DC graduates managing the sound of music

Photo By: Michael Bromby

Marni Thornton program coordinator for the MBM program

“It was a day before my birthday, in my grade twelve year that I got accepted into the program. It was one of the best moments of my life,” says Matthew Layne, a 2017 graduate of the Music Business Management (MBM) program at Durham College.  At that time, Layne did not know how the program would help him become successful in the music industry.

This program has seen many graduates advance in the music industry. Music Business Administration (MBA) is a two-year diploma that teaches students about networking and planning. Music Business Management (MBM) is a three-year advanced diploma that helps students learn about how to manage events and artists within the industry. Both programs only accept 72 students per year but there is a wait list of hundreds of applicants waiting to enter, according to Marni Thornton, the program coordinator.  Thornton is passionate about music because she says it can help people get through tough times in their lives.

“It can bring back good memories or bad memories. It is powerful in that way, there is nothing else like it,” says Thornton.

Thornton began teaching in the MBM program in 2006, but before this she worked for Factor for 20 years. Factor Canada is a non-profit organization which provides funding to artists and distributors. Thornton says other professors in the program have also had experience in the industry, which benefits the students. For example, professor Greg Jarvis has helped manage artists such as David Bowie, Dolly Parton and Aerosmith.

Students in the program are taught about each part of the industry including networking, management, and marketing. This teaches the students about each aspect to get them prepared for the industry. Jennifer Archibald, a second-year student in the MBM program, says the professors are fantastic.

“If you need a connection, if you’re looking for someone’s name that you need, they are always there to help you,” says Archibald.

Archibald grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and studied biology at Dalhousie University. She received her degree but realized it was not the career for her. Growing up, her parents would play music throughout their home, and she slowly grew into music. She decided to consider the music industry but not as a musician. She looked at different schools but Durham College stood out.

“There is not a whole lot of programs in the country that are specifically about the business part of it,” says Archibald. “I’m really interested in the business and behind the scenes, Durham College was my top choice.”

Each year, the MBM program hosts a festival. This year, the name was changed to Oshawa Music Week. This event focuses on local artists in Durham Region and gives them a platform to showcase their own music. The professors allow the students to do a lot of the work in preparations for the event while providing insight and advice. Archibald nominated herself to be the Marketing and Advertising director and her class chose to vote her into the role.

“I was able to bring in my past education experience and apply it to the marketing position,” says Archibald.

For students working the event, it is critical to their learning to work this event. However, in the third-year of the MBM program they must complete a co-op placement which has landed many students a job. Samantha Mcneilly graduated from the MBM program in 2016 and says it launched her into the best career.

“I got my internship, which I got my job through,” says Mcneilly.

Mcneilly works as a music supervisor at Supergroup Branding in Toronto but she is originally from Oshawa. She says Durham College helped her network and gain knowledge of how the industry works. She says networking is essential to the success in the industry, and it is important to maintain relationships with students from your class. She says the program is family-oriented and you gain close friendships which carry on in life.

“I have some of the teachers on Facebook, I communicate with my classmates, I am actually engaged to one of my classmates,” says Mcneilly.

Matthew Layne got accepted into the program a day before his birthday while he was in grade. He never knew he would be managing artists such as Crown Lands and Hot Lips.

Cody Bowles (left) and Kevin Comeau (right) make up Oshawa’s rocking duo, Crown Lands.

In 2017, Layne graduated from the MBM program and he says his success is because of the experience he received from the program.

“If you take the opportunities that are thrown at you and make good connections with people it will help you out,” says Layne. “The MBM program will help you if you put in the effort.”

Layne says this program offers hands-on experience compared to other music business programs in Canada. He says the professors have life experience in the industry which helps students to understand the industry. Layne says one of the best parts of the program is the support he received from professors and classmates as he entered a dark time in his life.

“I received so much support from the MBM program, I was getting emails from the professors and text messages from classmates,” says Layne. “The emotional support has been incredible.”

Mcneilly and Layne are only two of the graduates who found success. One graduate is working with the Canadian Country Music Awards, while another manages pop star Alessia Cara. The MBM is a competitive program by taking in 72 students each year to the program, but it has built the reputation as one of the best music programs in Ontario.

“The MBM program is one of the best in Canada, if not the best,” says Layne.

Thornton says she is proud to make a difference through teaching students.

“I just like being able to hopefully make a difference in their career path, and help them know what they need to know,” says Thornton.