Vital Regeneration is a charity working in North West London to create better opportunities for local people. The organisation was delivering “Studio+”, a youth education programme as part of a contract funded by the ESF (European Social Fund). The objective of the programme was to use music as a hook to get young people aged 14-19 who had dropped out of full-time education back into full-time education, employment or training. Studio+’s approach was to run a 10-week course in music production which included literacy, numeracy and career development sessions.
Attendance at Vital Regeneration “Studio+” programme was at only 30% of the target. Despite having music production facilities on-site and a network of mentors who could provide guidance on using it, the programme was not attracting or retaining its target market. Most of the young people who had been enrolled on the programme initially had dropped out altogether and a remnant remained but even their attendance and engagement was noncommittal and inconsistent.
To understand why the programme was failing we conducted interviews with previous participants on the programme.
These were either over the phone or in person at cafes or in the office. We also went on the street and asked young people in general what they wanted from a music-related programme that was meant to help them with their career.
The research showed that the Studio+ programme was failing to meet the expectations of young people. They felt that they had been promised one thing but were in fact being given something else.
What had attracted many of them had been the prospect of learning how to use music equipment. However in reality, the lessons they were being taught felt similar to school which is the environment that many of them had left.
In addition, young people were being taught literacy and numeracy which were not what they had signed up for.
Young people could not see the benefit of participating in the programme.
Whilst the core components of music production, industry mentors, literacy and numeracy education were felt to be useful but the way they were packaged did not appeal to the target audience.
Studio+ needed to be repositioned and redesigned. Instead of making it a course where young people were taught to use music production equipment and then forced to sit through literacy and numeracy classes, we positioned it as “The Showcase”: an opportunity to create your own record label and record your first album over a 10-week accelerator during which we would help you interview the artists on your album (developing young people’s literacy skills), create a business plan for your album (developing young people’s numeracy skills) and meet industry influencers with whom you could discuss your next steps (career development).
Reframing the programme in this way resulted in the programme becoming oversubscribed to the point where young people needed to be turned away. Young people from neighbouring boroughs outside of Vital Regeneration’s catchment area had heard about the programme through word-of-mouth and wanted to take part. All of the young people on the programme passed their academic qualification and the majority progressed onto further training, education or employment. The outcomes achieved set a new record for the Studio+ programme which had been running for several years.
Rather than positioning the programme as “just another course”, we positioned it as something aspirational and attractive. Even to the point of making it something that young people need to apply to join. This went against the conventional wisdom at the time of lowering the barriers to entry so as to get as many people in as possible. The key was that we had made the programme inherently and instinctively attractive.