I Love Music – Composing Symphonies and Ambitions
I Love Music Academy

In 2007, like most of the other cities of the country, Bengaluru had been hit by a sudden surge in nightlife. India’s youth wanted to party, and new nightclubs, pubs, and bars were popping up everywhere.

At that time, a team of out-of-the-box creative individuals led by Nakul Vagale was fulfilling an urgent need for trained professionals: they taught enthusiasts how to be a DJ (disk jockey) professionally.

Simultaneously, they provided a platform to the ones who showed promise.

By the end of 2008, when they saw a major slowdown in most industries, the DJ academy was still going strong. The team decided to expand the operation from just DJ classes to a full-fledged electronic music school. In 2009, they re-founded the academy as – I Love Music Academy, where ILM stood for “I Love Music.”

I Love Music Academy offered professional DJ training, music production, audio engineering, as well as taught how to play musical instruments like guitar and keyboard. The word spread, and within no time, the academy started getting students from all over the country. In 2012, Nakul and his team took a major step to launch their flagship in Delhi NCR – I Love Music Academy, Gurgaon, closing the Bengaluru branch soon after.

I Love Music Academy offers high-powered, high-impact, and hands-on learning, complemented by practical, in-studio training by performing musicians as faculty and industry-standard audio equipment.

With a focus on music production and DJing, the academy built a foundation in the latest trends across the global music industry. It believes in nurturing talent in the most progressive and modern genres of music.

The Essence of DJing

“Anyone can learn to DJ; all you need to be able to do is count to four,” said Mr. Nakul Vagale. “But to be a ‘great DJ,’ you need to have a strong foundation, a love for music, and you need to put in a lot of work. Our DJ Course is a holistic course concentrating on the technical ability that progresses with technology. We embrace technology, but it’s not the technology that makes the DJ – it is the skill. Make the technology work for you, but take away the tech, can you still DJ?” he added.

Keeping this in mind, I Love Music Academy always starts at the very beginning, on Vinyl. Its students learn the basics of DJing on Turntables, which are still very relevant and are one of the revered DJ equipment. With a strong foundation of the basics, they progress to CD players, and finally, digital DJing. Along the way, I Love Music imparts knowledge about music, the functioning of the industry, and how to self-start.

Objective: Learn to DJ -techniques, skills, and technology.

Learning outcome: Professional DJs are ready to start their careers or practice a new skill for life!

The Explosive Duo

The vision and leadership that moulded I Love Music Academy from a back-office project to a pioneer in electronic music education in India was its steadfast founder Nakul. His insights towards implementing music training as a professional endeavour, personally counselling students and parents to ensure the right fit to the academy, and finally, constantly challenging the status-quo by implementing constant learning and upgrading of courses as per current industry needs, kept I Love Music academy as a front runner in electronic music education.

Recollecting his journey, Nakul commented, “I strongly believe that success is a team effort and am thankful for the amazing minds that we have worked with. My team, the amazing faculty, the extraordinary musicians, and the Co-owner of the academy, my brother Arjun Vagale, have all been great support and pillars of our ongoing growth”.

“Aptly named ‘India’s Techno King,’ Arjun is a self-taught DJ himself. He is India’s biggest name in Techno and arguably the face of India’s electronic music scene. Our courses are envisioned around how Arjun learned to DJ, packing in his foundation years of learning into a short, high-impact course that will give people the edge to start their journey,” he added.

Through his love and dedication for creating music, Arjun has been inspiring the youth of electronic music in India for over two decades. Even though Arjun does not take regular classes at the academy due to his action-packed career, his contributions range from bringing in industry professionals and colleagues to impart and share through knowledge exchange sessions and workshops. He hosts impromptu ‘Skill Workshops’ spreading his love for Synthesizers and promoting Vinyl for Dj’ing.

The success and name of the academy spread as Arjun’s career soared in India and internationally. From his days with Jalebee Cartel, an electronic band that put Indian electronic music on the map internationally, till his present-day moniker: ‘Asymetrik’, he has broken the mould of Techno he is known for, to something more experimental and free form.

Mixing it up with the pros

Associated with some of the best musical assets of electronic music in India, I Love Music Academy’s faculty members are practicing performing artists. They always keep themselves updated with what is happening in the industry. Their dedication to sharing knowledge only surpasses their passion for music.

The students must learn from successful musicians who have either found success already or are on their respective journeys. To this endeavour, I Love Music Academy hosts a plethora of workshops with some of the best the industry offers. I Love Music Academy has witnessed visits from international legends such as DrumCell, Ramiro Lopez, and Christian Smith, who have graced I Love Music Academy with student interactions and workshops every time they visit Delhi NCR, to Indian superstars like Murthovic, Anish Sood, and Gaurav Raina (Midival Punditz), who are close friends and benefactors, and conduct workshops whenever possible.

They also host Q&A sessions and interviews beyond the technical with some amazing artists. There is a lot to learn from their journey in music, and students also get a platform to interact, and at times get critiqued by some of these well-known artists.

Beyond the artists named above, and some more named below, here we have not merely a comprehensive list but a sample of the artists who have conducted workshops and Q&A sessions at the academy: Josh Wink, Markus Schulz, Nene Hatun, Dualist Inquiry, Nucleya, DJ Sa, BLOT, Ashwin Mani Sharma, Kohra, and the list goes on.

“We also are supported by the industry and are thankful to CDBaby, theinventory.in, On-stage, Wild-city and Scoop brand holdings for their contributions over the years in various capacities with workshops, demonstrations, and content,” remarked the dynamic co-owner, Mr. Nakul Vagale.

Where the Art is Inspired

I Love Music Academy’s new facility in Gurgaon was relaunched recently in July 2021, post the 2nd Covid surge. It is a dedicated music studio in Sec 55 on Golf course road with easy access to the Gurgaon Rapid Metro.

A cosy, two-studio space, a well-equipped dedicated DJing studio coupled with a robust sound-treated production studio merges into one large space for workshops and larger gatherings in the future.

With a wealth of knowledge for the curious at I Love Music Academy, the library has books on music, a collection of the audio industry, and DJ magazines. Additionally, the institute also provides a dedicated collection of Vinyl Records for the students to listen to.

With strict covid protocols in place, access to the space is currently restricted to individuals by appointment only.

“Check out the gear…”

For DJing, the equipment used to teach is also used for practice by students. You will find these brands and models being used on stages, in DJ booths across the industry, as well as the “go-to” choices of leading professionals.

The I Love Music Academy team avoids teaching on equipment unless they determine it to be ‘industry standard.’ For turntables, they only use Technics 1200 series, and the CD players are exclusively Pioneer – being the current industry standard across India – Pioneer 350s and 2000nxs2.

For digital, they have midi triggers by Arturia (APC 40mk2) and Native Instruments (X1 and Z1). They decided to stick with Pioneers Rekordbox for file management and NI – Traktor for Digital DJing (as it is the most widely used).

“We see a lot of our students buying Midi Decks for practice at home, a great affordable choice for amateur DJs to play with are the Numark controllers, so we have that at the academy generously provided by Onstage to demonstrate on,” said Mr. Nakul Vagale. “However, we don’t really encourage our pro-DJ course students onto Midicontrollers as we rather have them integrate professional Pioneer hardware DJ console with the digital DJing software.”

Meet the Magnificent Team

The esteemed faculty of I Love Music Academy is a famous cluster of practising/performing musicians. The DJ faculty comprises Manish Bhatt a.k.a. X-Fader, and Bachitter Singh a.k.a Turban Raga.

X-fader, ILM’s senior DJ faculty, is a highly skilled Turntablist, a seasoned hip hop DJ, and well-known commercial DJ in Delhi NCR. With 23 years of experience in events, music, and entertainment, he has held residencies and several exclusive clubs in the UK (mainly London) and India (New Delhi). As a radio presenter, voiceover artist, and producer at Hit95FM, as well as being a TV presenter in the UK for B4U Music-UK and guest appearances on BBC 1Xtra radio – he brings with him a wealth of knowledge of music.

He released his first single that premiered on BBC Radio 1 and BBC Asia Network as well as 94.3 Radio One India, which boosted his popularity. Recognition over the last decade by the industry and peers nominated him for VH1 Awards, My Fav Awards, and Nightlife Awards. His cheerful disposition and helpful nature ensure that his students get the very best in DJ training as well as insights into the inner workings of the industry.

Turban Raga – an alumnus of the academy, has, over the past 10 years, emerged as a music curator and well-known stage manager at music festivals such as Magnetic Fields, NH7 Weekender, Boiler Room BudX, Supersonic 2018 Delhi, and many more; giving him insights as a technical expert.

His notable residencies at Summer House Café and Auro progressing to managing entertainment and called upon to open for artists as diverse as Nucleya, BLOT, Dave Seaman, Radioslave, Flug, and many others give him a wealth of knowledge to impart to newcomers to the scene.

Enduring Hardships and Rising Above

DJing is very much a part of the social culture among the urban youth, and it deserves its place and recognition. The Indian Government does not recognize DJing, as it neither falls under Indian music culture nor any formal education in engineering nor vocation.

Recognition by the industry and the music community as a professional school for DJing with integrity and high standards has never been an issue for I Love Music Academy, and its team is thankful for that. Unfortunately, that is where the recognition ends, so say the founders.

“We don’t need to be part of the formal education system or vocational, as the current vocational system is geared for the masses and very centric to feed the Bollywood industry,” remarked Mr Arjun Vagale. “An acceptance as cultural education would be a great starting point. DJs should be given the same respect as other art forms get,” he added.

Another factor of dismay for this academy: DJing was really not taken as a serious profession in the past, but the sudden surge in interest over the last decade has attracted some unwanted attention, mainly with misinformation or half-knowledge.

“As a school, we constantly fight this, guiding students to understand the industry, visit a night club or two, and then venture into learning. To learn the right way, with the right equipment and in the right spirit – as an art form, and not a quick moneymaking tool that it is not,” says Mr Nakul.

I Love Music Academy’s physical studio shut in March 2020 with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a tough year for the music industry as well as the academy and the team. They had to make the tough calls but were able to reopen.

The ILM team estimates that they are not out of the woods yet. There is a lot of uncertainty among potential students. Though the academy is now open for business and is thankful for the abundant interest received, it has been noted that people are still sceptical about joining due to the nature of the pandemic. The institute wants to reassure its students that it is a safe space following all the Covid protocols.

Traversing the Music Industry

Student showcases were once part of ILM’s offering. However, the average age of students dropped to under 21, and that posed a challenge. Therefore, to stay on the right side of the law, the academy opted out of directly hosting student showcases. The academy encourages its students to organise student-based events and support them with promotions and guidance.

“We also encourage our age-appropriate students to attend gigs of associated performers and also facilitate the same at times. Faculty performances provide another possibility for exposure, and our students are called upon either to volunteer, assist or spectate,” elaborated the founder duo.

The academy always ensures that its students have access to state-of-the-art equipment and the most efficient infrastructure, enabling them to practice their coursework in a high-end studio environment.

Over the years, I Love Music Academy has partnered with the most acclaimed brands in audio technology: Akai, Alesis, Lennar digital, “mastering the mix,” Native Instruments, NumarkNovation “xfer records,” to name a few.

These are all non-monetary academic associations. All the audio companies listed above have voluntarily associated with the illustrious academy. This reciprocal relationship gives the students invaluable exposure to the world’s freshest trends and equipment through training videos, student discounts, and occasional technical workshops.

Bolstering Futures with Utmost Sincerity

A DJ wears many hats and one of the most important being that of an entrepreneur, a self-starter. Just doing a course does not make you a DJ. You need to live that life, the struggle and then reap the success. One needs to work at it like one would learn to play an instrument. If you get good at it, you can make it a career, or else, it is a skill you picked up that enriches your life.

At the academy, they do not spoon-feed their students, and neither are the students provided with gigs or placements. There are far too many DJs out there than there are venues for jobs. So, the academy does not make empty promises nor gives false hope.

“We do nurture, guide, and prepare them for the journey ahead. Reiterating the saying – We rather teach our students to fish than give them the fish,” explains Nakul.

It provides the students with workshops by industry experts and well-known DJs, opportunities of internships through their alumni in the industry (occasionally), and a class on the ‘Business of music’ and ‘Marketing Yourself as a DJ,’ which Nakul conducts personally. Coupled with unlimited practice on the decks during their course, I Love Music Academy students are well prepared to start their journey as professional disk jockeys.

“Our students are capable of getting themselves gigs, residencies, as well as self-hosting events, and many have found success doing this. We are always there to help them promote their gigs, guide them through difficulties as well as help understand legalities and even help strategize their moves, guiding them in their journey and pointing them in the right direction,” adds Arjun.

Being associated with some of the biggest names in the electronic music space and being a sister concern to ODDX – a leading artists management agency, ILM has its eyes and ears open for the achievers.

When possible, the team even opens doors from the background for some self-achievers but does not give assurances nor involve themselves directly.

Becoming a Household Name Having been featured in various publications, the most notable one is the recognition by the prestigious Rolling Stones Magazine India in 2012 as one among the top four schools.

In the recent past, ILM has established note-worthy academic affiliations with ‘Pyramind,’ San Francisco, from 2015-18 and was among the chosen few to be Ableton India Education Partners in 2019-20.

But, as the founders proudly remark, true recognition comes from the success of their students. Though ILM does not directly take credit for their achievements, as their achievements are the fruit of their perseverance and hard work, the ILM team is glad to be a part of their journey.

Meet the Stars of a New Generation

Some of the notable DJ students from I Love Music Academy include:

  • Raedl – Rathin Adhlaka
  • Profanaty – Nayanika Hemant Wadhwani
  • Prateek Vats
  • Audiomenace – Essjay
  • Sakrel – Sagar Thakral
  • Red – Rohit Lall
  • Secular Chai – Aprajata Singh
  • Last Local – Abhishek Jaisinghani
  • Gam3 – Shubham Tyagi
  • The Sub-z Crew (Stain, Npstr, Miredo, Tanzen, and Sodhi)
  • Switchers Duo (Tarun Mishra & Pryas Makkar)
  • And, of course, Turban Raga

Nakul further adds: “There are many more I would like to mention as this is an endless list. But I would like to give special mention to a truly brave and spirited soul – Varun Khullar, who overcame life-shattering obstacles and successfully established himself as a gifted DJ with the moniker ‘Aamish.’ We are honoured to be part of his journey. Varun is a resident DJ at Kitty-Su, Delhi and is India’s first differently-abled DJ.”

The pandemic rollout

Online classes had existed way before the pandemic did and will continue way after its ends as well. But not everything is meant to be taught online.

Education is not just about imparting or gathering knowledge; it is also the experience. That is why we go to school and college, where the interaction between teachers and students is part of the learning experience. The pandemic has disrupted this, and many have turned to online classes, and so did ILM, to begin with, for music production, but not for DJing.

You cannot teach someone to DJ online not unless they have the equipment at home, and that would still present a lot of challenges. The DJ equipment is a big part of what learning to DJ is all about.

You can teach them how to use software and possibly understand some concepts of DJing, but you could do that pre-pandemic. DJing based on only software and a controller would be a fun experience for home-use enthusiasts but far from a professional DJ course.

One must learn to develop hand, eye, and ear coordination along with musical sensibilities as well as setting a mood and creating a vibe. The experience of learning to DJ online is not practical.

So, ILM’s solution to the current situation was to reopen its studios. The academy has gone from group classes to private one-on-one classes, following all the COVID protocol and regular equipment sanitation after each use.

The team has tried to be as conservative with their pricing, keeping the price of private one-on-one classes similar to what they charged for the pre-pandemic group classes.

Tuning to the Future

Music is an innate part of all our lives, and we have to preserve the art for future generations.

Mr. Nakul and Mr. Arjun restarted the academy, fully aware that the next few months, if not the year, will be an uphill climb for them and the music industry as a whole. So, a conservative approach, reorganizing and deploying their resources into what matters, minus the frills of a large space, means that I Love Music Academy went compact.

“It is a question of survival at the moment, and we want to come out of this with our heads held high, knowing that we did whatever best we could for our students without compromising on our standard and quality of education nor the health and safety of all concerned. It is a rough patch, but even this shall pass,” concluded the astute founders –Nakul and Arjun.

Note from the founders

“The music industry has taken a major hit during the pandemic, putting budding artists out of work and leaving the established no better. Being part of the unorganised service sector, the degree of damage the pandemic has inflicted is unquantifiable. It is easier to just say it is a complete wipeout. And yet, throughout the pandemic, we have all been witness to numerous online events and promotions done in aid of organisations, communities, and NGOs by artists and musicians from across the globe, including India, to help raise awareness or donations for a cause. With no one to take care of them, musicians still find a way to contribute in whatever capacity they can, normally through free performances and even giving up sale proceeds of their music. These amazing selfless souls need our support to get back on their feet! Please support your local artists, buy music, and attend gigs whenever possible, but be safe when doing so!”

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