Eli Broad College of Business faculty members are helping to prepare College of Music students to take advantage of the business opportunities in their field.
“The Business of Music,” a collaboration of Broad’s Executive Development Programs and the College of Music, reviews revenue-generating opportunities in the music industry and walks students through the process of building and pitching a business plan for a for-profit or nonprofit startup. The course is available to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates in music and is taught by several Broad faculty members with expertise in accounting, marketing, and management, with strong involvement from faculty and administrators in the College of Music.
“Time has proven that the content is in continuous demand,” noted Keith Bezant Niblett, assistant director of Executive Development Programs and one of the course’s instructors. “More and more music students are graduating with a high certainty that they will be forming a business around their highly honed talent and expertise.”
“We help students learn to balance their numbers and their story,” said Sue Convery, professor of practice in accounting and information systems. “They learn to put information in the form that investors will expect so they can recruit funding effectively.”
As the course progresses, students become familiar with business concepts and tools such as market segmenting and positioning, value chain analysis, financial statements and projections, strategic management analytic tools, competitor analysis, and legal organizational structure options.
Throughout the semester, they apply these skills to develop a complete business plan for an organization, either currently existing or planned. At the culmination of the course, these student groups pitch their business plans to a panel of business and music faculty, who ask questions and provide feedback to help them further refine their business ideas.
Previous participants have used the course to pursue a variety of ventures, including touring and selling recordings with performing ensembles, providing training experiences for younger musicians, and more. This year’s students developed ideas ranging from an online business selling popular music arrangements for athletic bands to music studios to a youth theatre organization.
Jay Gummert, a master’s student in music performance, is also co-executive director of Whippoorwill Theatre, located in West Des Moines, Iowa—a city where other options for youth theatre experiences are limited. This organization has been breaking even over the past two years based only on sales of performance tickets and advertisements.
Gummert’s team created a business plan to support the organization’s goals of hiring staff and beginning a children’s theatre festival within the next 3–5 years and purchasing a permanent theatre space within the next 6–10 years. Meanwhile, Whippoorwill is currently pursuing 501(c)3 nonprofit status, which creates additional opportunities for sponsorships and grants.
As he completed the course, Gummert found he had a fuller understanding of what it means to start an arts-based business.
“I opened my eyes to doing something other than performance, teaching, or administration,” he said. “I feel anxiety, but I’m prepared to take the risk. I have a good support system here to call and ask questions when I need to.”