An MBA Option for the Music Industry

An MBA Option for the Music Industry
Henley Business School launches a new business program aimed at music industry executives (Photograph by Walter Bibikow)
Photograph by Walter Bibikow

Middle and senior executives in the music industry who want to advance their careers have a new business course to consider.

The University of Reading’s Henley Business School in the U.K. will officially unveil its “MBA for the Music Industry” program in the U.S. at Musexpo, a global music event in Hollywood at the beginning of May. The program, which takes about three years to complete, was quietly launched in the U.K. in September 2012 with 10 students in the first class.

“We think this is a real game changer,” says Helen Gammons, program director of the music program. “I’ve worked in the music industry for 30 years, and I’m deeply passionate about it. But the strategic differences in the last 15 years with technology and social media shifts has changed the industry.” The desire to help middle and senior executives in the music business manage in this new world was the main motivation for creating the program, she says.

Students in the music industry program initially sign up to be part of the Flexible MBA, which follows a part-time format that the school already offers. They take the traditional business core modules on campus with the 50 or so executives enrolled in the flexible general business program. Then, once the core module is completed, the music cohort remains at Henley for a few extra days for some elective-like coursework. Topics covered include copyright development, brand sponsorship, and international policy, regulation, and leadership in the music industry. Between on-campus modules, the music MBAs finish readings and assignments online.

Polly Bhowmik, a lawyer who recently launched an artist management agency, is a student in the program. “What makes the specialized MBA so exciting is the ability to apply the skills picked up in the classroom to the workplace almost immediately,” she says. Although she has only had two modules so far, Bhowmik says she has already brought ideas about how to manage creative people in a way that helps them draw out their art to her business. “The MBA brings a credibility factor to a new business,” she says.

Other business schools have dabbled with the idea of music and the MBA. Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management taught a course in its traditional MBA program aimed at giving people the inside scoop on the country music industry. And a business professor at ESADE is teaching students how to learn management techniques from their favorite rock bands.

Unlike these other one-off courses, the Henley program results in a degree and is attempting to fill a need in the music industry, says Gammons. “The current industry executives are fantastic people, and they’ve grown up and learned on the job,” she adds. “But that’s not going to happen any more. Everything moves much faster now. They must enhance their business skills, understand the potential of partnerships and synergies with other businesses, and be at the same level as executives in other industries.”

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