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The business of music

Memorial launches Canada’s first joint music and business degree

Teaching and Learning

By Susan White

Starting a business can be hard.

It can be even harder when you don’t have a business background.

That’s the challenge that many musicians, actors and artists face throughout their careers.

Memorial University is bridging this gap with a new joint program from the School of Music and Faculty of Business Administration that enables students to pursue their creative passions while simultaneously gaining the strategic business foundations necessary to launch and sustain successful careers.

A Canadian first

The program is a joint bachelor of music (B.Mus.) and bachelor of business administration (BBA), which students can earn in just five years of full-time study. It’s the first joint degree of its kind in Canada.

“This program allows aspiring musicians to develop their musical skills and artistry while also developing business acumen,” said Dr. Ian Sutherland, dean, School of Music. “It’s a program that puts Memorial on the leading edge of education for young musicians, preparing them for the dynamic 21st-century marketplace that is today’s music industry.”

Dr. Ian Sutherland and Dr. Isabelle Dostaler, deans of Memorial's School of Music and Faculty of Business Administration respectively, pose for photos at Memorial University's School of Music.
Dr. Ian Sutherland and Dr. Isabelle Dostaler, deans of Memorial’s School of Music and Faculty of Business Administration, respectively.
Photo: Dave Howells

That’s an industry that is competitive, and one in which participants face high rates of unemployment.

According to a 2018 study by MusicNL and BDO Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador’s music industry contributes $51.5 million to the provincial economy each year, with related job growth since 2011 at 15.4 per cent — well above the national average of 6.2 per cent.

However, the number of available music industry jobs remains 32 per cent below the Canadian average.

Need for business know-how

E. Mark Murphy (B.Mus. '99) says business education would have helped his career.
E. Mark Murphy (B.Mus. ’99)
Photo: Submitted

According to Canadian tenor E. Mark Murphy (B.Mus.’99), who first built his career on opera stages in Europe, business education that complemented his musical learning would have helped his career.

“You come into the School of Music and you think, ‘I love to sing, I’m going to sing forever, and then an agent is going to find me and I’m going to work.’ And, more often than not, that’s not the case,” Mr. Murphy said. “I would have liked to know how to better market myself back when I was looking for gigs and for working in the music industry.”

Mr. Murphy eventually found success as a singer and entrepreneur in Germany, where he started a production company. But starting that business made him realize he needed more understanding of business principles, so he completed a master of arts management at the Hochschule fűr Musik und Theater in Hamburg. (He also holds a master of music from Boston University.)

“Until I ended up doing more education, I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants.”

Memorial’s new joint program will focus on developing students’ musicianship, artistry and musical creativity through artist mentorship, musicologies, music theory, music technology, career skills and ensemble work.

The BBA provides the competencies to mobilize these skills in commercial and social business settings through learning in business in society, marketing, management, strategy and entrepreneurship.

Music industry boost

Dr. Isabelle Dostaler, dean of Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration, says the new program will help to grow the music industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Studies show that the music industry, while an important cultural export, offers fewer jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador than in other provinces across Canada. As a result, we are also seeing fewer economic benefits,” she said.

“Our new program aims to address this issue by helping to grow the music industry in this province, thereby increasing its economic impact and providing highly qualified graduates who are ready to lead that growth.”

“The music industry is constantly changing and evolving, and today’s musicians need a thorough understanding of business concepts, in addition to musical talent and skill, to enjoy successful careers,” added Dr. Sutherland. “We’re excited to partner with Memorial’s business faculty to offer this joint degree that will expand the career horizons of our students.”

More information

The joint B.Mus./BBA degree is expected to receive approval from Memorial’s Board of Regents next month. Interested students may subscribe to program updates here.

Prospective students must be admitted to the B.Mus. program to pursue the joint degree with business. The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2019. Please visit here for more information.

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