With many years of experience in the hospitality trade, marketing, entertainment and artist management industry, Nakul Vagale is the founder of I Love Music Academy, Successfully venturing into the business of entertainment, Nakul has managed an events and entertainment company for three years, deeply involved in the servicing domain of artistes and venues of Bangalore’s nightlife and hotels alongside handling accounts and contracts for India’s most sought after electronic music entertainers under Jalebee Cartel till they disbanded it. He currently manages the financial interests for Odd Recordings, an international techno label, operated by Ramiro Lopez and Arjun Vagale. Organisation and training needs of the music business encouraged him to create India’s premier electronic music school – I Love Music Academy. As the founding director of I Love Music Academy, Nakul is the guiding beacon, running the academy since its inception in 2009.
I got in touch with him to talk about his journey in the Education space thus far and what are some of the challenges he faces.
Q. Let’s start with your journey. How did you get into this space? What was the reason behind beginning I Love Music Academy?
A. I Love Music Academy started for us as a way to train DJs for our events in Bangalore. I was in hotels before this and then worked as a consultant with my father, who had his own consultancy firm. Initially, it started with me helping him set-up his business in Bangalore after we shifted from Delhi. After that, I worked with Shangri-La for a while and then decided to venture out on my own as an entrepreneur. So a friend of mine who is a DJ and I decided to work together. We agreed to get music equipment and start carrying out events in these hotels. I had the connections I had built over the years and standardised processes for our work, he had the music know-how and operations knowledge. We were not only providing sound but also the talent and resident DJs.
We eventually started managing these clubs and started taking over certain nights beyond the resident DJs services. Because of that need, we started training people and teaching them how to DJ. We tried to create a wholesome experience for the audience and would interact with the hotel management and staff to get the best results. So it was a holistic approach towards event management. Eventually, we grew the training as a separate branch of our business. We gauged everything, the pros and cons and started our school called NXOS DJs and we started teaching DJing at the time. A lot of inquiries came in for music production, and we got one of our friends to come and start teaching them that as well. These students were either in college or had graduated from SAE that were looking for a hands-on experience that they didn’t receive during their course, which seemed quite unusual.
As the business grew into more than Dj’ing, we wanted to create a brand for the institute and came up with a simple one ‘I Love Music’. It might be laughed upon or seem too cheesy, but we didn’t care for it because it’s a pure emotion that anyone can relate to at the end of the day. It’s all about the work you put in and standardization of the quality of work that you are providing. Every three months, we were revising our content and the technology that was relevant at the time. We got on-board musicians, who knew what they were doing and continued updating their skills as well.
Q. Were you also plugging in the students in your events?
A. Well, that’s how the business started for us. Ultimately that is what we were doing. But we would pick the best from our students, and it wasn’t a guarantee that you will get a chance to play. It was vital for us to enter into this space because there was a lot of folks misleading people at the time. A lot of fly-by-night teachers at the time were making a lot of promises but were not following them up. This was ruining the credibility of the instructors and eventually, the music industry. There were many teaching, but the quality of education provided was not good enough, and an institute was necessary to teach music technology and production.
Q. How did I Love Music shift from Bangalore to Delhi?
A. Since the beginning, Arjun has been a major supporting factor. He has always been encouraging, and my guide in the background. If we ever made any changes to the courses, I would discuss it with him, and he would weigh in his opinion on it. So our courses were always sought after because there was a lot of thought that went into them. We started getting a lot of enquiries from Delhi for our courses. They would call up and would be surprised by our prices, as to how affordable they were.
I was handling Jalebee Cartel’s accounts and legal at that time, and during my visit to Delhi for a meeting with them, I did a little scouting for myself to explore the possibility of opening a school. Arjun got a little curious and asked what I was up to. When I told him that we have been receiving requests and I am exploring the idea of starting the school in Delhi. He was immediately on board. Considering my parents are in Delhi, and Arjun was also here for a while, I jumped on to the idea and started looking for places. Finally zeroing down to our current address after a lot of hassles and the rest is history.
Q. Did you continue working in both cities?
A. Yes, initially I was handling finances for Bangalore as well remotely but turned out the business was not doing as well in Bangalore, and my business partner at the time was not too keen about the arrangement, plus he was interested in working on the event production sector. We got on a call and decided to go our separate ways which led to the dissolving of the I Love Music branch in Bangalore.
Q. What is the greatest difficulty you faced while running this school?
A. Well, the greatest difficulty for us – which we still face is getting the right students. A lot of students who come to us come with a notion of attaining skills to make a certain kind of music that appeals to them. What they don’t realize is that we give you the tools to create whatever type of music you want to, by teaching you the software and engineering aspect of things that you would be using daily for your productions. They have to learn how to produce or mix any music and not just a specific music genre. So trying to get rid of these preconceived notions is important and realizing that the course is more technical to make your creative aspirations within reach.
Q. Currently, you are offering certificates to Students. Do you intend to work with the government and figure out a government certified diploma for these courses?
A. If the government allows us to do courses in Electronic Music Production & Audio Engineering, why not? Unfortunately, it is considered as a part of the film industry of India. AICTE & UGC do not cover these courses. Vocational training has started, but reigns for that have also been given to Bollywood. Our part of the industry is not directly associated with Bollywood. If you are looking at Electronic Music Production or just Music Production, there are other aspects as well. If you are looking at Bollywood mainly, then keep it as a film, do not call it Electronic Music and blanket everything- which is what the government had done initially. Whenever the government would look into the technology in music, the music industry was all under the film. There was no separate music production course. Recently they have started introducing music production in the school system like CBSE, that is really a great step ahead. This was actually done in 2012 but never implemented. And for some odd reason, they were consulting the Australian School System.
If you look for vocational training in India and music production, a lot of big music schools have tied-up with the Media & Entertainment Skill Council. We were also approached by them, and my first concern was – How is that going to benefit my students or me? Currently, they don’t have any benefits to offer, but when they do – we will work with them. One of the concerns of skill-India counsels is a job guarantee. Am I suppose to guarantee my student a job after the course, but I can’t do that. As a skill council, would they help with jobs? Apparently not. The sad reality is that everything boils down to Bollywood. The people that are heading the Skill Council are all from the Bollywood industry, and hence they have a biased outlook towards these things. I’m looking forward to better thinking and open-mindedness in the approach towards music education in India that is independent of the Bollywood industry. Though Bollywood cannot be ignored, as it is the largest segment of the entertainment industry in India.
Q. What importance does Music Business play in your school and are you doing something to promote it?
A. Music Business is essential, and kids should be familiar with these topics, but they have not reciprocated the same feeling and are showing little or no interest in that aspect, and that is why we haven’t made it a permanent part of our curriculum, yet. Instead, have been doing workshops from the get-go and inviting professionals to speak about it. Recently Terry from Beatport spoke with our students. These workshops are free for our students to attend. But most importantly for these kids – aspiring producers, it is vital to gauge the industry properly first. That experience counts and creates a drive within you, to go out there and figure a sustainable revenue stream from music, apart from just performance. So till the drive is not there, we can’t really help with creating a module specifically on Music Business, but we will continue to guide them, do industry relevant workshops and help where we can. Most Importantly we want our students to be capable musicians and we will skill them the best we can with music knowledge and technology.
You can learn more about I Love Music Academy here.