Liveschool Interview with Adam Maggs

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Liveschool Interview with Adam Maggs

Ableton Liveschool
Words by John Tucker

Adam Maggs is the head of curriculum and training, and has sought out Australia’s most innovative artists to create one of the most star studded lineups of instructors. Ableton Liveschool is a one-of-a-kind course, providing learning experiences and collaborations directly from established producers themselves.

This month we had the pleasure of interviewing the amazing Adam Maggs, talking about the awesome program Liveschool.

Adam has amassed an impressive amount of experience in the music space, having taught many now-famous artists, his experience and accomplishments as a trainer as well as his own electronic music production courses mean he is well suited to creating music education material for a wide range of experience levels. As an Artist Adam has used Ableton Live for his own DJ work and productions live at clubs and festivals such as Big Day Out, Field Day, Mad Racket and Parklife among others and has released music through internationally recognised labels such as Moonbootique, FutureClassic and Ministry of Sound. 

Ableton Live

Can you introduce the mission statement for Liveschool and what you hope people will gain from using it? 

Our mission is to help people with a passion for music create the music they imagine, learning directly from working artists – specifically, artists with a proven track record and making a genuine impact in the music industry. 

Within a year from starting, even as an absolute beginner, to be skilled and fluent enough to self-produce your own tracks or produce for others – and all graduates finish with industry-level music that’s ready to release, with the majority doing their training with us part time. 

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

For those whose goals are to develop a career from their music, we have two post-graduate programs, Release Music and Perform Live.

Seeing as the pricing aligns more with the price bracket of a certificate education from a provider such as RMIT etc, what parallels would you draw with this level of education especially given your experience teaching in such environments at SAE and University of Technology Sydney? 

That’s a really interesting question. While our pricing is comparable to certificate-level courses, the outcomes of our program align more closely with diplomas or even some degrees.

Direct comparison beyond that is tricky because our program serves a different purpose. From my time consulting across all levels of music education in Australia I truly value the strengths that institutional learning brings, and the baseline skills-benchmarks of government-accredited national education standards. But we chose not to go that route as it’s not relevant to our sector. Instead, doors open because of the music you create or the events you run or the artists you represent.

As a result our program is streamlined to our students’ exact goals – and they benefit from our ability to update the curriculum immediately to changes in the marketplace.

Can you detail the way the Liveschool curriculums are laid out? 

The curriculum is constantly updated by our roster of trainers, integrating their own learnings after each new release or touring cycle, and consists of five distinct modules: 

  • Foundations, covering core skills in creating, remixing, recording, drum production, sound design, music theory and mixing.
  • Foundations is followed by four focus modules (the ‘Focus Series’) that go in-depth on Sound Design, Music Theory for composition, Arrangements, Mixing and Mastering. 

Both the part-time and full-time versions of the course contain the same content, but they are structured differently, primarily to cater to various learning styles:

  • Part-Time Format (12 Months): It’s structured to alternate between blocks of class weeks and blocks of mentorship weeks. By this method you develop your music as you progressively learn new skills, and is ideal for those who work full time or have demanding schedules. 
  • Full-Time Format (9 Months): In this version the class weeks are all done upfront (6-8 weeks), followed by 7 months of mentorship. This format suits those who have an 8 week block of time to dedicate solely to music, or have a learning preference to understand the big picture first before focusing on implementation. It’s also ideal for those who live outside of Sydney and prefer in-person learning over our live-online class option.

Ableton Liveschool 2

Between the ‘Produce Music’ and the ‘Focus Series’, which would you recommend and why? 

Produce Music is the full training program for making music. Depending on your needs, you can do just the first section (Foundations module) or the second section (Focus Series).

  • Produce Music, the full program for complete training, resulting in self-produced music ready to release by graduation day. This is designed to be suitable for both absolute beginners and experienced producers. Nearly all students take the full program as it covers everything they need.
  • The Foundations module, is the first module of Produce Music – it covers all the major music-creation workflows in Ableton Live, so it is useful as an introduction to music production, or as a stand-alone module for experienced producers who are switching to Ableton Live from other DAWs (such as Logic or ProTools) and already have what it takes to finish release-ready productions from there.
  • The Focus Series skips the Foundations module – it is ideal as a stand-alone program if you are an experienced producer with an already-comprehensive skill set in Ableton Live, and your main focus is upgrading your composition, sound design and mixing skills. 

What is the required prior knowledge, if any? 

Everyone has a unique journey in music, so it’s important that we personalise to your current level, to your preferred music genre/s, and to where you’re headed.

You can enrol no matter what music background is, even if you have no prior experience at all, or if you’re already advanced. The flexible structure, small class sizes and significant amount of personal mentorship allows for you to be met at your level. 

Some beginners benefit from gaining solo familiarity and confidence in music before starting their group lessons. And some experienced producers want help ASAP with the music they’re already working on. So we offer an optional pre-course mentorship module at no extra cost.

How are lessons carried out, and how does assessment work? 

The student chooses their preferred format, either attending In-Studio (Sydney) or Live Online Classes. And they have the flexibility to switch at any time.

Weekly Structure:

  • Pre-Class (30 mins): Optional session where you can ask questions, play what you’re working on, or hear what others are making.
  • Class Time (3 hours): Small groups (10 students), hands-on learning of new skills, concepts, and creative techniques. It’s important to do those elements in real time so you can get immediate answers to questions and assistance with your music. 
  • At-Home Exercises (3 hours): Knowledge consolidation is best done in a structured way, but at-your-own-pace so you can pause, rewind, and experiment with ideas. The at-home study materials are artist-guided, taking you through new ways to combine the skills you’ve learned to-date. These can be done in two blocks of 90 minutes or spread in smaller chunks throughout the week.
  • Music Production Time (3 hours): Time allocated solely to working on your music, developing your unique creative voice, and moving your projects forward. 

Support and Mentorship:

  • One-to-One Mentorship: At set intervals throughout the year you stop being a student and your weeks are focused on being a producer, with regular feedback and guidance from your personal mentor. 
  • Technical Support: Our artist support team is available to students and graduates 45 hours a week via email, phone, or Zoom.

Assessment Approach:

Instead of traditional assessment we take a completely different approach. We start by helping you define and set your music goals. As you work toward those goals you’ll encounter challenges unique to you, and any you can’t overcome your personal mentor will coach you on how to solve them. This continuous progress and mentor evaluation means each student’s breakthroughs are uniquely tailored, and ensures they’re musically, creatively and technically confident in their abilities by Graduation Day celebration where they play what they’ve made.

In your playlist 2023 Big Releases, there are some really impressive tracks and a lot of popular Australian artists, what would you say the impact of the Australian music has been on the Liveschool program, and vice versa, what impact has Liveschool had on the Australian music scene? 

The contributions of the Australian music scene has had an enormous impact on what we do. Since we started in 2005 our purpose has been to foster internationally-viable music with a uniquely Australian identity, and this has informed who we employ to teach, how we develop the curriculum, and who we connect our students and graduates to.

Across those two decades it’s been amazing to see indie Australian music go from virtually ignored at home to an export industry, celebrated on the world stage, influencing international tastes and preferred by audiences here. 

Successful graduates have gone on to become some of the industry heavyweights and their support to us in return means we’ll continue to develop, support and promote local acts so this success flows to the next generation of innovators. 

Can you please touch on the post graduate programs such as the release music and live performances section? 

After completing the Produce Music course you’ve got self-made music that’s at a high enough quality it’s ready to release. 

As with any creative pursuit, it can be satisfying enough having created “product” to a standard that it’s ready to “ship”.

For those who want to go further and take it to market, we have 2 post-course modules: 

  • Release Music, in which you develop your business, audience and release strategies and follow through on them.
  • Perform Live, in which you develop scalable live shows tailored to fit your music, your audiences, and get it all ready to tour.

What is your point of difference, the unique aspect that creative people should come to Liveschool for? 

We do one thing and we do it to perfection. A laser-focus on developing creative abilities and technical skills, in class sizes of 10 students, supported with one-to-one mentorship. 

The people who teach and mentor are truly exceptional artists, and our facilities are the legendary (formerly known as) BJB Studios aka Big Jesus Burger, filled with best-in-class modern and classic synthesisers, drum machines and outboard effects.

What is the future of Liveschool?

What it’s evolved to now has already been such a surprise, I’d love to know the answer to that myself! 

Looking ahead, there’s been such a strong trend of women increasingly participating in producing their own music. At 42% female Liveschool is clearly an outlier, likely because we’ve been at it for nearly 20 years, but industry-wide the stats have been rising and is a future we all look forward to.

Midway through 2024 our First Nations scholarship program will celebrate the first graduates. The talent is mind-blowing and we will continue to work with Spotify Australia to see that program grow. 

Even sooner, the new version of Ableton Live is imminent, and its incredible new features will have an immediate positive impact on how we teach and how our students create.

And this week, in fact each and every Friday we get to celebrate the new releases by our graduates and community members and share them with the world – so we don’t have to look too far ahead for something to be excited about!

If you are looking for more information regarding Liveschool you can find it on their website here.