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Point Blank’s forward thinking

In this week's report, Phil Ward talks to Point Blank's David Reid about the work and dedication that's required to keep the facility right at the top of its game

Point Blank is one of the UK’s premier music production schools, specialising in innovative training in music production, sound engineering, DJing, and much more. David Reid talks to Phil Ward about the history of the school, its culture, and what he feels keeps it at the very top of the production tree. How did the school get started, and how is it funded? CEO Robert Cowan opened a commercial recording studio back in 1994 and called it Point Blank. Clients began to asking how to use the gear so Robert created a music production crash course using current gear like an Akai S3200XL. When requests came in for DJ courses, the stage was set for Point Blank Music College. Years later, we have 2000 students per year taking 100s of courses. The online school started 5 years ago and is now the leading online school of its kind. The courses are funded privately by the students who take them. Tell us how virtual learning and 1-2-1 DVR works; is it Skype? Not it’s not Skype – bit too unreliable. Recently, a former student reviewed us and did a great job of describing what happens when you take a course with Point Blank. Here it is in his own words: “I took the Electro House and Mixing Dance Music courses and they were absolutely fantastic. The combination of theory with video examples is outstanding. Every week they put up a lesson. There are approximately 30 pages of easy read explanations with on average 1 hour of tutorial videos per week backing up the theory (I received as much as 90 minutes some weeks) and a chat session with your tutor & fellow classmates where you can ask questions. Using the methods & techniques covered in the lesson, you prepare a project (your own or the one provided) which you then upload for the tutor to review. The feedback comes back in the form of a DVR (Direct Video Response), which is a short video in which the tutor looks at your project, talks through the things you did well, makes adjustments and provides feedback on how to move forward and improve your project. This video usually lasts about 5-10 minutes. You can also check your classmates’ DVRs and learn even more interesting things. If I had to give a vote out of 10 I would give Point Blank 10/10. I hope that this can help fellow readers to decide on which school would better suit their needs. Cheers, Alfie.” Is there a predominant style of music that’s part of the school’s culture? If I had to choose I’d keep it quite open but say we have always been known for dance music of one kind or another. The Pro Producer courses feature these styles: dubstep, deep and soulful house, electro, minimal, hip hop, EDM and trance. Other courses focus on many different genres for those with more eclectic tastes. Share some student successes with us… Nicole Moudaber, championed by Carl Cox, now plays at Pacha, Ibiza; Gareth Wynn is a sought after remixer through his work with Beyonce and Leona Lewis; Lucy Monkman has a residency at Annie Mac Presents as well as a regular slot on Rinse FM; Detboi releases tunes on massive labels including Skint, Surface Noise and Herve’s Cheap Thrills – the list goes on… It’s an awesome list of tutors. How do you attract them? And maintain the roster? I think they gravitate towards us because of our reputation. The best recipe is someone who has enjoyed tangible success in the industry. For example, someone that has sold a lot of records, written great songs, signed bands – so that they can pass that experience on to our students. They also have to be friendly as that helps when you are a teacher! Are traditional pro audio colleges out of touch? Yes. So many studios have closed down because work as old school sound engineers just isn’t there anymore. How many SSL mixing desks are you going to come in to contact with these days? The music business has changed completely. As well as finding out how to get ahead in the music business today, whether through remixing, DJing, producing, being an artist, managing or presenting on radio, our students have the advantage of being able to sign to our in-house publishing and record label, pitch for adverts and soundtracks, as well as gaining many industry connections to help them get started in the business.