Mind Your Music Business
Austin HBCU turns the volume up on music business learning with superstar manager in the lead
The Austin music scene's DIY charm is one of its biggest strengths, but charm does not a mortgage pay. It can get a "talented" group (whatever that means) most of the way there, but some industry know-how goes a long way in making sure artists aren't taken advantage of.
People are deeply divided on the idea of getting a degree in music — mine the vast records of Frank Zappa's opinion on formal education for some deeply discouraging gems — but a low-cost alternative may soften the blow. If a $500 course can save a student from one $500 mistake, it's already paid for itself right?
The course in question (for that actual price) is a new offering from Austin's Huston-Tillotson University, both for enrolled students and locals who can pop in for the weekly in-person class. The Music Business Foundations Certificate spreads important lessons about the music industry across a six-week program led by "multi-platinum-selling music manager Philip Payne," according to the announcement.
Payne, like most good managers, doesn't get much name recognition, but his clients do. He's worked closely with Canadian rapper Tory Lanez, and his LinkedIn resume in road management and music direction features Drake, Chris Brown, Future, Mac Miller, ASAP Ferg, and G-Eazy.
It would seem that Payne's roles in concert promotion would make this a tour-heavy class, but it only takes up one week on the syllabus. It is not just Payne's experience that informs the class, but standards set by For The Students, a consulting group that develops music business certificates for universities.
“We are thrilled and honored to announce the implementation of the Music Business Foundations Certificate at Huston-Tillotson University," said For The Students founder Ogden Payne in the release. "This marks a significant milestone in our mission to prepare students and adult learners for careers in the music industry. We’re excited to introduce a revolutionary new way of learning about the business side of music with a curriculum we’ve been developing for over a year."
Course topics are as follows:
- The Roles Around an Artist: Provides a lineup of team members and assigns roles while setting expectations for compensation.
- Marketing to Today’s Consumer: Discusses marketing strategies and teaches methods of market research, identifying a target audience, and differentiating an artist.
- Legal Aspects and Basic Deal Structures: Provides groundwork for making decisions using basic legal jargon and points to look out for. This is where acts with otherwise good instincts sometimes go astray without sound guidance.
- Music Publishing Basics: Introduces students to successful publishing companies as case studies and demonstrates where money can be made outside of performance and recording.
- Concert and Festival Promotion: Breaks down the many needs of live performances and festivals, from logistics to finances. This is especially salient in Austin — a city with a heavy focus on live music above all.
One industry partner does take advantage of this live-event focus: C3 Presents, the Austin-based concert promoter that produces Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza. The company will select some of the students who complete the certificate for paid internships.
Critics who speak against higher ed in music have much to work with, from exorbitantly high costs for little return, to an ideological worry that learning too much kills the instinctual joy in music. (Both are super circumstantial.) But one of music academia's biggest pitfalls is a tendency to place deeply Eurocentric values on a pedestal, especially in concert music.
Coming from the historically Black university, this course should avoid some of these common baises.
"The program is based around modern music, executives, and companies," wrote Ogden Payne in an email to CultureMap. "The curriculum and off-site experiences were created to be a direct reflection of the worldly cultures and backgrounds that make up the music industry. Plus, the fact that this is an innovative new program being offered by an iconic HBCU while led by one of Austin’s most successful Black executives, should lend itself to offering students unique and diverse perspectives built around first-hand industry experience.”
There are only 25 seats available for the first Music Business Foundations Certificate. Classes will be held Wednesdays at 6:30 pm from October 25 through December 6. More information and enrollment links are available at htu-musicbusiness.com.