Is a Music Industry MBA Right for You?


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The Henley School of Business in Reading, England has announced an MBA focused on the music industry. However, given its corporate focus and the fact that MBA's often move between industries, it is clearly not a program that would suit all with music business aspirations.

For some, pursuing a more general MBA while focusing their papers and internships on the industry will suffice.  For others, an undergrad degree in computer science might be the way to go.  Given the currently disrupted nature of the industry, one still has to decide for oneself the best path forward.

The Henley MBA for the Music Industry is a parttime degree designed for individuals working in management positions. It's not exclusively for execs though it is the kind of degree one would get if one wants to move up in a corporate setting into an executive position. This degree basically adds a core of industry-related courses to the Henley Flexible MBA program and focuses on such areas as IP management, business model evaluation, alternative funding options, international policy and leadership in the music industry.

The program includes an impressive steering committee and should be a reasonable choice for anyone focused on moving up in corporate settings. The Henley Business School is based at England's University of Reading and will hold a launch party at this weekend's midem conference in Cannes.

The announcement has been met with some skepticism from the anti-corporate crowd as revealed in an editorial in The Economist that closes with the line, “somehow, I just can't see an MBA student signing the next Sex Pistols." While signing the Sex Pistols seems to be a rather odd criteria for an educational program, given that faculty and specific courses have yet to be clearly identified means that one can't really evaluate the program itself at this point.

But this is not the first MBA focused on the music industry and it certainly isn't for everyone that wants business training to prepare for a rapidly shifting environment. Other programs include:

Drexel University's Music Industry MBA

NYU's MBA in Entertainment, Media and Technology

Suffolk University's MBA for Berklee Graduates

The University of Delaware's 4+1 MBA—Music

Of course, these are in the U.S. but, beyond industry-specific programs, most MBA's here and abroad are designed with a rather generic approach that then allows for specialization.  Such programs sometimes include certificate programs in the music industry or related areas of entertainment.

Though MBA's aren't for everyone, many in the industry have found them of use. Warner Music Group CIO Maggie Miller pursued an MBA from England's Open University that allowed her to build an IT-related career that spanned a variety of industries before entering music. Crossing industries is a fairly typical scenario in corporate settings.

Though Bas Grasmayer did not pursue an MBA, he's an excellent example of someone who focused his graduate training on music marketing. In addition, prestigious business schools are full of graduate students taking similar paths.

Yet, when one looks at the disruptive terrain facing the industry, one gets the feeling that a degree in computer engineering or even a bunch of programming courses might be even more effective for someone entering the music business with entrepreneurial intent.  So, while it's great to see programs such as Henley's that are tailored to industry needs and offer networking possibilities focused on music, one's choice of education should be based on where one is heading with the understanding that learning how to adapt to changing circumstances will ultimately be as important as any specific body of knowledge.

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