Music Management is quite a unique and specialised qualification. In an interview with the charismatic Anouschka Slager, EduConnect finds out about her experience as an international student in the Netherlands where she took on an exciting 4-year International Music Management degree.
Anouschka Slager matriculated at the Mother City’s Jan van Riebeek High School. Her subjects were Afrikaans (HL), English (FAL), Maths Core, Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, LO, and Music. Although she has always been extremely passionate about Music, she says she really liked Economics at school, a subject that would come in very handy for her future career choices.
A Musical Gap Year
After Matric, Anouschka took a break. However, unlike many others who leave on a gap year abroad to travel or work, she took off almost 2 years to focus on music. Her parents not only supported her, but they had in fact come up with the idea.
“I was really into music and I did my Performance Diploma with the Royal School of Music. I was practising the flute for 7 hours a day, working towards my exam. I needed a bit more than a year to emotionally be mature enough to move to Europe, because it’s quite a big move. The pressure was on.”
Kicking the Nest and Flying Abroad
At the beginning of high school, Anouschka was still formulating what she wanted to do with her life. She was really into classical music, but given that both her parents are entrepreneurs, she decided to focus on the business aspect of music. She researched her options within the music industry and eventually found a degree in the Netherlands that would allow her to study both music and business, specialising in the music events stream. With her parents’ support, Anouschka left her South African home and travelled abroad to study International Music Management at the Inholland University of Applied Sciences.
The three decisive factors that pushed her to go for this opportunity abroad and study Music Management were:
- Not being good enough to make a life out of music directly (and being mature enough to realise it)
- Still loving music enough to want to be in the industry
- Wanting to learn from the best and then bring the skills back home to be part of the local emerging music industry and the exciting growth that is taking place
Having been born in Holland and being a Dutch passport holder gave her the opportunity to reconnect with her cultural heritage while doing something productive like studying. Nevertheless, she faced certain pressures about her decision.
Her parents told her,
“We’re sending you overseas. It’s a big commitment, so you need to be really serious about this and not decide that after six months you rather want to do something else.”
During her studies Anouschka also realised that the Netherlands didn’t offer her many work opportunities for after graduation, due to the saturated market and the fact that she was still learning to write in Dutch. This added pressure to life after university. However, she managed to turn that pressure into a positive by exploring her options back home.
“South Africa is an emerging economy and the creative industry is growing at a rapid pace. I put two and two together and realised that back home I’d have a better chance at finding a good job and be passionate about South African music.”
Embracing the Challenges
In the Dutch town Haarlem, Anouschka stayed in a studio apartment that the university made available for students, in particular to internationals. Like many students who leave home to go study, one of the challenges to overcome is the feeling of homesickness and loneliness.
“It was nice to have the privacy, but it got a bit lonely in first year. I used to leave the TV on so it wasn’t completely dead quiet when I got home at night.
In third year I moved to another student building where many Dutch students stayed. And as soon as my Dutch was good enough where I could have conversations with confidence, it was great to live in that building and make friends a lot quicker.”
Although Anouschka was born in Holland and used to speak Dutch as a toddler, she had to relearn the language from scratch and adapt to a new culture. She recalls one of her biggest challenges being the cultural aspect.
“Even though I studied an English stream, there was still a cultural element that I had to deal with. Out of a class of 160, 40% of the students were still Dutch, so there was a bit of a reverse culture shock for me. Although I have a Dutch passport, I grew up in an entirely different society. It was new to me to interact with a culture where people are extremely straight-forward and efficient.
Coming from South Africa where we like working in ‘African time’, or talking around a problem, and then getting thrown into an environment where people pin-point exactly what the issue is, was a little confrontational for me in the first 6 months. I had to adapt to it first. ”
Navigating through the Studies
Music Management embodies a lot of practical work. Anouschka explains how one of her courses focused on Events Production, where tasks were very hands-on, simulating real-life industry projects like bid books, business plans, and pitches for events.
“We had a lot of applied projects, tutorials and field days. The thing is, Music Management is not science – it’s more a practical thing.”
In first year, a particularly difficult task for Anouschka was having to put together an event together with suppliers – in Dutch. She points out how the Netherlands hosts about 400 events and festivals each year during the summer alone, and that there is a culture that is very in-sync with how those things are supposed to be done. The Dutch government has put a lot of health and safety regulations in place.
“My biggest challenge was implementing this event, for the first time, in a different country, with all these regulations and stakeholders, in a different language. It was quite intense for me.
I mean if a fire department literally holds a lighter against your décor for 5 seconds to check that it doesn’t burn, and is covered with the correct spray, it’s a bit intense.
But it threw me in the deep end and I’m now actually quite grateful for it.”
Negative & Positive Aspects of the Degree
- The practical aspect of the work
- Graduating and getting that piece of paper
- Being privileged with such a specialised degree
- Having one very uninspiring lecturer exuding constant negative energy in class
- Being judged for studying at a university that was going through a bit of a scandal at the time
Getting Work Experience
Although Anouschka didn’t take on a part-time job during her studies, owing to the fact that her Dutch citizenship qualified her for a study grant, she says it’s a very realistic option to work part-time while tackling that degree.
“A lot of my friends who weren’t from the EU had to work, and they did really well. They were actually the guys who were kicking ass in the course, because they made it work.”
All students in her course, however, had to intern for 180 hours per year in their field, and for 6 months in the final year. For the big internship Anouschka travelled back home and interned at The Assembly in Cape Town.
A Helping Hand
When the time came to write her thesis, Anouschka was left more or less to her own devices. Her university agreed to let her write it from South Africa, staying in touch with her via Skype. Luckily though, her good friend had just finished writing a thesis himself and helped her significantly.
“My friend helped me a lot, in terms of formulating my research question, and pin-pointing the process. That was quite a lifesaver for me.”
Life after Graduation
Since her graduation Anouschka has come back home to Cape Town and worked as a brand manager for The Assembly where she was in charge of tasks like arranging promotions and sponsorships, or artist contracts.
“I made sure rockers are on stage when they need to be on stage.”
Currently she works as the Account Executive at the offline marketing agency Have You Heard where she manages campaigns such as the recent Fight Club themed Jameson Cult Film Club event.
Curious about what a day in her work life looks like? Check out a Day in the Life of an Account Executive – watch this space.
According to Anouschka, these are the core necessities to thrive in the business:
- Pay attention to detail
- Always keep the greater vision in mind for everything you do
- Have passion for your job
- Work well with people
- If you have a lot of self-discipline and want to take a gap year to turn it into something positive that can add more to your life, then go for it. You have to do it.
- If your plan is to study Music Management, try to work in the business side of the music industry before you walk into your first lecture. It will put you at a great advantage.
- Find a mentor. Find that person who’s willing to take a chance on you.
- Do what you need to do.
Admission Requirements for International Music Management
As a South African, you may apply to the Inholland University for Applied Sciences granted your English is sufficient and you have one of the following qualifications:
- National Certificate with endorsement
- National Senior Certificate
- National Diploma or higher
For Locals – The Music Managers Forum of South Africa
If you are interested in Music Management in SA, or want to become part of this community, have a look at MMFSA. The organisation offers Music Management workshops, guidance, training, and serves as a platform where aspiring music managers can explore the niche within the local context.
Organising an event involves a huge amount of collaboration. As the manager, you need to be alert and approachable at all times. Collaborations also imply a lot of team work and interaction with many different people, so being an extrovert and feeling energised when interacting with others is very helpful.