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Class II Planning, Entrepreneurship in Music and the Arts

I asked students to write to me, to tell me where they saw themselves professionally in 5 years. I asked this because I realized that most, if not all, were taking this class to learn “tools” to assist them in their move from student to music professions.

The responses received so far, around half, express quite a range of aspirations.

One student writes, “In preparing for writing this email, I did a lot of sitting by myself and thinking what I really want not only in this class but in life. I’m a second year master student who is quickly, and at times, seemingly uncontrollably, hurling towards a life outside of academia. This is a place I can honestly say I have never been before. It terrifies and excites me to think of the start to a new journey where the possibilities are both endless and challenging.”

Another writes, “I think I’d just like to absorb information about the business of music in order to help me decide what actions I might take to pursue a fulfilling career. There are so many potential options for a young composer in the 21st century, it’s hard to know which path to take when everything seems so interesting and vibrant. In the past 6 months alone I’ve wrestled with several ideas of what I “want to be doing”, including pursuing a doctoral degree to become a professor, moving to Los Angeles and doing USC’s film scoring program, moving to New York City and getting involved with the new music scene, moving back to my home state of Indiana and pursuing a freelance career. One item you mentioned in the last class, that you have to know what you want in order to move toward it, really struck me. Paradoxically, I feel as though I know too much of what I want, and might be in danger of over extending my efforts in too many directions.”

And one more writes, “I decided to take this class because there really aren’t any “safe” spaces to talk about the possible future of music and what changes we as musicians might have to face. Its scary to think that some of the skills we are struggling (in some cases to learn) might not be all we need to become successful in what we want to do as musicians. Thinking that we might in fact need additional skills or learn how to use our existing skills is a threatening topic to discuss with musicians who probably are already frightened about job security and their financial futures. This class seemed like it was going to be an intellectual environment in which to discuss some of the problems facing music (namely its funding) and possible solutions.”

These examples are given to demonstrate the range of thought, not to suggest anything in particular about a student or students in the class.

So, how do I plan for Class II? This IS a course in entrepreneurship.

I believe I need to both work with them on idea creation, a creativity activity in class + an assignment; and in addition, work them through ‘my’ Zone One, Personal Entrepreneurship.

All students have read or will have read “inGenius,” by Tina Seelig, so they are set up to delve into the creative domain. And, sensing from the students a comfort at exploration, we should be able to have some fun in class. I will not describe the activity I have in mind, as I don’t want to spoil it for them.

I feel a need to work through Zone One because, in part, because so much emphasis has been placed on it in the music field (excellent publications that seek to empower students to make their own careers, etc.), and as such, we need to move through this ‘zone.’ The other reason is that I want them to understand personal branding. It is a term and practice so misunderstood, and misused. They need grounding in this area.

I will continue the Q&A, even add some time for it, as one student said, this class can provide a safe space to discuss topics of concern for today’s music students.


  1. Jim, I am enjoying your articles. I remember many years having to give up a career as a flautist due to hearing challenges. I was young, 26 and to be honest was scared, grief stricken as music was my reason to live. So had to think of another career, love cooking so opened a gourmet cookware shop with no retail experience at all. However this led me on a path of discovery and now helping performing artists leverage their career.
    The comment is, how important your course must be to performers. This is an area that is under represented, also in the world of dance. What do dancers here in Australia do when they have to retire, due to injuries or age.
    I feel that for those of us who have the expertise and background in the performing arts world that entrepreneurship is so very important. To inspire and support thinking of additional skills for musicians, leveraging career and still being able to live with a passion for music and the arts.
    In closing I had an email from a colleague of mine who was a talented classical dancer and is now in London. He said that at his age, his 40s he has no other career training and life is tough. He is smart and will do OK. Yet he is having to learn how to reinvent himself. I think this is challenging especially when one has had a high level global career. There needs to be more support and entrepreneurial training for musicians and all arts performers.

  2. Michael Ketner says:

    Hi Jim. I agree that you should at least acknowledge the Zone One issue, if for no other reason than to show the students that arts entrepreneurship can be about much more than promoting their own careers. In my view, students should be studying this to use their talents to solve problems (whether in society or in their field). One of the results of this approach is a successful career, but it puts the emphasis on making sure that others benefit from the art/music/etc. that you create. After all, we pursue professional careers in the arts to create value for others, right?

  3. Entrepreneurship is really important if they want to actually succeed at anything, not only promoting their own creations. Just by studying entrepreneurship you can change the way you see the business world and help make the right decisions.
    I have friends that have been making music for a long time and because they studied more than just about music (economics, IT&C, etc) they have managed to get past difficult situations.

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