Loyola Billboard’s 2020 Top Music Business Schools
These schools educate the next generation of music industry leaders
From her home in New Hampshire, Berklee School of Music songwriting major Lizzy McAlpine launched the Instagram #BerkleeAtHome streaming concert series on April 8. A few days earlier, on her SoundCloud account, Lizzy, as she’s known professionally, had posted a newly written song, “When the World Stopped Moving.”
At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, at the Jimmy Iovine Andre Young Academy, faculty fired up the school’s 3D printers to fabricate personal protective equipment for health care workers, in collaboration with other USC schools. Among those helping out, while practicing social distancing behind a face mask, was L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
At the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, professor Laura Sherman reached out to a superstar with whom she had performed on tour for a video note of encouragement to students. “I hope your classes are going well,” said Barbra Streisand. “At least you have Zoom, so you can all still learn together.”
Across the nation, colleges and universities, including those with music and music business programs, are taking whatever steps they can to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, completing the school year this spring with online classes.
While questions about the next few months consume the music business, decisions about the next two to four years weigh heavily on tomorrow’s industry leaders: high school seniors. May 1 is the traditional date when most must decide where to enroll in college (although some schools have extended the deadline).
Those with plans to pursue a career in the music industry may well choose from among the colleges and universities profiled here. This is Billboard’s most expansive and geographically diverse list yet of the top music business schools, including both private and public institutions. While online, skills-focused music education programs have proliferated during the pandemic, for this report Billboard chose programs that are primarily campus-based, offering a broader, deeper education and bestowing a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. It’s worth noting that among the highest-achieving young executives in the music business, as profiled in Billboard’s 2019 40 Under 40 feature, nearly 40% said they were graduates of a liberal arts program.
The students entering college this fall will shape the music industry of the future. These are the schools that will make certain they’re ready.
Baldwin Wallace University
Baldwin Wallace University, located southwest of Cleveland and home to a renowned conservatory, offers two study tracks for future music executives. An arts management and entrepreneurship major created in 2015 allows students to intern with organizations including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The new music industry major was created this year and combines courses from the BW conservatory as well as its school of business. During the past school year, students in a class on music festival producing studied under guest professor Emily Hornack, cofounder of the Brite Winter music and arts festival in Cleveland.
Alumna: Hallie Yavitch, former vp booking for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena, was named vp booking for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in 2019.
Belmont University — Mike Curb College of Entertainment
When the live-music business returns, Curb College students will be prepared. A new course on live-venue management, launched before the pandemic shutdown, reflects the shift in industry revenue toward the touring sector. Likewise, a class titled Inside a Booking Agency brings in Creative Artists Agency Nashville agents with different specialities to work with students each week. In January, the university announced a partnership with Universal Music Publishing Group Nashville that will allow songwriting majors to participate in a UMPG songwriting camp.
Alumna: Trisha Yearwood returned to her alma mater last September to stage the 10th annual CMA Country Christmas at the Curb Event Center.
Berklee College of Music
Last October, days after his sister, Billie Eilish, nabbed six nominations for the American Music Awards, FINNEAS, Eilish’s brother and producer and a performer in his own right, met with a standing-room-only crowd of Berklee students. “The chemistry that Billie and I have together when we make music is very ‘unsupervised,’ ” he said. “And that’s probably the best recommendation I can give for home recording, is being unwatched.” The event, just one example of high-caliber opportunities available to Berklee students, was organized by the school’s career center in partnership with Jeff Dorenfeld, founder of the Berklee Popular Music Institute, and alumna Amanda Samii, vp creative at Kobalt Music. While known for its performance-based curriculum, Berklee recently received approval to offer its first bachelor’s degree in music business, starting in 2022, opening the school to nonperforming students.
Event: In February, the school’s annual James G. Zafris Lecture was presented by Jeffrey Harleston, general counsel/executive vp business and legal affairs for Universal Music Group.
California Institute of the Arts — The Herb Alpert School of Music
Santa Clarita, Calif.
In the early 1960s, Los Angeles civic leaders sought to create world-class arts organizations in the city and, at the 1964 Hollywood premiere of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney unveiled his plan for CalArts, the result of the merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute. Students at CalArts today are also taught the entertainment business in courses like creative entrepreneurship. The newly added course guides students to make pitches for seed funding, develop a business plan and, ultimately, launch their own companies. “As an artist, you are always working for yourself. You are your brand,” says Ajay Kapur, creator of the entrepreneurship course and CalArts’ associate provost for creative technologies.
Alumna: Composer Ellen Reid received the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her opera prism, which premiered in 2018 during the Los Angeles Opera’s Off Grand series.
Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME)
DIME opened in Detroit in 2014 and three years later established a partnership with Metropolitan State University of Denver that allows it to offer a bachelor’s degree in commercial music performance, commercial songwriting and music industry studies at both of its locations. Through a partnership with the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, DIME in September sent five students to songwriting retreats in Lubbock, Texas, and Lafayette, La., where they studied with Jim Lauderdale, Kimmie Rhodes and Beth Nielsen Chapman. At the Denver campus, Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons spoke about giving back to young musicians through his work with Communion Music and his goal of creating venues in major cities for up-and-coming bands. Then he invited students to his group’s shows at the Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre.
Alumnus: Edgar Duenas, a graduate of DIME’s music entrepreneurship program, is a talent buyer for Zamora Entertainment, a leading producer of Latin music concerts.
Drexel University — Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
The music business relies on data more than ever, and students in the music business program at Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design can take a new course that will show them how to analyze information, as well as communicate it visually. The forward-thinking school also finds value in looking back. In March 2019, the student-run Mad Dragon Records teamed up with music subscription service Vinyl Me, Please and independent label Reservoir Records to release long-unheard tracks from the Nat Turner Rebellion, led by Joseph Jefferson, the hitmaking songwriter for The Spinners and The O’Jays. The songs, originally recorded 50 years ago, were found in the Sigma Sound Studios archive donated to Drexel in 2005.
Event: A newly created music industry lecture series launched last November with a talk from acclaimed alternative-rock producer Steve Albini.
Enrollment in the music business program at Hofstra University has increased 175% since 2017, according to the school. Terry Tompkins arrived that year as director of the program with some 25 years of industry experience as an artist manager, talent buyer, label executive and festival organizer. With a campus 23 miles east of Manhattan, students have taken internships at companies including Live Nation; major and indie labels; and publishing companies, as well as the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, adjacent to Hofstra. Student-run organizations offer hands-on experience: Unispan Records, established in 2016, operates from the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and radio station WRHU won a Marconi Award from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Faculty: Emily White, who teaches the master class on tour management, has worked as a tour manager for Nine Inch Nails, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor and Zoë Keating, among others.
Indiana University — Jacobs School of Music
All undergraduate music majors and graduate students at the Jacobs School of Music now benefit from a newly launched course on career development that offers guidance in planning a productive and sustainable professional life. Top honors in the music school’s most recent annual innovation competition went to graduate student Austin Pancner for developing The Functional Musician, an online business promoting health and wellness among performers. All music school winners enter the campuswide Clapp Idea Competition, hosted by the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kelley School of Business. When renowned rock drummer Kenny Aronoff attended the Jacobs School, he later said, “I was blown away by the sheer talent around me and was in some ways daunted by it.”
Faculty: Newly appointed professor of percussion Joseph Gramley is a former member of the Silk Road Ensemble and was the group’s first associate artistic director, collaborating with Silk Road’s founder, Yo-Yo Ma.
Kennesaw State University — The Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program
The Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business (MEBUS) Program offers courses in accounting, marketing, management and entrepreneurship as part of the 24-credit certification open to all KSU undergraduate students under the Coles College of Business. In 2019, MEBUS and the College of Computing and Software Engineering launched the KSU Disney Interactive Entertainment Study program. The four-week session, held at the Walt Disney World Caribbean Resort in Orlando, Fla., focuses on music, film, TV, video games, computer graphics, 3D modeling and animation projects, and includes lectures from Disney Imagineers. Assisting students with marketing projects, MEBUS’ latest executive in-residence has been Bryan Calhoun, head of digital strategy for Blueprint Group/ Maverick, director of artist marketing and industry relations for Pandora Media and founder of the Music Business Toolbox.
Event: In September 2019, MEBUS presented the Future of Music and Entertainment lecture featuring Arthur Goldstuck, former president/COO of BMG and president and founder/cochairman (with Antonio “L.A.” Reid) of Hitco Entertainment.
Los Angeles College of Music
LACM offers bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in music performance, music production, songwriting, composing for visual media and music business. Students have taken advantage of their proximity to Los Angeles with professor-led visits to Capitol Records, Stones Throw Records, Spotify, ASCAP, BMI, Killingsworth Studios and Village Recorders. A biweekly music business master-class series has welcomed guest speakers such as 30 Seconds to Mars bassist Steve Aiello, ASCAP associate director Brian Reyes and Carlos De La Garza, a Grammy Award-winning producer (Paramore, Ziggy Marley, Bad Religion). Global music business, history of the digital revolution, and time and money management are courses taught by Steve Corn, co-founder of BFM Digital and the Grammy-winning BFM Jazz label.
Alumnus: Kygo and LACM graduate Sandro Cavazza completed Avicii’s song “Forever Yours” after the EDM superstar’s death in 2018. The track was released in January as “Forever Yours (Tribute)” and reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart.
Los Angeles Film School — The Los Angeles Recording School
In the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, the Los Angeles Recording School is a division of the Los Angeles Film School that offers a bachelor of science degree in audio production and, newly introduced, in music production, as an online course. (Associate of science degrees are also available.) In January, the school hosted Academy Award-nominated songwriters — Cynthia Erivo, Bernie Taupin, Diane Warren, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez — in a panel discussion for students hosted by songwriter and ASCAP chairman/president Paul Williams.
Alumnus: During the school’s annual F.A.M.E. week last September, recording engineer Henrique Andrade was honored for his work on Zayn’s album, Mind of Mine, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2016.
Loyola University — College of Music and Media
In a city with a musical legacy second to none, one-third of Loyola University’s undergraduate students are enrolled in the College of Music and Media, which was formed in 2019 and includes the School of Music and Theatre Arts, the School of Communication and Design, and the School of Music Industry. A newly introduced bachelor of science degree in urban and electronic music production includes courses in refining song lyrics and record production. Students have participated in internships including stage management at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Alumnus: Carter Lang co-wrote and produced Post Malone’s “Sunflower,” which earned two 2019 Grammy nominations and spent 33 weeks on the Hot 100, tying for the longest top 10 run in the chart’s 61-year history.
Middle Tennessee State University — College of Media and Entertainment
MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, founded in 1973, is one of the nation’s oldest and most highly regarded music business programs, enrolling some 1,200 students each year in study tracks that include audio production, commercial songwriting and, at the graduate level, a master of fine arts in recording arts and technologies. As part of the College of Media and Entertainment, the department draws upon the expertise of faculty versed in video and film production, digital animation, journalism, photography and more. Students made an annual trip to the Grammys to cheer on alumni nominated for nine awards in multiple categories.
Event: On the eve of the Grammys in Los Angeles, Beverly Keel, recently named dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, introduced an Americana Music Association tribute to the songs of Willie Nelson at the Troubadour nightclub.
West Long Branch, N.J.
Monmouth University, home of the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music, has seen a 25% growth in enrollment over the past five years for its bachelor of arts in music with a concentration in the music industry. The program, which has a 50/50 gender mix, allows students to study topics such as publishing, recording, marketing, talent acquisition, artist management, concert production, media relations, technology and merchandising. The student-run Blue Hawk Records allows participants to practice their lessons in a real-world setting.
Event: In January, Blue Hawk Records hosted a benefit concert in nearby Asbury Park as part of the Light of Day Winterfest, an annual event created by music manager Bob Benjamin to raise funds and awareness of the need for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Springsteen played at a later event concluding the festival.
New York University — Tisch School of the Arts, Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
The Clive Davis Institute, which offers a unique bachelor of fine arts in recorded music, has moved into its new, state-of-the-art campus in Brooklyn. Students pass through hallways decorated with wallpaper created by Lenny Kravitz and Mike D of the Beastie Boys into editing and production suites, listening rooms, rehearsal spaces, a podcasting room with livestreaming capabilities, audio workstation labs and two-story audio recording studios — including a reconstruction of the Beastie Boys’ iconic recording studio, Oscilloscope. As part of the school’s curriculum, juniors take a semester to study abroad and may choose one of NYU’s many global programs or the curated Berlin program exploring European experimental traditions and the historical avant-garde. Music Industry Essentials, a new six-part online education program (in partnership with Billboard) provides comprehensive insights into music production, history, marketing and the business.
Guest Speakers: Maggie Rogers, a 2020 best new artist Grammy nominee and alumna of the institute, offered students a Q&A before the first of her two October appearances at Radio City Music Hall. Bon Iver did the same for students during his December tour stop at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre.
New York University — Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development
The January break is no time to take it easy for Steinhardt students. The “J term” offers opportunities for students to study abroad in London with music business program director Larry Miller and in Rio de Janeiro for the course emerging models and markets for music under professor Sam Howard-Spink. Another winter break option is a new course, production and A&R in the music industry, taught in Nashville, primarily at Berry Hill Studio. This year, Brian Wright, senior vp and head of A&R for Universal Music Group Nashville, offered insight to the visiting students.
Faculty: Adjunct professor Marcie Allen, president of MAC Presents, sponsors mentoring and networking trips for students to Los Angeles and Nashville.
A liberal arts college in one of the world’s music business capitals, Occidental’s robust music department has added the new Choi Family Music Production Center, housing a recording studio, control room and music production/film scoring computer lab. The space was designed by Peter Grueneisen of nonzero\architecture, known for his work for Sony Music, DreamWorks and Hans Zimmer, among others. The facility bolsters the music production concentration within the music department. To further strengthen its music business curriculum, the school is working with Warner Music Group (whose CEO, Stephen Cooper, is an alumnus). Across campus, the media arts and culture department, offering one of the college’s most popular majors, prepares students for careers in film, TV, streaming and emerging media forms through courses in media theory and hands-on production tools.
Faculty: New music production instructor Jongnic “JB” Bontemps endorses Occidental’s mix of liberal arts education and hands-on experience. “Oxy’s program is really focused on training your mind,” he says, “because if you can’t imagine it, you can’t produce it through the technology.”
Pepperdine University — Institute for Entertainment, Media, Sports and Culture
At the undergraduate and graduate levels, Pepperdine’s Institute for Entertainment, Media, Sports and Culture taps the expertise of Seaver College, Graziadio Business School and the university’s School of Law for a multidisciplinary education for future entertainment executives. In partnership with the Grammy Museum, IEMSC hosted a roundtable discussion last October on the implications of the Music Modernization Act. A new “menternship” program launched in 2019 (hosted by Evan Lamberg, president of North America at Universal Music Publishing Group, and Christa Zofcin-Workman, COO at River Road Entertainment) allows students to receive mentoring from industry executives and build relationships toward internships and jobs.
Event: Jennifer Hudson performed at the 44th annual Pepperdine Associates dinner in Beverly Hills in February, presided over by Jim Gash, who became the university’s eighth president in September 2019.
Rhodes College — Mike Curb Institute for Music
The music business curriculum at the Curb Institute is centered around a core question: How is it different studying this topic in Memphis? After all, this river city is where the explosive mix of country and R&B at Sun Studios in 1954 gave birth to rock’n’roll. Notable courses include music and community in Memphis, music urbanism and audio engineering: history, theory and practice. The new audio engineering course brings students to musical landmarks and session rooms, including Royal Studios and Ardent Studios. A recent class project involved creating a 7-inch vinyl record and studying each step of the process, from preproduction to distribution.
Event: In October 2019, the Curb Institute produced Respect Fest, an on-campus block party celebrating the crucial role women have played in Memphis music.
State University of New York — College at Oneonta
SUNY Oneonta music industry students in January traveled to meet executives at Paradigm Talent Agency in Los Angeles and to attend the NAMM Show, the world’s largest trade show for the music equipment industry, taking place in Anaheim, Calif. Back on campus, a new one-on-one course, advanced applied lessons in music production, taught with the software Ableton Live, boosts students’ skills in electronic and contemporary music composition, sound design and performance. Within the music production curriculum, students can tailor the course to their interests by focusing on specific topics such as sound design, mixing and workflow.
Alumnus: Scott Harris, who earned a Grammy nomination for Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood” and has also written songs for P!nk, Jessie J, Bebe Rehxa and Khalid, met with students last October and received an alumni of distinction award.
Syracuse University — Bandier Program in Recording and Entertainment Industries
Students with the Bandier Program enjoyed industry networking opportunities in L.A. during the Billboard Live Summit in November, including a visit to Warner Records hosted by A&R vp Gabz Landman, a Bandier alumna. But that was a relatively short jaunt compared with earlier in the year when students journeyed in May to Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul to meet with live-music, label, publishing, streaming and management executives in each market. “Meeting highlights included office sit-downs with everyone from Tencent and TikTok in China to the A&R team at K-pop leaders SM Entertainment in Seoul,” says Bandier Program director Bill Werde.
Faculty: Michelle Santosuosso, former editor of HITS magazine, has joined the Bandier Program and the university’s Newhouse School, bringing three decades of music industry experience in radio, labels and artist management.
University of California Los Angeles — Herb Alpert School of Music
This fall, UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music plans to offer a new bachelor of arts in music history and industry, focusing on the sociocultural and theoretical contexts of music-making. The program builds upon the school’s existing B.A. in musicology and highly popular music industry minor. It will include a yearlong capstone course that allows students to develop music industry-focused projects with faculty guidance and an internship component that leverages the university’s location in L.A.
Event: Rich Costey, the producer, engineer and mixer who has won Grammys for collaborations with Muse and Foo Fighters, gave a lecture on music production on campus last October.
University of Colorado Denver — College of Arts and Media
At CU Denver’s College of Arts and Media, the new music cities course explores how local economies emerge and grow — and the role music plays in boosting economic growth. A music tourism class explores how venues, and local history, can be promoted to attract tourism and generate economic growth. These courses emerged out of the college’s partnership with Sound Diplomacy, an international consultancy that presents the Music Cities Conference. CU Denver associate professor Storm Gloor is working with Sound Diplomacy to bring the event to Denver in September.
Event: Former Spotify head of U.S. artist and label marketing J.J. Italiano and Spotify global head of dance electronic music Austin Kramer, both CU Denver alumni, spoke to students as part of the music supervision workshop and music business seminars.
University of Miami — Frost School of Music
The Frost School of Music became the first school to host a meeting of the Digital Data Exchange Licensing Working Group last October, allowing students the opportunity to ask mechanical-licensing questions of the executives representing 15 companies and organizations. Students enrolled in a music marketing course carried out a digital marketing plan over a full semester, running campaigns on online platforms such as Google Adwords to monitor their performance. Spotify and Creative Artists Agency are among the music companies that have recently held information and recruiting sessions on campus.
Faculty: Guillermo Page, a Miami alumnus and veteran of senior roles at BMG Entertainment, EMI Music, Sony Music and Universal Music Group, is the new assistant director of the Frost Music Business and Entertainment Industries Program.
University of North Texas — College of Music
As the nation’s largest public university music program, UNT continues to expand its curriculum, adding a new music business and entrepreneurship minor and, in partnership with the university’s business school, an MBA with a concentration in music business and entrepreneurship. The third annual UNT Music Entrepreneurship Competition, offering $20,000 in cash prizes, saw a 53% increase in participation. Students prepare business plans (for a new business or for the expansion of an existing company) based on Peter Spellman’s article “Writing a Music Business Plan That Works.”
Faculty: Bruce Broughton, media and music composer-in-residence at UNT since 2017, is a 10-time Emmy Award winner and sits on the board of directors at ASCAP.
University of Southern California — Jimmy Iovine Andre Young Academy
USC officially opened Iovine and Young Hall last October, the permanent home to the one-of-a-kind school endowed by the music entrepreneurs Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. (The academy opened in the fall of 2014 in a space aptly named The Garage, reflecting its startup sensibility.) Beyond the scope of any music business school, the academy offers a bachelor’s degree in arts, technology and the business of innovation. Those are skills Iovine has said are essential to the future of the music business, but academy students have ventured into fields as diverse as health, fashion and carbon-offset technology. “What was inherent in Jimmy and Dre’s early vision,” says founding dean Erica Muhl, “was an education that would allow students to be able to look at problems differently.”
Faculty: Jay Clewis is a lecturer of communication in the academy’s newly launched master of science in integrated design, business and technology program. The school has also added a master of science in product innovation.
University of Southern California — Thornton School of Music
Over 30 years ago, USC Thornton created a pioneering recording arts degree to immerse students in the music production process and, for the past 20 years, the school has offered an expansive undergraduate music industry program. One of the newest courses, performance technology, focuses on using audio software, like Ableton Live, just as a musician would play a traditional instrument. At a showcase last spring, students blended genres onstage by layering compositions and songs with computer-generated sounds using laptops, keyboards and controllers. In one of its newest ventures at the graduate level, in the fall of 2018 the school launched a master’s degree in the music industry, an 18-month graduate program that includes courses in copyright, concerts, artist management, marketing data and analysis, as well as a one-semester internship.
Alumnus: Justin Lubliner, founder/CEO of The Darkroom, released Billie Eilish’s Grammy-sweeping debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, through a joint venture with Interscope Records.
William Paterson University — Music and Entertainment Industries Program
Within the music department at William Paterson University, the music and entertainment industries program offers a bachelor’s degree that includes course work in licensing, touring, intellectual property rights, public relations, media use, law and ethics, and personal management. A music management seminar is hosted by SiriusXM vp talent and industry affairs Steve Leeds, while internship opportunities abound at music companies in New York, 30 miles west of campus. The student-produced Music Biz 101 & More radio show and podcast featured women in the music industry last fall. Guests included BMG executive vp A&R Kate Hyman, Girlie Action Media & Management owner Vicki Starr, On the Rocks Management’s Cindy da Silva and Sony Music Entertainment copyright analyst Amanda Mushinski, an alumna of the school.
Faculty: Aaron Van Duyne is the business manager for Dave Matthews, St. Vincent, KISS, 3 Doors Down, Soundgarden and others.