7 Oct 2015

Abbey Road College – Perhaps with added Tom

Mystery surrounds the Abbey Road Institute which opened in London this year at the historical recording studio. Touted as an international initiative, the college-within-a- studio offers a 12 month Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering in the UK. The mechanics of squeezing this into a working studio are unclear, but it is a step up from the ‘purpose built’ colleges like SAE which produce graduates with nowhere to go – other than their laptop loaded with ProTools.

Tom Misner


Things took an interesting turn recently when Studio 301 in Sydney was sold to ‘Abbey Road Institute’. Studio 301 was owned by mercurial mogul Tom Misner, who ran SAE (formerly School of Audio Education) until selling to Navitas almost five years ago.


This is where strange things seem to come together.

Tom took around 50 million when he sold out and reclined, out of public view. Until the sale in 2010 he was very visible, walking around Audio Engineering Society trade shows and announcing
huge deals inside and outside of SAE. The recording studio college, established in Sydney in the late 1970’s, expanded world wide with an opaque structure centered on Amsterdam and a management team populated by hard men from Europe.

After purchase, Navitas got on with running SAE and ceded some ground in Australia to arch rival Martin Cass at JMC which expanded exponentially. While both SAE and JMC grew enrolments, the advertised job openings for recording engineers and producers hit zero.


Students today can access VET Fee Help which is an Australian Government managed student loans scheme which is rumored to face severe sanctions under the Turnbull government after many private colleges (not any named in this article) outrageously gamed the system. Spruikers would sign up non English speakers or intellectually disabled to Diploma courses, offering an inducement like a laptop. The college was then able to claim up to $18,000 in course fees, which the student didn’t need to start repaying until their taxable income exceeded $54 grand.

Enter Abbey Road with an Australian operation managed by Paul Ledingham and assisted by Gianni Michelini. Ledingham was Misner’s Melbourne manager and then spent four years under Navitas running the Melbourne SAE before decamping back to Misner to run Studio 301.

Now he turns up heading Abbey Road in Australia, and the rumors are running hot that Misner is an ‘advisor’. As it is slightly less than five years since the sale of SAE he may or may not be still under a non compete clause. He is enormously difficult to find. The sale of Tom’s studio to interests associated with Abbey Road are too coincidental.

As to Abbey Road Institute in Australia, it will cause heartburn at SAE, JMC and the other three letter acronym college that flogs Studio courses, AIM – the Australian Institute of Music. The Melbourne Abbey Road is under fit-out at 134 Stuart Street Southbank. Ironically the shareholders are mainly from Hayball, an architectural practice also located at the same address.

In Sydney the college will need to fit into the working spaces at 301. The course on offer is not yet accredited, which means Abbey Road need students to pay the $14,000 annual fee instead of flicking it on the tab with VET Fee Help.

CX understands Abbey Road have applied to be a Registered Training Organisation in Australia, and then they can offer VET Fee Help loans to students. As to where the graduates will find work? Abbey Road say their course is the ‘first step toward a professional audio engineering and production career.’

Collectors item,the Misner Factor explains everything you never knew abou running an audio college!

Toms book

First published in CX Magazine (October, 2015)




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