Words by Baz Bardoe
To say that Steve Ward is a busy guy is a ludicrous understatement. Since the late 90s Ward has emerged as one of the nation’s most productive dance music producers and DJ’s. On top of this he is a well respected journalist, radio host and record label owner. And in more recent times he has established the Electronic Music Academy, which aims to introduce people to electronic music production in the most direct and user friendly way possible.
Ward has DJ’ed and performed live on stages across the world from London to Tokyo, Amsterdam to Ibiza. His chosen style is a mixture of tough house grooves and inspirational techno. Incredibly he has had the privilege of working on music with some of the biggest names in the business including Carl Cox, Nile Rodgers and Oliver Lieb.
I put it to Ward that electronic music is a really tough caper, so was it a conscious decision to diversify?
“I worked out that it was a tough game at a very early age, so I always had it in the back of my head that I should try and expand my skill set as far as possible so I can actually have a realistic future in the music industry. I started off as a DJ, but was more passionate about making music so I taught myself music production. Then after I got my production to an international level I wanted to help other kids, to help give them an exciting life like I’m living, so I started my music academy.
“Then I wanted a record label to help push my favourite Australian artists, so I worked for two labels and once I understood how it worked and after studying marketing/ advertising I started my label.
“Then I wanted to help promote my artists further so I started hosting a weekly radio show. I also learnt photography and how to shoot and edit films to help with music marketing.”
Ward co-founded the Electronic Music Academy a few years ago with Elliot Rothfield (no longer involved), which boasts a slightly different ethos to most music schools.
“We are the exact opposite of these money generating organisations like SAE. We don’t believe that you need to spend 10k on a course to learn how to produce music. The philosophy is simple: we teach students how to write any style of dance music in the quickest and easiest way i.e. our slogan “Making Music Easy”. Another thing is that all of our lecturers are internationally recognised musicians, producers and performers that have already proved themselves on the world stage. Our guys can actually give industry knowledge and mentoring alongside our curriculum and that is something special.
“We make it feel like it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking about some cool stuff, but by the end we guarantee that you get exactly what you wanted from the course. As the founder of EMA my original concept was to create an institution that catered for the average human via low cost, high impact courses.”
EMA offer a range of music production and DJ courses (Ableton, Logic, turntablism etc) in both basic and advanced levels, with the courses running for eight weeks. The academy also offers scholarships for underprivileged students.
With illegal downloading smashing the income stream of many artists I asked Ward what he thought the future held for electronic music in this regard.
“Well most of the major labels have been investing on anti piracy bots that scan the internet for illegal uploads and I have really noticed over the past year that it is actually working. So I think it will be harder and harder to pirate music in the future, however I have come to the mental realisation that digital downloads is just pocket money anyway and it’s my performances where I get my money. Yet, it is true — the internet has given the opportunity to steal art very easily and that in turn has devalued art as a whole.
“This was one of the biggest topics I had in the back of my head when I started my record label. With the devaluation of visual and musical art on the net, what is the point of putting your heart and soul into a project and not getting your money back?
“That is when I came up with the concept of injecting as many creative ideas into each release we do to add more value to it. I found David Lazar who is an amazing photographer to take all of of our record artwork; Robbie Byrne who is a genius creative writer and novelist to come up with a creative writing piece for our PR; Eddie Hale for our graphic design and of course all of our musicians. I think having all these different art forms in the one package has made each of our releases something very special and over the years people are really valuing what we are doing over the thousands of shitty throw away digital labels that exist in the market today.”
With such a strong ethos it is no wonder that Ward is a very busy man indeed. If you want to learn about electronic music production EMA could be the perfect way to get an affordable and effective start in the industry.
For more info on Melbourne’s Electronic Music Academy and how to apply, head to http://www.electronicmusicacademy.com.au/