A&HHE Special Issue August 2016AHHELogo-300x300

New Approaches to Entrepreneurship in the Performing Arts

Gretchen Amussen
Paris Conservatoire

Angela Beeching
Manhattan School of Music

Joan-Albert Serra
European Music Co-operative


This paper explores an expanded conception of entrepreneurship in music, one in which the building of a living, transformative two-way relationship involving the artist-entrepreneur and his/her audience(s) sits at the heart of performance. The findings of the European Association of Conservatoire (AEC)’s recently completed Polifonia working group dedicated to entrepreneurship in music serve as a point of departure. Approaches to the embedding of entrepreneurship firmly in conservatoire curricula are then highlighted, notably through examples from North America and the AEC’s European ‘models of good practice.’ Such approaches, as well as Gavin Roberts’ Song in the City project supported through the Guildhall School’s incubator scheme for young entrepreneurs, and the proposed European Music Cooperative all suggest that more and more, musical entrepreneurship is deeply concerned with creating community, one in which artist and audience alike play a vital role as actors and co-creators.


entrepreneurship in music, educating for entrepreneurship, performing arts, European cooperative Entrepreneurial Platform, Music entrepreneurship education in Europe and the U.S.

Defining Entrepreneurship …

The European Association of Conservatoire’s (AEC) Polifonia working group dedicated to entrepreneurship in music (2011-2014)1 defined entrepreneurship first and foremost in terms of an artistic vision and project. This artistic vision and project were, in turn, supported by a necessary knowledge of contexts, a combination of soft and hard skills that – working innovatively, collaboratively, synergetically and in an interdisciplinary manner – generated a Unique Selling Point (USP) and ultimately, success. This is summarized in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 – Entrepreneurship in Music conceptualized

amussen fig 1

While this definition offers a valuable starting point – notably in establishing the skills which need to be integrated by conservatoires and universities into their curricula – feedback at the Working Group’s concluding conference in the Hague in September 2014 suggested reconsidering and indeed enlarging this definition.

Where in fact does the artist place her audience in this entrepreneurial vision? Is this a one-way street where the artist-entrepreneur creates and offers the final ‘product’, fully baked, to the eagerly awaiting audience(s)? What of the artist’s civic responsibility, and of her role in creating community? In this new paradigm, the constantly evolving relationship and dialogue between the artist-entrepreneur and her audience(s) are fundamental. Thus, each becomes a co-creator within the process of generating a unique and meaningful artistic experience.  While the artistic vision-project constitutes one of the artist’s principal resources, this is by no means the only starting point. The artist’s capacity for empathy – allowing her to engage and build with particular audiences – becomes crucial, as does her sense of civic responsibility.

Within this framework, success and the unique selling point (USP) are defined by the unique value of a particular project relative to a particular audience, and the resulting new-found sense of community. How does this happen? In part, through new technologies, ongoing communication, sharing, ‘doing together’ – in short, by artists and audiences becoming co-creators. Furthermore, while here we choose to speak of ‘Audiences’ as a monolithic block, each audience is in fact distinct, every bit as varied in nature as each individual or collective artist-entrepreneur.

Fig. 2 clarifies the roles, relationships and dynamic process between artist-entrepreneurs and audiences in ways that may, it is hoped, prove transformative for all involved.

Fig. 2 – Entrepreneurship as a Dynamic, Interactive Process

amussen fig 2

The following two sections provide an overview of current entrepreneurship education in specialist music education.

Music Entrepreneurship Education in the U.S.

As in other parts of the world, music schools in the U.S. have adopted entrepreneurship into curricular and co-curricular programming. Over the past ten years an increasing number of conservatories and university music programs have launched courses, certificates, centres, institutes and other services focused on the concept of entrepreneurship.

This is all within a context lacking a common understanding or definition of entrepreneurship, as well as common curricular guidelines for the teaching of entrepreneurship. One positive result of this has been a flourishing of creative and experimental approaches used in the teaching and promoting of entrepreneurship. This in turn has resulted in a wide variety of ‘good practises’ within an area of pedagogy that is still evolving.

Formed in 2014, the Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education (SAEE)2 has gathered information on U.S. programs and coursework related to arts (multidisciplinary) and music entrepreneurship. As found on the organisation’s website, the SAEE has so far identified 96 institutions and 112 dedicated courses with such offerings in the U.S., although this is by no means a definitive inventory3. Without standard course designations, there are no efficient ways to research the actual number of such courses.

Even with this limited survey of programs at conservatories, colleges, and universities it is clear that there is a great variety in structures and functions. Programming at the undergraduate and graduate levels runs the gamut from specialized arts entrepreneurship classes to degree minors, concentrations, and certificates as well as full degree programs offered in entrepreneurship. Beyond course offerings, various schools also offer services ranging from internships, workshops, mentoring, boot camps, incubators, and business plan competitions for awards of seed money to support entrepreneurial projects.

In terms of structural support for these arts entrepreneurship programs, the SAEE has preliminary survey information on the range of schemes and structures to support this work at  U.S. universities and conservatories available on their website. The range of schemes include undergraduate arts entrepreneurship courses are offered in conjunction with or through the institution’s school of business or arts management departments (e.g. Indiana University and University of Wisconsin-Madison). Some schools offer such courses through either Music Business or Arts Management degree programs (e.g. Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University), while others are found within the Bachelor of Arts and/or Bachelor of Music performance degrees (e.g. San Diego State University and Lynn University). Examples of other contexts for entrepreneurship at music schools include Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership, which encompasses the areas of career and professional development; arts leadership; centre for music innovation and engagement; and the Orchestra Forum/Polyphonic.com.

Although there is much variety in structure and function of programs, there have been identifiable changes in the overall focus of music entrepreneurship programs over time. To trace changes in the field, the author used as a source the Network of Music Career Development Officers (NETMCDO)4. Founded in 1995, NETMCDO is an association of music school staff and faculty dedicated to career development and entrepreneurship.

Based on observed transitions in the focus of the association’s conference themes and listserv discussion threads, below are four focus areas that represent changing emphases in programs. These focus areas encapsulate how faculty and staff have evolved in their thinking and approach to entrepreneurship education particularly over the past ten years.  The four focus areas, however, are neither linear nor mutually exclusive. Rather, they overlap, with each succeeding focus area overtaking and including the previous one(s) while adding a new emphasis. The progression of focus areas represents the broad shifts in primary emphases among entrepreneurship educators at U.S. music schools, as faculty and staff respond to the cultural push in higher education for greater accountability, relevance, and return on investment.

Content: (The ‘what’) At this early stage, many music programs primarily focused on delivering specific skills-oriented content. These include skill development in networking, creating promotional materials (such as resumes, bios, and websites), managing finances, creating performance opportunities, etc. This has been the focus of most career development programs and early entrepreneurship curricula. Examples are found in most entrepreneurship courses and workshops.

Mindset: Beyond the basic skills focus, the next area to gain traction was the focus on the ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ – a sense of self-efficacy and a readiness to initiate ventures. Here the emphasis is on leadership development, on taking responsibility, and on students developing their own projects. Examples include all project-based learning and workshops focused on leadership. For instance, at Manhattan School of Music (where this author teaches) student entrepreneurial projects have ranged from the launching of an online platform to book tours based on crowd-sourcing fan demand (Stagelink)5, to the creation of a multi-disciplinary project centreed on the work of novelist Haruki Murakami (the Murakami Music Project)6, and emerging jazz musician Natalie Cressman’s second album launch along with the booking of a two week West Coast album release tour7.

Embedding: With the next stage focus area (where many faculty and staff are now), the emphasis is on connecting and integrating entrepreneurship programming with the rest of the curriculum. The goal is to help students synthesise their learning across the too often ‘siloed’ areas of theory, history, and performance in order to strengthen the value of their education. With this focus, entrepreneurship faculty and staff look for ways to collaborate and cross-pollinate with other courses and offerings in order to build more connections throughout the institution and school’s culture.

Examples of ‘micro’ embedding initiatives within non-entrepreneurship coursework include University of Michigan Music History professor Mark Clague’s Arts Enterprise Project (AEP) (Clague, 2011: 173). First year undergraduates taking his introductory musicology class have the option of working on a team community project (AEP), which, if successfully completed, may substitute for one of the course exams. With AEP, students form teams with their classmates (groups of three to eight students) ‘with the goal of imagining and executing a project of their own arts venture.’ (Clague, 2011: 174) The projects include writing a proposal, and getting feedback and coaching. Projects must intersect and convey themes and topics from the course. Through AEP students have produced concerts, booked tours of local nursing homes, created marketing plans to expand audiences for the school’s large ensemble concerts, and taught sectionals and coached local youth orchestras.

This is the crucial synthesising that needs to happen in any effective education: where students are able to connect course content with personal experience. The by-products of this synthesised learning include confidence and a sense of relevance. Offering choices and multiple entry points to connect with entrepreneurial thinking is key to having entrepreneurship embedded within a degree program. Another apt example is Rice University’s holistic menu of 18 ‘Music Career and Skills Enhancement Courses’ – from which all master’s degree students need to take four credits.8 Note that this menu is not labelled “entrepreneurship” but instead the specifically-labeled entrepreneurship classes are included within a more holistic and diverse set of professional and personal development courses, offering students a wide range of ways to connect with leadership training, community engagement, entrepreneurial skills building, and more. Again, this ‘embedded’ focus includes the earlier focus area contents but with an emphasis on context and connection points across the curriculum.

Beyond course offerings, many music schools also offer workshop series, internships, mentoring, competitions for project support funds, etc. The balancing of curricular and co-curricular offerings is a further area of distinction and variety among schools, as they each look for ways to make the most of limited funds, time, and staff.

These three focus areas above represent what has been and is current at many U.S. music schools offering entrepreneurship. But in looking ahead, we are on the cusp of a new focus area, which may usher in a whole new era.

Institutional Transformation: Music schools, and indeed all of higher education, are in a state of flux, with students and parents looking closely at the return on their investment and questioning the relevance of the curriculum to a rapidly changing profession. Many music schools recognize the need to make major changes to curricula in order to make programs more responsive to real-world needs and opportunities and to students’ interests and learning styles.

Entrepreneurship programs can provide a launch pad for these needed changes. As faculty, staff, and students become more invested and engaged in connecting learning with opportunities, we have the opportunity to rethink what conservatory and university music education can provide.

Entrepreneurship initiatives, because of their focus on innovation and student empowerment, can be leveraged to become a driving factor to transform both the curricula and cultures of music schools. Rather than being seen as a ‘side program’ disconnected from the core curriculum, entrepreneurship may in fact be a linchpin to drive change.

Through national and international gatherings to collaborate in this area, music faculty, staff, and institutional leaders have the opportunity to transform music education at their own institutions, and to raise the bar for the field.

Educating for Entrepreneurship in Music: European Approaches

The approaches detailed above parallel the wide variety of approaches to entrepreneurship that exist today across Europe. The AEC’s musical entrepreneurship working group’s own study gathered questionnaire responses to entrepreneurial training in conservatoires in five geographic regions (Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, Continental, Mediterranean, and Central-Eastern European)9. Four models of good practice were highlighted, models which complement the U.S. examples above, as they integrate interdisciplinary, regional and international approaches, a joint business/music curricular model, and for the last, an incubator scheme offered to staff and alumni.

1.) The Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE)10, supported by the Scottish government and targeting higher education across Scotland, provides assistance in developing projects, as well as technical and seed financial support on a competitive basis. SIE interns throughout higher education institutions promote SIE and its programs:

  • The New Ideas Competition, offering cash prizes and in-kind business support to help develop an idea into a real business venture;
  • Start-up day, a one-day opportunity to get expert advice as to how an idea or venture can be strengthened and improved;
  • The Young Innovators Challenge, presenting challenges from current industry trends for which participants are asked to create and design innovative solutions. Finalists are invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry and business experts. They may win up to £50,000 to take their idea forward and receive a year of business support.
  • Summer Bootcamp, offering an intensive, residential training programme condensing a six-month programme into five days;
  • The Ideas Lab, a workshop involving the compiling of data to provide knowledge about markets and current economic and societal challenges. The workshop provides incentives to develop innovative products and strategies to fulfill audience/consumer needs and desires.
  • Business Model ‘You’, demonstrating how to develop one’s own resources and skills, targets performers and artists.

2.) Towards Cultural Entrepreneurship, an Erasmus intensive project comprising five European arts and business schools from Finland, Norway, Ireland, Great Britain, and The Netherlands, creates eight mixed teams (approximately 45 students) working for ten days to develop creative entrepreneurial projects which are then presented and assessed by a professional jury.

The course explores the role of creative industries in the workplace, interdisciplinary business clusters and their potential for business innovation, self-employment as a career option, the importance of cross-cultural, inter-and multi-disciplinary cross-arts collaboration (music, art, marketing, management, ICT, business, multimedia and communication). Knowledge of context and new markets in particular looks at programs aimed at aging populations, the growth of multi-cultural communication in local communities, the role and impact of information and communications technology, and international clusters.

Each team defines clear roles and responsibilities, defines its project precisely through a mission statement and ‘product’; additionally, they provide a project timeline, assess current trends, markets, costs and potential revenues, and engage in a SWOT analysis.

The programme aims to:

  • develop students’ entrepreneurial ‘mindset’ within an inter-cultural setting (interdisciplinary approaches, creative/business clusters, collaborative problem-solving, enhanced commercial know-how…);
  • create strong, innovative entrepreneurial projects using clear communication, negotiation and international networking skills; and
  • foster the capacity to integrate creativity and innovation.

3.) Popakademie Baden-Württenberg (University of Popular Music and Music Business)11, located within a start-up industrial park devoted to the music industry in Mainz, combines professional music and business training. The industrial park combines the higher music education sector with  a competence centre for all aspects of the music industry and includes projects involving European and regional cooperation and business development. The Popakademie advocates:

  • a joint approach to music and business, designed to open new horizons by making students conscious of what the artistic and business perspectives can bring to each other;
  • a practical teaching focus, ensured by lecturers active in the industry as well as business and/or band projects; and
  • the creation of an active network involving the Pop Academy, business, higher education institutes, international institutions and students.

It offers two inter-related degree programs. At the Bachelor’s level,  music business and pop music design programmes each include two compulsory 12-week internships, and throughout their course, business and music students work together in the so-called ‘project factory’, carrying out real and imaginary projects.

Postgraduate programmes focus on music in relation to the wider creative industries, and on popular music. The former takes as its point of departure the evolution of the cultural sector and thus the involvement of musicians in knowledge of  advertising, design, software, games, books, publishing, film, arts and the press. The latter offers three options: the performing artist, the producing/composing artist, and the teaching artist. The second of these options, unique in Europe, is the most popular, offering training in composition and song production, soundtracks for films, multimedia, music for computer games, radio jingles, mobile phones and advertising. All forms of electronic media are considered ‘eligible’. Students engage with media cultural theory, and training in business, management, financial, legal and communication skills are included.

4.) The Guildhall School of Music & Drama Creative Entrepreneurs12, a strand of the School’s new programme of Enterprise development, provides an incubator scheme to support staff and alumni in setting up their own businesses and developing entrepreneurial skills. The programme is run in partnership with the development and fundraising enterprise Cause4, which hosts the project and offers office space.

The scheme, working with Guildhall alumni from the areas of music, acting and technical theatre, consists of an intensive 12-month programme for alumni with a business idea already formed. In the course of the year, alumni commit to 20 hours a week for all activities and are given access to:

  • mentoring and coaching, including support with business plan development and relevant business start-up expertise;
  • office space at Cause4 ;
  • citywide networks of financial, legal and professional organisations, along with introductions to relevant start up growth networks, for example the School for Start Ups;
  • seminars and monthly events integrating core entrepreneurial management skills, such as customer development, digital development, sales, marketing, building teams, finance and pitching;
  • funding advice and support, including seed/match funding for projects.

The partnership also runs a program of workshops and seminars for Guildhall students seeking to develop both their knowledge of creative entrepreneurship and viable initiatives.

An Audience-Centered Approach to Entrepreneurship

The pianist Gavin Robert’s Song in the City13, one of the first projects to be supported through the Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs incubator scheme, proposes to take classical music outside of its comfort zone, with a stated goal of revolutionising the relationships between classical musicians and their audiences through imaginative concerts and social projects.

Performing around ‘inventive and often challenging themes’, 30 free lunch time performances each year are organized in the heart of the City of London’s intimate Hall at St Botolph without Bishopsgate, features young pianists and singers from Guildhall School, and often includes collaborations with dancers and actors. Themes – some of them controversial – have included sexuality in song as well as Shakespeare. ‘Music in Offices’, a collaboration with amateur singers, enables further performances to take place in spaces beyond typical classical concert venues. As Gavin Roberts explains: ‘Song is a very traditional genre, we think of it as people clutching a piano, wearing tails and it’s become a very elitist thing; we’re trying to break down those barriers. We put classically-trained musicians with people from the real world and we share creativity.’ (Salman, 2015)

With ‘Creative Madness in Song’ (2014), Song in the City has also pioneered a ground-breaking collaboration with the The Maudsley Charity, a mental health organisation with aims to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to challenge assumptions about classical music. Here, songs based on texts chosen or written by mental-health service users from South East London have been set to music by young composers, and performances have taken place in hospitals where the texts had been collected.

Tom Werner,  consultant psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley and a trustee of Song in the City, explains: ‘People who participated felt part of a group and saw their own pieces set to music which is a tremendous boost … for patients to come and think “what I’m doing has value and is appreciated by other people” is amazing.’ (Salman, 2015) As a mental health professional, Werner says the experiences described in some of the songs remind him truly to reconsider his approach from the patient’s perspective. As Roberts continues to pursue a ‘classical’ career as a pianist working with singers, he readily admits that his activities within Song in the City have had a profound impact on his artistry and on his relationship to audiences.

Towards a European Cooperative Entrepreneurial Platform

As already evident in this paper, the music sector is facing many challenges caused by economic, cultural and social changes that are increasingly rapid and unpredictable. Within this environment there is an imperative to encourage music students and musicians in general to embrace a more entrepreneurial and audience-centered approach, and to create a culture in higher music education institutions that is more responsive to the needs and opportunities of local and global communities. To be effective, this institutional transformation requires changes in the nature of organisations’ internal relationships and in fostering broad external networks that include alumni and the professional and cultural sectors where future graduates will work. We already know how important relationships are in music:

‘Music is not a thing at all but an activity, something that people do. (…) The act of musicking establishes in the place where it is happening a set of relationships, and it is in those relationships that the meaning of the act lies. They are to be found not only between those organised sounds (…) but also between the people who are taking part, in whatever capacity, in the performance.’ (Small, 1998: 2, 13)

‘The focus on relationships will allow us to understand the need to create collaborative environments where musicians, public, venues, producers, researchers, etc. work together to create innovative live music formats and engage wider audiences.’  (Serra, 2015: 18)

New Relationships, New Organisations

In order to drive this new cultural paradigm, new networks of creative relationships have to be built. To support these, current institutions will need to adapt, and organisations will need to be innovative and increasingly flexible. Diverse approaches are clearly possible. One such initiative is the European Music Cooperative (EMC), promoted by professionals in several European countries.

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) defines a cooperative and its values:

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. (International Co-operative Alliance, 2015)

The EMC’s aim is to:

  • Support the artistic and professional development of musicians and ensembles through a sustainable and democratic structure that fosters cooperative entrepreneurship;
  • Stimulate the creation of innovative live music projects of the highest artistic quality, where musicians dialogue and interact with listeners;
  • Facilitate collaboration and mobility at local and international levels so as to build a European network of musicians and partner organisations;
  • Bring together all those who are involved in making live music possible and give them a sense of ownership of the cooperative and its projects;
  • Create a digital platform to promote the cooperative’s initiatives and the activities of its members, establish an interactive community of friends/audiences, and support the management of the organisation’s decentralised structure.

Cooperative Entrepreneurship

Music entrepreneurs can easily feel weighed down by a sense that they are responsible for all aspects of their activity: selling, promoting and producing concerts; organising tours; developing marketing and social media campaigns; building  web sites; taking care of all management and finances; selling tickets and serving drinks during intermission… and finally, putting on a great performance. Is this the only way to be a successful entrepreneur? The cooperative model suggests otherwise.

There is potential for people with different skill sets to collaborate: artists should be able to devote their time to what they do best – making music. Managers, producers, marketing and communication specialists, web designers and other professionals are the best placed to create and promote musical events; the key to working together effectively lies in a system of shared values, a capacity to communicate, and an understanding of one another’s roles. Cooperatives offer solutions to effective collaboration, entrepreneurship and social responsibility of this kind:

‘Perhaps the greatest advantage [of cooperative entrepreneurship] is the ability of the participating entrepreneurs to combine different skills and competencies. Central to the success of cooperative entrepreneurship is the relationship between the entrepreneurs.’ (McDonnell et al., 2012: 5)

The European Cooperative Society

The music sector is profoundly international, and mobility is part of the working life of musicians. To reflect this reality, the EMC has adopted the European Cooperative Society (SCE) Statute, regulated in 200314 with the aim to provide cooperatives with adequate legal instruments to facilitate cross-border and trans-national activities.

‘The SCE is an optional legal form of a cooperative that allows its members (natural persons or legal entities) to carry out common activities, while preserving their independence. Its principal object is to satisfy its members’ needs and not the return of capital investment; members benefit proportionally to their profit and not to their capital contribution.’ (European Commission, 2015)

The SCE Statute provides a degree of flexibility in the membership structure of the organisation that is extremely useful for the EMC’s purpose. The core membership is open to musicians, ensembles and other professionals directly related with the activities of the coop, but it may include additional membership categories involving venues, higher music education institutions, partners, collaborators and stakeholders who share the coop’s philosophy. The aim is to engage all participants in the EMC’s activities, from performers to audiences, and to give them a sense of ownership.

Another advantage of the SCE is that branches in different countries don’t need a separate legal status. This facilitates the organisation’s commitment to the local communities while offering the benefits of an international network by supporting cooperation at both local and global levels.

The European Music Cooperative is pioneering the creation of an international network around live music activities that reflects the local-global dimension of music, has the potential to drive audience engagement, and offers a platform for the artistic and professional development of musicians.


New approaches to entrepreneurship education in music across North America and Europe,  including the EMC, suggest that the artist-entrepreneur has become a vital actor in creating community/communities which in turn create and co-create together. No longer is the artist-entrepreneur simply there to realize a straightforward personal project. Rather – and the examples cited prove this – we are at a turning point where educational approaches to fostering entrepreneurship in music  and the new generation of artist-entrepreneurs see community – through their relationship with audiences – as central. Within this paradigm, the act of creating and co-creating is a transformative one, one that allows artists and the communities within which they interact to grow and share together,  each contributing what she does best. Such a transformation suggests an exciting, renewed vision of the artist’s role in society.


[1] http://www.musicalentrepreneurship.eu

2 http://www.societyaee.org

3 http://www.societyaee.org/uploads/3/1/0/9/31097723/degree_inventory_2015.pdf

4 http://www.musiccareernetwork.org

5 https://stagelink.com

6 http://petermcdowell.com/2014/09/pianist-eunbi-kim-murakami-music-stories-loss-nostalgia/

7 http://www.nataliecressman.com

8 http://music.rice.edu/graduate/career.shtml

9 http://www.aec-music.eu/musicalentrepreneurship/european-overview

10 http://www.sie.ac.uk

11 http://www.popakademie.de

12 http://www.gsmd.ac.uk/about_the_school/alumni/guildhall_creative_entrepreneurs/

13 http://songinthecity.org

14 http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32003R1435


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