Jamie Searls: Leading the Future of Music Education

Published by Gary Ellis on July 9th 2024, 8:01am

Jamie Searls, the dynamic Managing Director at Tileyard Education, has carved an impressive career path from his early aspirations in performance to leading one of the most innovative education facilities in the music industry. 

"I studied psychology in Ireland and then moved over to the UK when I was around 20," Searls recounts. At the time, postgraduate student funding was not available to those who wanted to study at that level, so Jamie had to focus on auditioning. His perseverance paid off as he landed roles in two West End shows, including one as a leading male, followed by extensive touring in his mid-20s.

Jamie’s journey took a pivotal turn when he ventured into songwriting and started collaborating with producers at Tileyard. "I released my debut EP and then began doing backing vocals for Adele and Elton John, which was very exciting," he shares.

Transitioning to music supervision, Jamie pitched music for TV and film ads before securing an internship at Tileyard seven years ago. "I started working part-time in the education facility in A&R and admissions, a very sales-based role," he explains. His dedication and talent were soon recognised, and he was instrumental in building the A&R team and launching post-graduate courses.

As the company grew, so did Jamie’s responsibilities. "In February 2023, I was promoted to Managing Director" he recalls. Now Jamie finds himself managing a diverse team, describing his role as "a sort of baptism by fire, but absolutely wonderful."

Navigating the challenges of leadership has been a significant part of Jamie’s journey as at Tileyard. He emphasises the importance of honest and open communication,"once people see your output, you have to earn your employees' respect," he adds. Leading by democracy is a cornerstone of Searls' management style. "I like my team to be very involved in decision-making," he explains. Such an inclusive approach contrasts with the more autocratic leadership styles he has encountered in the past.

By valuing input from all age groups, Jamie leverages the expertise of older team members and the innovative ideas of the younger generation, who connect closely with their Gen Z audience. This balance has helped foster a respectful and productive working environment. "While they might not always agree with my thought processes or the way I do things, I think there's a fundamental respect because they know I work hard and also respect them," Jamie states.

Transforming Music Education

Founded 13 years ago, Tileyard, the world's largest professional music community, is a thriving hub located in the heart of King's Cross, just a short walk from the central station. Jamie describes it as " an impressive place for those who are serious about a career in music," and with good reason. Home to over 1,500 working professionals and around 250 music and entertainment businesses, Tileyard is a vibrant ecosystem featuring more than 115 recording studios, record labels, publishing companies, management teams, digital agencies, and radio pluggers.

Tileyard Music, the in-house record label, manages prominent artists like Sigala, Joel Corry, and Ella Eyre. The community also houses major agencies and distributors such as Apple Music and Believe Digital, and key production music merchandising firms like Karen Emanuel's Key Production.

The educational arm of Tileyard was established seven years ago, creating a unique space where education meets the heart of the music industry. This innovative approach has yielded impressive results. "66% of our most recent music business graduates walked into careers within the music industry, which is far above the national average," Jamie highlights. Additionally, over 300 single song agreements have been signed by students of the songwriting and production courses in the past two years.

Adapting to technological changes is a critical aspect of staying ahead in the dynamic music industry, and the record label and publishing teams are particularly focused on this. "Is Streaming at the point of becoming dated? We're constantly assessing what the next stage will be," says Jamie.

Jamie is particularly intrigued by the potential of AI in both education and music. "There's a sense of hesitancy around AI, much like with past technological advances," he observes. Drawing parallels to historical technological disruptions, such as the industrial revolution, he highlights that whilst concerns are legitimate, new technologies often create more opportunities.

Embracing AI cautiously yet optimistically, Jamie refers to Yuval Harari's idea that AI must be sympathetic to the human cause. This principle guides Tileyard's approach, ensuring technology serves the community and fosters opportunities. "AI is being used in songwriting camps to assist in the creative process," Jamie notes. By generating lyrics and helping with content creation, AI can structure the often vague and unstructured creative process.

A New Generation of Leadership

When asked about the ideal form of leadership, Jamie states that a good leader embodies qualities that go beyond mere management prowess. "I think actively listening is underrated," he asserts. Many leaders listen, but not actively. "When you show that you genuinely care and are listening to your team, they will be willing to go above and beyond," he notes.

In challenging situations, such as when team performance may be faltering, Jamie advocates for an enquiring approach rather than a strictly autocratic one. "An enquiring response gains a much better reaction," he observes. This involves working collaboratively with the team to understand underlying issues and using data to inform decisions. "It's legitimate to lead by the data and work with them to improve together," Jamie explains.

Reflecting on his own leadership style, Jamie values a compassionate approach tempered with clear boundaries. "Compassion with respect," he describes it. This balance ensures that team members feel understood and respected, motivating them to excel. Drawing from his own experiences with inspiring leaders, he highlights the impact of compassionate leadership in earning respect and encouraging team members to exceed expectations.

Long-Term Ambitions

Approaching the end, Jamie envisions his legacy at Tileyard as transformative, aiming to redefine music education globally. "I'd like to think that we changed the game of music education to be something that is commercially focused, results-driven, and that helps propel people in their careers," he asserts. His goal is not only to advance individuals within the music industry but also to leave them inspired and equipped with invaluable experiences. "I hope that we were part of a movement that potentially changed music education globally," he shares.

“I also would like to be seen as someone who is compassionate and fair," Jamie emphasises, discussing key aspects of his leadership philosophy. While he acknowledges that kindness can sometimes be overused or misunderstood, he prioritises actions that are fair and beneficial in the long run for both individuals and the organisation. "I'd like to think that people learned a lot under me and that they had a good time," he reflects

As Jamie continues to lead and inspire at Tileyard, his ever-evolving legacy is marked by a commitment to excellence, compassion, and transformative impact in the realm of music education and beyond.

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
July 9th 2024, 8:01am

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