the unknown of the fall school year, more and more are opting for an online education, and DIME is ready for them.

We had the opportunity to interview Sarah Clayman, Co-Founder of DIME. No stranger to the music scene, Sarah grew up watching her father work as a concert promoter for talents like The Moody Blues, Neil Diamond and The Carpenters. She and Co-Founder, Kevin Nixon, are both equally passionate about DIME and they’re confidant in the school’s ability to put rigorous music education online.

DIME seeks to inspire a generation of creative artists and entrepreneurs by supporting students interested in developing a career in the music industry. Can you tell us a bit about the programs you provide and are they accredited?

So Kev and I are music industry entrepreneurs. We both started our careers in different cities in the UK, in different areas of the music industry. He is a talented musician, songwriter and producer, who over the years also became a Brit award-winning artist manager and record company executive. I started in live music, tour managing and working as production assistant on some big European Tours. We met in 1995 while I was International Promotions Manager at Sony Music Entertainment (UK) and he was artist-manager to a band called Kula Shaker. We instantly hit it off, as we had the same ethos and ethic – ‘work hard, play hard – treat people how you want to be treated – and always try your best.’

We recognized there was no training for young people in commercial music. Sure, you could go to college and learn how to play traditional instruments in jazz or classical styles, to a very high standard – but what about the next generation of Keith Moons, Kurt Cobains or Joni Mitchells? Let alone the next Jon Landau’s, Estelle Axton’s or Big John Platt’s (from Denver). Previously, it was more about who you know, rather than what you know, so we set out to change that.

Ten years of founding and developing Europe’s largest music college group, BIMM, we decide to come to the US, as we had visited, the Clive Davies School of Music, Yale, Berklee and NYU and saw a gap in the market for affordable commercial music education and created a program that is inclusive to all.

Our programs are focused around teaching skills that will help graduates get jobs in the modern music industry, we strongly believe that education equals employability, so have designed our programs and classes carefully so graduates earn a living from music.

Students can study Songwriting, Music Entrepreneurship, and Performance in guitar, bass, drums or vocals, and music production. Examples of classes include: Music Industry Skills, Income Streams, Lyric writing, Technical Development, and Self-care for Creative professionals. These are just a few. All programs and classes are accredited. More information can be found at dime-detroit.com or dime-online.org

DIME was featured in Billboard’s Top Music Business Schools 2020! This is a weighty achievement. Can you give us insight into the community of musicians and music professionals who teach the courses?

Thank you, yes, we were featured in Billboard’s Top Music Business Schools in 2019 and 2020 – two years in a row! And after only 5 years in the USA. All other schools listed have been around for decades! We are proud of the team, faculty and students who have worked hard to get DIME this accolade, and it’s really about being truly connected to the music industry and inspiring and educating students through real-world experiences.

A big part of our ethos is to continue to hire faculty who are out there, working in the modern, commercial music industry – today, right now, even during Covid-19. Our previous academic partners music department did not agree with this, and tried to make it hard for professional musicians, songwriters and entrepreneurs who didn’t continue their academic studies after high school. Yet, we recognized and respect it was because they were touring the world, having hit records, and selling those hit records to large audiences. Students learn as much (if not more) from those teachers as they do from a faculty member who is on tenure, with a PhD, sitting behind a desk – reading about the music industry. It’s about balance, and one does not outweigh the other, but the former is so much more practical, interesting and relative.

Faculty members who have taught at DIME included Eric ‘Rain Man’ Gaston – drummer for Salt ‘n Pepa, Eric Roberson, Charlie Wilson, Kern Brentley, bass player and musical director for Lady Gaga, and worked with Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Ne-Yo, Brandy and Destiny’s Child, Neyla Pekarek – ex-member The Lumineers’, and Doe Phillips, tour manager to Blondie, Oasis, Noel Gallagher, Corinne Bailey-Rae and Jake Bugg.

We are bringing masterclass guests into the student’s space, whether it’s in person or online. Learning directly from people who are working in music and networking with those individuals is key to career development. People who have given their time to DIME students include Ben Lovett from Mumford and Sons, BJ The Chicago Kid, Allen Stone, Tom Odell, Denver songwriters – Jill Sobule and Eddie Spaghetti, George Clinton, Michael Bolton, Alessia Cara, Rafe Offer, founder of Sofar Sounds, …. And so many more.

When seeking to attend higher education, there is always an admissions and application process. Does DIME require auditions?

Yes, we did for our previous partner, as we had to follow their processes. Any program needs an audition process – to set students up to succeed not fail, but some of the audition processes are still steeped in the classical approach to music, such as: playing complicated scales and runs – I mean, would Nicki Minaj, Drake or Beyonce ask you to play a F# Minor scale in an audition! Of course not, I think it’s much more important to talk and understand someone’s career and playing goals, work ethic and attitude, and learning those scales become part of their education.

None of our online programs require an audition, and allow students to study in their own time, it’s a much more grown-up approach to education. I mean, let’s think about it, young people can google answers to their questions in seconds, they can find out information about anything they want with one quick click . . . so teachers and educators need to understand the changing landscape for young people, especially in today’s world, and during this pandemic. Online education can work for many, and it’s time to respect students and their individuality instead of putting them all in the same box.

Do you know how many students we have who were put in a box with a label that said – ‘not right for higher education’, ‘will never go to college’, ‘you’ll never make it, ‘you need to consider a real job’ – and they have gone on to get their Bachelor’s Degree, continued to Master’s level, got great jobs in music and have made it! Graduates from our UK colleges include James Bay, Tom Odell, Two Door Cinema Club and George Ezra …. Who’s next?

Does DIME offer core classes like math or English, and if so, how do they look different?

Yes, in the US we do as its part of the Bachelor programs, and with many general education subjects, such as math, English and public speaking, we encourage faculty to make the classes as relevant to music, musicians and the music industry as possible. For example, in public speaking, students are asked to write Grammy’s acceptance speeches, or to present a band to a room of music industry professionals. In Detroit, the last 3 semesters, 100% of students passed the math class – that is an amazing statistic, and it is because the math teacher, understands the relationship between math and music, and can teach in a language students understand! Simple, yet brilliant.

Live performances in large venues have been brought to a screeching halt. Prior to the move online, DIME students received performance opportunities. How will the new rules prohibiting large groups, change the shape of the music industry?

I have this conversation weekly with my father who is head of Live Nation in Europe, and various promoters and friends in the music industry. Doe Phillips, a very good and long-time friend of Kev and I, lives in Boulder, and is enjoying time at home with her pup Pearl, but is concerned about the Live music industry as she is a tour manager who works with many artists including Blondie, Noel Gallagher, Jake Bugg, Oasis and many more. She also taught at DIME Denver. We are equally concerned with friends who are self-employed and whose income has stopped completely. But, as the famous quotes says, ‘the show must go on’ – music and art can’t stop, it will not stop, but it’s inevitable that it has to be re-imagined.

Artists, big and small, have already taken to social media, during the pandemic, to perform at home, stripped down versions of heavily produced songs, showing fans a different side to what they usually see. #Togetherathome, Live Nations Live at Home, or Tiny Desk (Home) Concert are just a few of the many streaming concert series. Artists know they need to stay connected to their fans, and do it differently from what they did before March 2020. Performances are more real and honest, and artists seem more comfortable revealing a different side of themselves.

It is going to be a long time before Red Rocks, the Pepsi Center, Mission Ballroom and the many other venues are full capacity with fans sitting hip-to-hip next to strangers, singing along and dancing together. But venues will book shows, to fewer live audience members, who may pay a premium ticket price, with other fans paying to stream the concert at home . . . technology will play an even bigger part in our future.

DIME is focused on live music, and that means learning to play your instruments well, and play with others. This is just as important online as it is in person. If you are a musician, you don’t just play because of the audience, you play because you have something to say, you are feeling something and music is one of the greatest forms of expression.

Music is found and collected through so many different channels today. The various streaming options offer consumers more than they could possibly handle, directly to their fingertips. Is this a good thing for someone seeking a career in music?

Yes, I think it is, just because we are being forced to think and act differently, it doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity around us. First, we will need more and more content, from music to visuals. TV shows will be filmed in smaller groups, but they will still need songs and background music. Films will still need soundtracks and advertising, too. Songwriters, producers, artists and musicians are at a great advantage, as technology allows for all of us to collaborate from different parts of the world. We don’t need to be in a studio together anymore, technology has allowed us for many years to share large files over the internet. So in some ways, the music industry is ahead of the game.

With Live Music, we are forced to stay closer to home, to find the bands and artist in our home towns that we like, and not just wait for Taylor Swift or the Foo Fighters to come through town. When smaller venues open, they may attract a different audience than they did in 2019. It may get us out more, but in smaller numbers.

With the move online, does this open the door for musicians and educators around the country to participate in the programming at DIME?

DIME ONLINE has been delivering courses entirely online for 7 years now, so we know how online learning can work at its best. We have students studying in 27 countries around the world. Many collaborate with each other from the US to Africa, from Singapore to Sweden. This mix of cultures also influences new and interesting sounds in music and songwriting. Students have been listening to music individually for years now, even if they are sitting in groups they are all listening to their own music, wearing headphones, heads down, texting and watching SnapChat and TikTok videos.

What is your advice for an incoming student, eager to start a career in the music industry?

Just do it, there is no better time to do what you want, however you want. All the rules have been thrown out and in 2020 the only thing we can do is live the lives we want to. Music, DIME, and the music industry is a community, a diverse community of people that all have one thing in common – the love of music. Many students, when coming to DIME, say such things as ‘I have finally found my people’, ‘I felt like a freak before I came to DIME, and now I am where I was meant to be’, ‘No one believed in me until now’ – it’s about nurturing that feeling of belonging, that common language musicians, songwriters and music entrepreneurs have.

This program is for parents out there who have creative children, for young adults, for mothers and fathers, who never have the chance to follow their dreams, whose lives have been busy running around doing things that seem so unimportant now. We can all, without guilt, choose to do things differently, and that is liberating, so, if you want to learn how to write better songs, if you want to play guitar or drums, there are options out there for you, and DIME ONLINE is just one of them. www.dime-online.org.

As music lovers ourselves, we are grateful to have people out there in the world like you, Sarah. Your dedication to providing strong musical foundations for your students, offering them an opportunity for sustainable futures in the music industry, is inspiring.

Photos by: JUDE at judemediaagency.com