Ashutosh Phatak, the co-founder of True School of Music, wants to provide a platform for budding musicians to build a career in this field. In five years, he plans to setup eight more schools in India and partner with schools in Amsterdam and the U.K.
Six years ago, when Ashutosh Phatak (or Ashu, as he is popularly known), founded Blue Frog, a live music performance club at Mumbai, he realised that there was a massive emergence of live bands and music festivals in India. Thus, in 2012, in a move to nurture this talent pool, he and his co-founder, Nitin Chandy, conceived the idea of setting up a music school. In September 2013, they launched the True School of Music (TSM), a contemporary music school for budding musicians. “The school is essentially a platform which will help students develop an alternative career in this field. Right now, it’s a phenomenal time to be a musician and being the first movers in the industry will prove favourable for us,” he indicates. TSM is the first institution launched under its parent company, Enki Professional Holdings, which aims to setup educational institutions in alternate career spaces such as music, digital media, gaming, and beauty and fitness, to name a few.
Spread over 15,000 square feet, the school is equipped with facilities such as an extensive library, separate classrooms for theoretical and practical learning, auditoriums and film screenings. It imparts foundation and professional training in Western and Indian instrumental and vocal music, and also offers courses in DJing, music production and sound engineering. The professional course lasts for 11 weeks and is priced at Rs. 80,000 per module (students take up 12 modules depending on the specialisation they undertake), whereas the foundation (fast-track) course is priced at Rs. 10,000 per month, and includes eight lessons, two rehearsals and one performance per month. “While anyone can join the foundation school, for other levels, the students should’ve performed at least for two to three years and should’ve completed some proficiency tests,” indicates Phatak.
The faculty and mentors at the school comprise renowned industry personnel such as Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan, Kelly Powers (Keyboard) and, Jocelyn Medina (Western Vocals), to name a new. “Each of the professors on board shares the same philosophy and enthusiasm as I do, thus, it was a huge value-add to bring them on board,” shares Phatak. For instance, Shubha Mudgal, with her in-depth experience in the industry, guides students on best practices to adopt to build a successful career in the industry. She has also authored some of the courses for the school.
The firm raised seed money from Zodius Advisors Private Limited, a fund led by former co-founder and CEO of WNS, Neeraj Bhargava. For Phatak, the investors are more like knowledge partners than external advisors. TSM follows an open book policy with its investors, where they have an equal say in the decision making process. “Incidentally, the pressure to scale up comes from me than from the investors. Given the potential available in the market, I want the school’s valuations to grow quickly,” he states.
In a move to provide a holistic exposure for the students, TSM has partnered with the Manhattan School of Music (MSM), New York and The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM), Surrey, England, last year. “In early 2013, during my tour to visit potential partners, these two schools struck a chord with us. MSM was considered even one above Berkley School of Music for the level of education they offered. Moreover, it was also smaller and less corporate in nature compared to the latter, which made it easier for me to connect with them. It was almost like two friends coming together with the same ideology and vision,” states Phatak. At MSM, the nature of partnership is such that the top graduates from the teaching program visit the school and train the students, whereas, ACM has played an active role in authoring some of its courses.
The school lays emphasis on following an ensemble education model. “For instance, a student enrolled in a certificate program cannot learn all instruments during the training period. Thus, in order to help them gain exposure to other forms of music, the school allows the students to interact with other departments and learn from there,” explains Phatak.
During the initial period, the school relied on the media and public relations to establish its brand name. Now, Phatak indicates that the focus will be on creating a word-of-mouth awareness among students. “When we first started, we expected 15 students to enroll in the professional course and foundation course, but, it turned out to be 100 in the former and 35 in the latter. So, our drive now is to enroll 100 more students in the next few months,” shares Phatak.
Going forward, he plans to setup eight more schools across the country in the next five years, and partner with music schools in Amsterdam and the U.K. “Smaller schools in various regions makes business sense because they are easier to operate. Marketing and reaching out to the right audience will also be less of a challenge,” he states. On the other hand, given the high fee structure, the school is the process of setting up a fund, to offer scholarships for freshers’. “The kind of students we want is very specific because they are ultimately our brand ambassadors. So, our next goal will be to reach out to potential students across the country and provide them the right exposure and experience through our faculty, and help establish themselves as successful musicians,” states Phatak, and signs off.
True School of Music
Founders: Ashutosh Phatak and Nitin Chandy
BEST PRACTICES TO ADOPT TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN THE INDUSTRY
A musician should look at himself as an entrepreneur, with his skills as his products. Music is a freelance job, so to be ahead of the curve, he/she needs to be really quick at what he/she does and that will come with preparation. Secondly, market yourself at the right places. Lastly, be friendly and be accessible. Don’t be the diva that comes fashionably late or turns down offers.
WHAT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS LACKING TODAY
It is lacking opportunity and the ability to convert it. When few people do many jobs, the quality drops. What’s happening today is there are a few powerful musicians who are creating a certain kind of music and people have no choice but to accept it. Essentially, the opportunity is locked out for the young performers. So, firstly, it’s important to have competition to maintain quality. Moreover, the audience should also understand quality. When this happens, the musicians will have no choice but to raise the bar.
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED
To stay true to yourself. There’s nothing greater than honesty as far as expression, as far as investment and as far as anything is concerned.
Concept in brief:
Ashutosh Phatak and Nitin Chandy founded True School of Music, a contemporary music school for budding musicians, in 2012, in a move to nurture music in India. It imparts foundation and professional training in western and Indian instrumental and vocal music, and also offers courses in DJing, music production and sound engineering. The professional course lasts for 11 weeks and is priced at Rs. 80,000 per module, while the foundation (fast-track) course is priced at Rs. 10, 000 per month, and includes eight lessons, two rehearsals and one performance per month. The faculty and mentors at the school comprise renowned industry personnel such as Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh Pradhan, Kelly Powers (Keyboard) and, Jocelyn Medina (Western Vocals), to name a new. TSM has also partnered with the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) and The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM), to aid the students in learning in western contemporary music from international faculty and, to author courses for the school. The company is funded by the Neeraj Bhargava-led Zodius Advisors. Going forward, they plan to setup eight more schools across the country in the next five years, and partner with music schools in Amsterdam and the U.K. On the other hand, given the high fee structure, the school is the process of setting up a fund, to offer scholarships for freshers’.