Suzanne Harlow, Chief Executive Officer of RSL Awards Ltd: Why should the MI industry care about Music Education?


In January 2021, Suzanne Harlow took over as CEO of RSL Awards Ltd (Rockschool), the leading global provider of contemporary music and arts vocational and graded music qualifications. Suzanne brings to the position a wealth of knowledge and an array of experiences in the private equity and the global retail sector, previously being a Main Board Director for Debenhams and most recently CEO of clothing retailer Jack Wills.

Today. we’re delighted to speak to Suzanne about, how the MI industry can collaborate and partner with Rockschool, and the importance of music education.

Q: In your first 3 months working in the UK music industry, what are 3 key things you’ve noticed about the way that we operate?

It’s clear that the last 12 months have fundamentally changed the way in which the industry operates, and like with many other industries, I don’t think things will go back fully to the way they were. Online teaching and learning has become acceptable and the shift to online exams has also been widely accepted, both here and across the World. As technology continues to develop this will increasingly become part of teaching and learning, although the live experience of music is still incredibly important.

Sitting alongside that,  expectations of  service from students, parents and teachers has increased and those providers that respond quickly and recognise the importance of great service, will win in the future.

What we’ve all see as well is that the pandemic has changed how people have been spending their time, and for many, it’s created a desire to perhaps learn a musical instrument, a trend that we’ve seen for example in our guitar books . Connecting with these new learners and taking them through a fuller learning journey will be really important to widen the appeal of music going forwards.

Q: Rockschool are the leading global provider of contemporary music and arts vocational and graded music qualifications. How can MIA members collaborate with Rockschool?

We can do this in a number of ways;

We can help retailers set up the right structure for teaching from their premises and provide assurance of a quality learning provision

We can also work with manufacturers to add value to their offerings and help promote continued engagement with their customers.

Finally on a direct level, retailers could sell our music books in stores as an aide to teaching and learning.

Q: How do you foresee Rockschool changing the landscape of music education?

We offer an internationally recognised qualification, delivered in over 40 countries and focused on both contemporary music and dance. However, our new developments have started to move us into really interesting growth areas like podcasting and vlogging as well as music production. We’re seeing growth in all of our vocational qualifications in schools and colleges which offer a  credible alternative to GCSE’s and A levels, and we’re continuing to develop our professional Diplomas. Educational policy still doesn’t fully recognise and support the arts within schools and hence why out of school settings are critically important. Retail has a great role to play here not just in providing the equipment, but in offering an all round experience be that in individual or group lessons, or offering venues for music performances.

Q: Here’s the big one – why should the MI industry care about Music Education?

I think now is the perfect opportunity for the Music industry to look at how it attracts and retains not only new learners that have become involved with music over the last 12 months, but also looks at how it offers the right setting and experience for learners of all ages and abilities. By developing relationships with students now, there’s a greater opportunity to develop their learning , upgrade their instruments, sell associated products and continue to broaden the enjoyment and reach of music.