Masterclass: Adam Ryan

12 March, 2019

“You need passion in this industry, that’s for sure. Why else would you go out every night of the week?”. So says Adam Ryan, who recently sat down at BIMM Brighton to give an intimate masterclass about his role as Festival Programmer at The Great Escape (TGE), 2019.

Featuring 500 acts across 30+ stages throughout the city, TGE is one of the biggest weekend festivals for new music in Europe, and has been showcasing the very best up and coming international music talent for over a decade.

Programming such a huge live music event is no mean feat. So when BIMM Brighton’s Music Journalism and Business tutor Erika Thomas hosted a masterclass with Adam, students of all disciplines were lining up to pitch their questions. First though, Adam gave a brief rundown of how he came to hold such an important role at TGE.

Adam grew up in Northampton and started DJing at the age of 17. When he turned 20, moved to London and originally started working in retail. After his shifts, he’d attend gigs every night and soon started DJ’ing at the Camden Barfly (now the Camden Assembly). He’d even spend his days off helping out in their offices and building a reputation as a team player who goes the all-important extra mile.

As a result, when a job came up to be a Junior Promoter at the venue, Adam was the obvious choice. “Working on the door and going out relentlessly is what got me the job I’m doing now.” said Adam. “You need passion, that’s for sure. Why else would you go out every night of the week?” he laughed.

When the vacancy came up as Festival Programmer for TGE, Adam was an obvious choice, and admits it had been his dream role for some time.

In terms of day-to-day activity, the job mainly consists of listening to music, doing lots of research on the acts and (for international line-ups) contacting export offices from each country. Adam chooses to focus on different topics each day to help keep the process as varied as possible; booking artists from a specific country, or liaising with a specific partner for example.

Adam offered advice for any artists looking to perform at TGE in future.

“You’re making and selling a product. You need to be ‘export ready’, so your live performance needs to be nailed down. Also, make sure you play the right venues, supporting bigger touring bands and play at least once a month. When applying, submit a short bio along with your previous gigging history and links to your top three songs.”

Adam also highlighted the key aspect of tenacity for artists applying to TGE, or any festival for that matter. “Don’t just apply and leave it at that. Go and find out who the booker is for a stage, where can they normally be found and just stalk them. I probably shouldn’t have said that…” he laughed. 

BIMM and TGE in 2019

BIMM continues its long relationship with TGE this year in the form of our very own showcase event along with an Alternative Escape all-dayer featuring performances from BIMM acts across our various campuses. The collaboration also provides some fantastic opportunities for our non-performance students to gain valuable work experience behind the scenes, something which Adam wholeheartedly encourages.

“Working at TGE is a really valuable networking opportunity. I know many cases where volunteers that did really well at the festival went on to get great jobs in the industry.”

Adam had some top tips for acts to keep an eye out for at the festival, with key mentions of British grime artist AJ Tracey, Australian rockers Pagan, New Zealand slacker pop quartet The Beths and UK acoustic singer-songwriter Maisie Peters. With the programming complete (for the most part) for this year’s TGE, we were keen to hear whether Adam ever gets tempted to get involved in any other aspects beyond programming?

“Once I book everything I walk away from it and let the production team to do their job. They know what they’re doing and they don’t need someone putting their nose into everything.”

What did the students think?

“It’s great hearing from people in the industry rather than musicians for a change.”

– Harry Saunders, BA3 Event Management


“It was great to get insider advice about how to brand your band properly in an application, rather than going in blind.”

– Mimah, BA2 Songwriting



We’re extremely thankful to Adam for taking the time to come and speak to our students about his life as a Festival Coordinator.

If you’re interested in gaining access to brilliant music industry masterclasses at BIMM such as this one, why not Apply Now and start your journey to a life in music today? Or, if you’d like to see our state-of-the-art facilities and meet our lecturers, why not book to attend one of our Open Days?

Notes by: Napsugar Bardocz

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