Breaking Into The Music Industry With Nick Halkes, Co-Founder Of XL Recordings

Music’s power to seduce the minds of young people is well documented. Since Rock n Roll’s halcyon days in the 1950s and 1960s it is perhaps only football that has attracted more hopeful pretenders worldwide with its promises of excitement. These promises take many forms and, indeed, there are many routes into the world of music, but the one thing that binds them all is doggedness. One man who knows this and who embodies the kind of dedication and graft needed is Nick Halkes, one of the founders of XL Recordings and the man who broke The Prodigy. Halkes was recently invited to give a masterclass to one of our Music Industry classes, to whom he bestowed his sage-like knowledge of getting your foot in the door, and his own unique pathway into the industry. It was a long one, so we’ve split the class into several parts. Check out Part 1 below.

So, for the first part of his masterclass, Halkes describes the first part of his history in the industry, leading to the revelation that shaped much of his working life thereafter: that by putting himself out there and diving headlong into his convictions, there was no telling how far he would get. His story begins in Portishead, Somerset – where Geoff Barrow, founder of the band of the same name, also grew up (he even attended the same school as Halkes). As a child, he discovered dance music at a young age, through Al Mathews’ Disocvatin’ show on BBC Radio 1, and it wasn’t long before he and a friend took their respective hi-fi systems around town to play music at birthday parties. He later graduated to playing on hospital radio in Bristol, before following the industry to its natural hub in London.

In London, Halkes followed his nose and engineered an encounter with Peter Powell, a Radio 1 DJ, the result of which was that he became one of the station’s Pop Panel, reviewing the records of the week. From there he made his way across the pond where he found himself working as an usher at a cinema in Queens, New York. His initiative kicked in once again as he convinced the station manager of WBLS, B.K. Kirkland, that he was a journalist writing a story on New York radio, so he might get his foot in the door once again. Once there, he did exactly that, and became the station’s intern, leading to yet another piece of serendipity: an invite to the launch of the latest Michael Jackson release onboard a yacht on the Hudson River. All of which is to illustrate the power of putting yourself in the right place, because any time could be the right time.

Guest masterclasses like this one are something we strive to bring students of all of our classes, and recent examples include Shan McGinley visiting our radio students. Check out our courses in these subjects and beyond at each of our schools in London, Mumbai, Los Angeles, Ibiza and online. If you have any questions, please call a course advisor on +44 20 7729 4884.

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