An Ivor Novello-winning musician is turning to tech, and taking music into the classroom with his groundbreaking start-up.
The smartphone and tablet-based app Studytracks merges music with study materials, creating lyrics or “hooks” relating to a specific exam theme or topic.
Launched officially in February 2016, and available for both Android and Apple devices, the idea has already caught the attention of Bob Geldof.
Founder George Hammond-Hagan was handed an Ivor Novello award in 2003 for his work on the Liberty X hit Just a Little.
He was inspired to move into education after watching his son struggle with schoolwork at home.
“Every time he went to study he had all these distractions, the iPad, the iPhone, his music, his laptop,” said Hammond-Hagan.
“How can you study will all of that going on around you? And then I thought what if his music was useful and relevant. So I borrowed one of his books, took some of the text and turned it into a track.
“Next thing you know, he was in school with all the answers. He came home and told me he’d have his hand up before anyone else in the class because he’d remembered everything that was in the song.
“We did it a couple more times and the reaction was the same, and I thought there could be something in this. And that was two-and-a-half years ago, then we launched officially on February 29 last year.”
Based out of Hammond-Hagan’s studio in London, Studytracks has now had 82,000 downloads and is number 14 in the education app store.
There are more than 400 tracks available for GCSE/AS Level in the UK and SAT/ACT for the US.
Its founder explained: “Everything is run through the app, which kids can download for free.
“You then get a fixed amount of tracks without paying anything. Then you can pay for the verticals, one for each subject, which is 99p.
“Then you get access to all the tracks there, and that is constantly growing. In under a year we’ve almost reached the top 10 in the app store.
“My background is squarely fixed in music, I was with EMI publishing for 15 years.
“But we work with a number of teachers and heads of faculty, these are our education consultants.
“They will look at the syllabus and send us a document with all of the salient points.
“Then I turn it into Studytracks, sorting out the meter and the pattern of the words. These are study notes to music, you don’t want to fill out the whole thing with unnecessary info. It’s like flash cards.
“When kids listen, you see the penny drop instantly – it’s really easy to remember a song lyric. Like Purple Rain, as soon as I say it it plays in your head. We just apply that to English, biology, physics, history.”
The app also offers incentives for students and pupils to listen to a certain number of tracks in a row, or cover a certain amount of topics, with rewards such as 20 per cent off at high street stores.
Studytracks is now planning a major push into schools from September, and then intends to branch out into other English-speaking countries.
A French version of the app will launch later in the year, and a Spanish one is scheduled for 2018.
Hammond-Hagan added: “You walk a very fine line with education and music, it’d be very easy for it to sound rubbish.
“My son, who was the inspiration behind it, he goes through the music library and decides on the tracks we should use.
“We don’t approach it as education, we approach it as song-writing. We’re trying to make a hot track that just happens to be about the Treaty of Versailles.
“Kids get very stressed out when they’re studying and ours is a different way of doing things. It changes the mood. Teachers get just as excited, as they can use it for learning in the classroom or homework.”