Music entrepreneurship

Teams of students from the University of North Texas College of Music’s entrepreneurship class have competed in the Music Entrepreneurship Competition since 2015. In a “Shark Tank”-style contest, students pitch a music business model to judges, and the winners earn cash prizes for seed money.

The University of North Texas launched a new Master of Business Administration degree with the fall semester.

The new degree — an MBA in music business — is a joint venture of the G. Brint Ryan College of Business and the College of Music. The new degree is interdisciplinary and offers instruction in management, marketing, finance, media and other skills that blend art and business.

“I came to UNT from Florida Atlantic University,” said Marilyn Wiley, dean of the business school. “I was part of the development of a music business MBA there. After I got to UNT, I brought it up, but it wasn’t time. Then, when Dean [John] Richmond came on at the College of Music, we were having a conversation, and he mentioned, ‘We need to broaden our horizons.’”

UNT had already caught the attention of Billboard, which listed the university among the top music business schools for the past four years thanks to the music and entrepreneurship program pioneered by faculty member Fabiana Claure.

“This was before we offered the MBA,” Wiley said.

“We didn’t even have a degree, but we had a great curriculum,” said John W. Richmond, dean of the College of Music. “We’ve done some sleuthing around, and while there are degrees in music business at other colleges around the country, we think ours might be the only MBA offered. I think we’ve been reading the tea leaves, seeing what our students might need.”

Only one student is enrolled in the program right now — which the deans are referring to as a soft launch. Patrick Long-Quian, the graduate student enrolled in the program, said he’s starting his courses online from Houston.

“I was a vocal major at my university in Iowa,” Long-Quian said. “Music was always a huge part of my life, but when I got into college and started studying vocal music, I had an inkling that I didn’t want to teach. Eventually, I realized I really didn’t really want to go into performance.”

Long-Quian said he settled on a solidly business-oriented minor: accounting.

He learned that UNT was offering the MBA and decided to enroll. He said he hopes to parlay the master’s degree into a job working for a performing arts nonprofit.

“When I saw that UNT was offering this, I knew it was something I wanted to do,” Long-Quian said. “The MBA core classes are business and accounting, and there is marketing education, too. I’m enrolled for nine hours this semester. For me, personally, I’m more interested in fine arts groups like symphonies and opera companies. Prior to the pandemic, some of those groups were experiencing a lot of growth.”

Next year, Wiley and Richmond expect higher enrollment and said they expect some performance students to sign up. But Wiley said she’s expecting music fans who aren’t performers or music-makers to enroll.

“Something that performance students find out right away when they start studying for a performance career is that the music business is huge,” Wiley said. “My son studied performance, and I still remember him telling me that for every 100 performance graduates, there are five jobs. If you’re in that position, you’re like, ‘I don’t have health insurance. I don’t have benefits. I don’t want to have this kind of uncertainty.’ This degree can give music students options.”

The music industry is indeed sprawling, with people employed in recording, engineering, distribution and publishing. Wiley said she hopes the new MBA will eventually prepare students to take any of those professional paths.

Some courses will bring music students into the UNT business classrooms, and other courses will bring non-musicians into the College of Music. The degree requires 36 credit hours. Because of the pandemic, classes are expected to be online, but Richmond said the university probably will continue with a synchronous model that blends virtual learning with online courses.

“There’s one more cohort we haven’t mentioned,” Richmond said. “There are students who are pursuing a master’s degree in music, and who will also want to get the master’s in music business administration. That dual degree could be very powerful.”

Long-Quian said he looks at the degree as a holistic way to synthesize his interests and abilities.

“”It’s a path to getting into the workforce, sure,” he said. “But that’s not all. I’m looking at how I can serve these organizations, which are producing world-class art. I think this is a way to do all of that.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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