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Arjan Timmermans

Arjan Timmermans, BA Music and Arts Management

Compliance and Reporting Officer, Viacom International Media Networks, Northern Europe

BA Music and Arts Management, 2008


What made you choose Middlesex University?

I was a mature student when I enrolled at Middlesex, and having stopped studying at a university in the Netherlands because the course wasn't appropriate I was planning on moving to London to study so I knew that I had to find a London university. When I chose Middlesex I didn't know about any of the universities there as I was still living in Amsterdam at the time, so I read a lot about the different courses that interested me at the different universities and the BA Music and Arts Management degree at Middlesex was the one that most suited my requirements.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

The main reason I chose Middlesex was because of the subjects covered in the course. I had done some music assignments alongside my day job before I went to university, but I wanted to be more professional about it and the course offered specific modules about music rights and events management and they really attracted me.

I wanted to give my music-related career a boost and I thought the course would give me the best chance of doing that. Before, I was composing a lot professionally but my aim was to stay in the music business but not just on the creative side.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed the music copyright modules a lot. Besides that there were some modules that took a philosophical approach to music and composition that I really enjoyed too. I didn't really know those subjects existed before and when I was confronted with them I really enjoyed them.

There was quite a good balance of very practical modules as well as more academic modules and while the latter perhaps didn't add much to my current job, they were very enjoyable and I learned a lot from them.

What were the facilities like at your institution?

When I was at Middlesex the music courses were still at Trent Park, and if I'm honest it was a little run down. It was a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by parkland, and while it had a lot of charm the facilities were perhaps not the best. But of course, it's now all very different with The Grove at the Hendon campus. I visited recently and I was really impressed.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I have many fond memories from my time at Middlesex. The location of the campus; some of the lecturers really inspired me and gave me new ideas; when I started the course I was very insecure about whether I would be able to get the degree at all, but during the course I got more confident, got good help and it ended really well.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

My advice is to be focussed on the one hand about reaching your goals, but also to have an open perspective as you may become interested in other elements of the course that you're doing, so don't have too clearly defined a picture about what you want to do.

Everyone starts the course with the same idea about what they want to do, whether it's being a record label boss or becoming a producer, but only so many people can do this and there are many interesting jobs in the music business you might not even be aware of.

What do you do in your role at Viacom?

I monitor and measure the music use in Viacom's content and on our channels such as Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central, and provide reports to agencies such as PRS (Performing Right Society). I also work with our production companies and internal staff who make content for us to make sure that they use music which is in line with our policies and make sure that they do not infringe any copyrights.

In addition to this, I train staff on music use and how to make sure that data is correctly recorded in our systems, and I also work with our IT departments to ensure that our systems are fit for the purposes we need them for. I am responsible for this in northern Europe, so this covers the Nordic countries, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland among others.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

I have a personal interest in the music industry and had previous experience of it.

The pros are that it is fast moving, there are always lots of changes and it is rarely dull. If you take a step back you see that music rights are changing all of the time. Spotify is a good example of this, though it does not affect us. Netflix is another example; it is a completely new online broadcast platform so you can imagine the changes that it has brought to the entertainment industry.

The cons are that many people want to work in the industry, so to get the job that you want to have can be quite challenging.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

I wrote lots of essays about music rights, copyright and the changing music business, and I think this definitely helped me get my current job. I use this knowledge of music copyright a lot in the role.

How did you get your first foot on the career ladder?

As I hadn't finished my first degree in the Netherlands, I wasn't in a job that I wanted before I came to Middlesex. When I graduated I was looking for work in London but it was right at the start of the financial crisis and I couldn't find a job within my field of expertise, so after doing an admin job for a year I decided to look for work back in the Netherlands and it didn't me long to find a job there by looking on job websites and applying.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

I graduated in 2008 so my current career is just beginning really. In this short period of time, the highlight would be creating an awareness of music rights within the company. Creative people often just want to use the music they want in their content, but they have to be educated on what they can and cannot do because of copyrights. It was difficult at first as I experienced lots of resistance, but after a few years I can now see that there is some real awareness of what we can and cannot do.

What are the top tips you would give to current students and recent graduates who are looking for a similar career to yourself?

Don't be too determined that you want a specific career, keep your options open. You should be focused on what you want to do, but be aware that there are always other options available.

Have patience. The job market isn't great for graduates at the moment, but sometimes starting in a certain position might end up getting you where you want to be. At least if you're at the right company in the right industry you may have the chance to develop and progress. When you're studying, try to find a work placement or do voluntary work in your field of expertise, this doesn't only look good on your CV, but helps you determine what you want to do during and after your course.

What one piece of advice would you give to the 17/18 year old you?

If you have a feeling that it's not the right course for you then look around for help and if necessary make a change. I didn't know what to do so I went around lots of creative people to see what they did and see what I would like to do. If you can get an idea of what your desired job looks like in reality then you can see if it is really the right thing for you.

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