Music Business Program Turns Graduate Students into Entrepreneurs
Music business student Michelle Golden.
Photo by Histeria Producciones
Michelle Golden and her female classmates in Berklee’s music business graduate program in Valencia, Spain loved the dynamic and inspiring speakers the department brought to campus but noticed that almost all of them had something in common: they were nearly all men.
“I was floored because I didn’t even think about it. I just thought these are cool speakers who are coming to speak,” Golden says. “But if you want to get a global perspective—the [graduate] program is called Global Entertainment and Music Business, and we’re in Valencia—it’s important to hear from many different voices, men and women alike.”
She brought the issue to program director Emilien Moyon with a proposed solution: the department could host monthly Skype sessions with prominent women in the industry. But Moyon urged her to think bigger.
“She was touching on something very true and very important, and that we should really pay attention to,” Moyon says. “The reality is—even if for years I’ve been trying to be as balanced in terms of gender as possible—the reality in the music industry, and even more in Europe and even more in Spain, is that it’s dominated by men.”
With Moyon’s support, Golden and her team scrapped the Skype idea and decided to hold a symposium, the Berklee Women's Empower Symposium, which took place on March 27, 2015 in Valencia.
“People really listen to you here and maybe they wouldn’t in a bigger setting,” Golden, a 26-year-old from Waterford, Connecticut, says of studying at Berklee’s Valencia campus. “Here they encourage—they really, really encourage—you to just take action.” Encouraged by the success of the symposium, Golden hopes to replicate the model back in the U.S. after she graduates.
A Real-World Business Model from Day One
Moyon says he considers the 40 students in the music business program a part of the music industry the day they arrive on campus, not the day they graduate. As professionals, they need to come up with new projects and/or products that carry real risks.
“That’s the way that they develop professional skills and an entrepreneurial spirit,” he says, “not by doing a conceptual project in the classroom, but with projects that are real businesses and that have financial implications.”
Students in the program can choose one of four concentrations. They can work on the record label, Disrupción Records; participate in a live music project (this year, it's an electronic music festival in Valencia); develop their own startups; or develop a new technology (this year, students are creating a smartphone app).
In many, if not most, of these projects, students work with musicians who are in one of Berklee’s other graduate programs or in the Study Abroad program, so the business students stay closely connected to music.
“In order to be a good artist manager, or to be able to organize a tour, it’s important to understand how a musician works and to understand the creative process,” Moyon says. Students in Berklee’s program are surrounded by performances, spend time in studios, and often go out or share a meal with Berklee student musicians, developing connections that may turn into future collaborations.
The students who come together at the Valencia campus, like most of the speakers Berklee brings to the program, come from around the world. In today’s industry, Moyon says, it’s important to have a global understanding of what’s happening.
“If you only know what’s happening in the U.S. or in Europe, you are missing a lot of booming markets,” he says. That’s why, of the 45 to 50 speakers he brings in each year, nearly all of them are coming to campus by plane.
As a result, speakers often spend a few days in Valencia, going out to dinner with the department or scheduling individual meetings with students. It’s the kind of networking students might not get, for example, at a big Los Angeles mixer where there may not be time to connect beyond a handshake and an exchange of business cards.
But in Valencia, smaller scenes can lead to larger opportunities, as Golden has discovered. “Coming to Valencia is a really good opportunity to start your own thing, really be able to build it, and run with it,” she says.
Read more about the Empower Symposium here.