The past, present and future of Scottish music may be securely anchored in the ancient heart of Glasgow. But through the internet, tens of thousands of people worldwide now have access to one of the planet’s great music resources: The Scottish Music Centre.
Among the keystones of the Merchant City, in the gloriously refurbished City Halls complex, the SMC stands at the cutting edge of promoting Scotland’s vibrant musical culture, tending its history and providing resources for the present and coming generations of Caledonian musicians. For 40 years, its extraordinary archive of both written scores and recorded sound, has collected the world’s best array of Scottish music. More than 30,000 items range from 18th century song sheets through modern classics to the latest indie releases on CD and MP3.
But in its anniversary year, the SMC is much more than just a library. It is a key player in developing Scottish talent both locally and internationally. Training sessions and outreach programmes, Scotland’s best online news and jobs service for the music industry, and a whole range of essential services, from publicity to website design, printing, digital scoring and recording.
Said managing director Gill Maxwell:
“The Scottish Music Centre’s task is to champion the wealth of talent that abounds in Scotland’s musical community. We actively promote Scotland and its music locally, nationally and internationally. Our website – www.scottishmusiccentre.com – has attracted more than 125,000 visitors from 96 countries in the past year.”
Thousands of email and telephone enquiries are answered, about everything from ancient Scottish bagpipe music to the latest web-only release from an obscure underground dance collective.
“We are determined to increase public accessibility and increase awareness of what we can offer, and that is already paying dividends,” said Maxwell. “We are already doing lucrative business for our writer members through the worldwide hire, sale and promotion of their work.”
First port of call
The SMC is the first port of call and a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to use Scottish Music in performance – say in an orchestra, choir, film or TV programme. Sheet music can be hired or bought for many otherwise unpublished works, including those by eminent composers such as Sally Beamish and Edward McGuire.
But this is also the place to come if you’re seeking information about that ancient Simple Minds single for an ad or trying to track down the original members of the Victors or Harvest to score a film (Messrs Alan Cameron and Malcolm Lindsay, respectively, now successful composers).
A huge enthusiasm and depth of knowledge among staff is matched by access to state of the art technology. If you have a question, the SMC almost certainly has the answer.
The early years
The history of the SMC started in Glasgow’s west end, on 14 april 1969, when the Scottish Music Archive, founded by University of Glasgow music professor Fred Rimmer, was opened. Renamed the Scottish Music Information Centre in 1985 after becoming independent and gaining charitable status, In November 2003 the name changed for the final time, to the Scottish Music Centre. Three years later came the move to the City Hall complex, at the very heart of Glasgow’s cultural quarter, in premises shared with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Glasgow cultural Enterprises.
But cyberspace geography is key. Access to the various databases held by the centre is available online, along with the shop, directory, news, jobs and events listings.
“We’re a national information point and a resource hub” says Maxwell. “For music in Scotland, information, skills, services, it’s got be the Scottish Music Centre.”
Various major projects such as TuneUP, Showcase Scotland and Chamber Music Forum Scotland owe their website design and maintenance to the centre, and are linked into to the SMC online hub. But it’s not all pixels and megabytes. The SMC has always been committed to real world education and training, and a whole host of projects has taken its expertise and insights into schools, community centres, towns and villages throughout Scotland.
These include 2007’s Phonik and 2008’s Phonik Outreach, aimed at developing the musical skills of young people between 14 and 25, first in Glasgow city centre and then in Govanhill, in a youth group aimed at youngsters who had moved to Glasgow from central and Eastern Europe. The inspirational Composer Sessions have introduced well-known musicians to a committed but brand new audience, and Sample This brought the high tech world of loops and Garageband to an eager set of would-be producers and samplers.
Registrations has just opened online for the new Music Plus project, a scheme which gives 14-19 year olds keen to work in any or all branches of the music industry, from songwriting to sound mixing, onstage or backstage a chance to be mentored one-to-one by seasoned professionals.
“Traditionally, you learned everything about music just by getting involved,” says Maxwell. “Music Plus offers that in a structured context of proper training, and access to the best, most committed and approachable industry pros. You can be face to face with folk who have a mission to share what they have learned with a younger generation.”
Membership of the SMC offers all kinds of advantages over the casual customer. From a mere £10 a month (individual members) you get a profile webpage, discounts on music copying and binding, use of the City Hall facilities, advice and mentoring. Plus SMC will handle the sale and hire of of your compositions. Corporate, Group and small business memberships are also available.
And there’s an online shop, where you can buy everything from the latest CDs and vinyl to downloads of the original sheet music for some of Burns’ most obscure songs: £2.50 a pop.
Supported by the Performing Rights Society and Scottish Arts, the SMC seems set for another 40 highly productive years.
“I feel really confident that the SMC is entering a new phase of both tending and promoting Scotland’s music” says Maxwell. “We are continually refining and improving our databases and developing the archive both in content and accessibility. But we are now seeing the fruits of our work with new generations of musicians and music professionals. The future’s looking great!”