Feature of the Week

January 2, 2012 9:31 am

The sound of management

From The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who to Coldplay and Susan Boyle, Britain’s musicians have always played a leading role in the world’s music industry.

Some 34 per cent of the music sold in the world emanates from the UK, even though UK consumers buy a mere nine per cent of the global music output, says Alexis Grower, head of the media department at lawyers Magrath LLP.

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English is the lingua franca of the music world, he says. “You can’t sing a love song in German.”

It is therefore perhaps appropriate that it is a business school in the UK that is launching an MBA for the Music Industry. The degree is aimed at improving the management of the music business at a time when technology is changing industry models.

Henley Business School, part of the University of Reading, will officially announce the degree in January, with a view to enrolling its first class in September 2012. The programme will be based on Henley’s flexible MBA, where managers study part-time for about three years.

Mr Grower, who has worked with artists such as Motorhead, Roger Daltry and John Lydon, says such a
programme is desperately needed as music management has changed out of all recognition in recent years.

The industry used to be amateurish and shambolic, he says.

“It was the friend from school who wasn’t good enough to get into the band [and so managed it instead].” Now, it is all about copyright, downloads, live gigs, merchandising, branding and sponsorship.

Like Mr Grower, Fred Cannon, senior vice-president for government relations at Broadcast Music Inc, the US-based rights management company, is on the steering committee of the Henley MBA for the Music Industry.

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this is because the music business has become a global business and there is an ever-changing culture.

“The knowledge you have to have is overwhelmingly different from what it was 20 years ago.”

As a result, adds Mr Cannon, the music industry is currently largely reactive to changes, but it needs to be proactive.

The steering committee for the programme reads like the great and the good of the music publishing world, from independent record producers to songwriters, lawyers and lobbyists, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The group has been pulled together by Helen Gammons, programme director at Henley, who spent 25 years as an author and publisher in the music industry and also studied for an MBA at Manchester Business School.

The flexible part-time model is one that Ms Gammons thinks ideal for the target group of music publishers, independent record producers, industry executives and artists.

“As you are going through an MBA you’re applying all that knowledge to your business.”

Elective courses are being developed specifically to address the issues of the music business, such as IP management, and many will be designed and taught by practitioners. But the heart of the programme will be a traditional MBA programme, says Henley dean John Board.

“An MBA is an MBA: it’s a general management degree. This is an MBA with a slant.”

Although the music business has some unique issues, in the age of the internet many of the problems it confronts are similar to those experienced by other creative industries, how to develop a sustainable revenue stream, for example. So students who are studying on the school’s mainstream MBA will be eligible to take the music industry MBA electives.

There could be further paybacks for Henley. “A couple of years from now we would expect topics [from the music programme] to find their way back into the general MBA,” predicts Prof Board.

The dean believes that numbers
on the first music industry programme are likely to be around 20.
“I suspect it’s of enormous interest to lots of people. But the number of people who want to do an MBA is much less.”

Mr Cannon, who in his career has worked with Elton John and Lionel Richie, is unperturbed about the small size of the class.

“If we have 20 great entrepreneurs that will be fantastic. It only takes one Steve Jobs to make something fabulous. It’s a beautiful opportunity for us.”

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