Masterclass with Alison Donald of Columbia Records

7 March, 2016

As Co-President of Columbia Records UK, the oldest recording brand and second-biggest major label in the world, we knew it was a fantastic coup for BIMM when Alison Donald kindly agreed to deliver a Masterclass on our Bristol campus.

Alison brought her enthusiastic and insightful demeanour to a Masterclass of sixty students, all eager to hear from someone at the top of the industry with a real passion for artist development.

Host Annie Gardiner led the class, where Alison talked about the discovery of BIMM Songwriting alumnus George Ezra, who signed to Columbia Records while still a student. Alison talked about how she gave George extended development time in Columbia’s A&R department, explaining that her background in publishing encourages her to approach talent this way whenever possible. George’s ongoing success is undoubtedly a testament to Alison’s artistic investment.

Discussing the state of the music business overall, Alison was enthusiastic and optimistic, comparing the current level of single and EP production at Columbia Records to the glory days of the 1950s and 60s. She expressed a well-earned opinion that analytics and online metrics are useless without a good background of knowledge and excellent instincts.

In 2014, Alison received a ‘Women in Music’ Award. She spoke about what an honour it was to win, and about the tough times, she has faced and overcome as a woman in the industry. Alison explained how she had always worked to her strengths, investing in a collaborative and supportive approach towards artists.

Amongst other great advice she gave was the importance of finding the right manager, saying,

“I tell artists that managers are the most important relationship you’ll have.”

When asked how shy people might more easily go about networking, Alison said,

“Okay, you’re shy! Turn that into your thing!”

Straight-talking and open, Alison’s Masterclass was the sort of event we pride ourselves on at BIMM, where we guarantee superior industry expertise delivered in an approachable and teachable setting for all of our undergraduates.

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