Bonnaroo U? Billboard's 2018 Top Music Business Schools

The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami opened a new building in 2015 with an environmentally friendly design.
Courtesy of the Frost School of Music

The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami opened a new building in 2015 with an environmentally friendly design.

They’ve gained admission to competitive colleges and universities in major capitals of the U.S. music business -- New York, Miami, Nashville and Los Angeles -- or lesser-known locales with vital musical pedigrees like Denton, Texas.

They are taught and mentored by professors with extensive industry résumés and by visiting music executives from record labels, publishing companies, booking agencies and other sectors. Their lessons take place in classrooms but also at radio stations, concert venues and even on the fields of music festivals.

They attend programs endowed by (and bearing the names of) superstar music-business executives. Some aspire to perform; others to work outside the spotlight. All understand that the industry is more complex than ever and deserving of four years of coursework.

They are the students of the nation’s top music business schools. And as the future of the industry, here is where they study.


College credit for attending Bonnaroo? For 20 Belmont students participating in a program focused on the sociology of music and festival culture, the four-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival (which was held June 7-11) capped off their curriculum. In the classroom, the students discussed the role of music in society and the design of sociological research studies. They then continued their work 60-plus miles southeast of campus in Manchester, Tenn. Bonnaroo organizers compiled a dozen questions for the student researchers to ask festivalgoers with the purpose of gaining insight into Generation Z fans. “While I have taken students to see music scenes and subcultures in the U.K., Bonnaroo offered a unique opportunity because it’s in our backyard,” says Dr. Ken Spring, who collaborated with Dr. Sarita Stewart on the program. When not interviewing their peers, students attended class on the festival grounds, twice-daily sessions in the press tent, where they talked with Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps, Khalid manager Courtney Stewart and C3 promoter Amy Corbin, among others.

Alumnus: Songwriter Gordon Kennedy hosted Belmont’s sixth annual Homecoming in the Round concert in February -- where Garth Brooks gave a surprise performance.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival
Students from Belmont and MTSU have earned  credit for work at the Bonnaroo festival.


“Every artist’s career is a startup,” declares the online course catalog of the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, part of the renowned Boston-based music school whose programs now extend from New York to Spain and into cyberspace. In Manhattan, BerkleeNYC, the former Power Station recording studio purchased by the college in 2017, presented its first educational programs in March and has begun hosting Broadway cast recordings. Berklee’s Spain campus in Valencia offers study-abroad opportunities for undergraduates and master’s programs including Global Entertainment and the Music Business. In cyberspace, Berklee Online has launched a master of arts in music business. The school’s Career Jam in April featured visits from 50 artists and executives, plus a keynote address by Pharrell Williams.

Faculty: Susan Rogers, a veteran recording engineer, has contributed videos to Berklee Online in which she discusses working with Prince between 1983 and 1987, including on his landmark Purple Rain album.

John Powell
Berklee College of Music’s 16-story building on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. 


Students at Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, which includes the music business program, have research access to the Sigma Sound Studios Collection, a historic library of 7,000 audiotapes capturing the legacy of the studio’s pop, soul, disco and R&B recordings that became known as “The Sound of Philadelphia.” “It separates us from other programs,” says music industry professor Marc Offenbach. “These recordings include masters from Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, MFSB and Gamble & Huff.” The student-run MAD Dragon Music Group makes use of a new $4.5 million state-of-the-art recording studio that opened last fall, funded by gifts from alumni, including Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson.

Guest speaker: Wyclef Jean came by the new studio last October for an hourlong session with students.

Ryan Nava
A workshop session at Power Station at BerkleeNYC in New York.

Kennesaw, Ga.

As part of the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State, 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, the 24-credit-hour Katz Music and Entertainment Business (MEBUS) program is open to all KSU undergraduate students and can be added as a minor concentration to their major course of study. “The Katz MEBUS program presents opportunities for students to intern with companies such as Coca-Cola Studios, the Grammys, Sixthman, Red Light Management, Live Nation, Moxie and many more,” says program director Keith Perissi, noting that alumni have been hired by those organizations and others -- including Katz’s law firm, Greenberg Traurig. The Katz MEBUS program also offers an annual study abroad trip to London, including an all-day visit with international executives at Sony Entertainment.

Guest speaker: Zac Brown Band members John Driskell Hopkins and Coy Bowles are artists-in-residence who regularly visit to share their perspectives on the music and touring industries.

Pasadena, Calif.

During the past year at the Los Angeles College of Music, students launched the self-directed 370 Music Group as a partnership with the LACM Foundation, which funds scholarships to the school. Working with faculty members Adam LaRue, Pablo Mathiason, Marko Desantis and Erin Workman, the students created a business model -- from the deal-memo stage to marketing materials to distribution (through AWAL, Kobalt’s music distribution and services partner for independent artists) -- then launched the company. 370 has its own student-staffed teams for A&R, marketing and publicity, and is releasing music from student artists including Stefan Crane, Analisa Corral and DJ Trakrunner (aka Joseph Ingram). Crane’s Reflections EP is the label’s first release. Profits from the venture will be distributed among the acts and the LACM scholarship fund.

Guest speaker: Singer, songwriter and producer Ne-Yo took part in LACM’s Let’s Talk Music series in January.

Los Angeles

Elvis Presley long ago left the RCA Building on Sunset Boulevard where he rehearsed for concerts in 1969, but the former studio now houses the Los Angeles Film School, which prepares students for the music business via both its recording-school division and entertainment-business program. A bachelor of science in audio production is offered through the Los Angeles Recording School while courses in artist management, intellectual property, creative entrepreneurship, new-media distribution and music-business essentials are among the classes available through the film school’s entertainment-business program. In February, LAFS presented a panel discussion with the year’s leading Academy Award-nominated songwriters.

Alumnus: Andrés Borda won a Latin Grammy Award in 2015 for record of the year as the producer of Natalia Lafourcade’s “Hasta la Raiz.”

Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The Bonnaroo festival, just 30 miles from the MTSU campus, offered learning experiences for the institution’s recording-industry-program students, who helped sound and video production crews at the event. The department of recording industry is contained within MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, which allows students to work “with those from TV and film production, digital animation, journalism, public relations, theater” and other fields, says department chairwoman Beverly Keel, who adds that virtual-reality production is a new focus. A bachelor’s degree in audio production has been added to a program that includes undergraduate majors in the recording industry (with concentrations in music and commercial songwriting), an MFA in recording arts and technologies, and a music business MBA. Such artists as Allison Moorer and Darrell Scott, on campus for visits to the university’s Americana station, WMOT, also take time for class discussions.

Alumni: Billboard’s recent Country Power Players reception in Nashville could have been an MTSU homecoming. Among the honorees were alumni Brad Belanger (of Red Light Management), Martha Earls (EFG Management), Kent Earls (Universal Music Publishing Group), Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher and attorney Mike Milom.

Andy Heidt
Middle Tennessee State University recording industry professor Matt Foglia (right) with his class in one of the school’s studio facilities. 

New York

Rapper Q-Tip, whose credits range from co-founding A Tribe Called Quest to collaborating with the Kennedy Center, will co-teach a course this fall at the Clive Davis Institute about the connections between jazz and hip-hop. For this recording-focused program, Universal Music Group last fall launched a six-part Masterclass speaking series that opened with Pusha T and UMG senior vp A&R Steven Victor. Class of 2016 alumna Maggie Rogers returned to the school to discuss her rise from the institute to playing festivals including Governors Ball in New York just two years after her graduation.

Guest singers: Prior to the Global Citizen festival in New York’s Central Park last September, the institute hosted a pre-reception for the Global Citizen Live! concert at NYU’s Skirball Center with performers including Tom Morello, Annie Lennox and Paul Shaffer.

New York

The goal of the music-business program at NYU’s Steinhardt School is to combine industry perspective with the performance training of a music conservatory. A new course, Production for Songwriters, is taught by Kevin Killen, an engineer and producer who has worked with David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Shakira and others. In its 23rd year, Steinhardt’s student-run Village Records worked with producer-in-residence J.C. Losada to release singles by independent acts Satellite Mode, Von Sell and Yiorgos. On June 8, the program hosted the Innovation at the Intersection of Music + Nightlife conference, which was created by the New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

Faculty: Adjunct faculty member Marcie Allen, president of MAC Presents, arranged for students to get input on their demos from industry executives during a session at the famed Electric Lady Studios.

Malibu, Calif.

On its Malibu campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Pepperdine seeks to train the next generation of entertainment industry leaders through a multidisciplinary approach. In 2015, the school launched its Institute for Entertainment, Media and Culture. “Thirty percent of our graduates in the Los Angeles area are serving in media and entertainment,” said university president Andrew K. Benton at the time. The institute has drawn upon the undergraduate and graduate programs of Seaver College, the Graziadio School of Business and the School of Law. In March 2017, Pepperdine presented “The Next Wave in Digital Entertainment” at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles, featuring discussions by students, faculty, alumni and industry experts.

Guest singer: In September, Pepperdine will host a performance by Grammy-winning songwriter Jimmy Webb, joined by Ashley Campbell, the daughter of the late Glen Campbell.

Syracuse, N.Y.

The Bandier program this summer received state approval for an expanded curriculum, which is based on extensive industry feedback and follows the program’s move into Syracuse University’s highly regarded S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It will add graphic design, video storytelling and editing courses while doubling down on data, emerging tech, entrepreneurial and leadership thinking, and “the ever-changing realm of music rights,” says program director Bill Werde. “We [have] refined a student experience that had already been nationally ranked and made it even better, adding hands-on opportunities and real-world experiences across the board. Bandier is committed to producing young professionals who aren’t just savvy about the music industry, but are also high-integrity, resilient individuals engaged in their communities and the world at large.”

Faculty: At the invitation of Werde, contributor to and former editorial director of Billboard, nearly 40 music industry experts have met this past year with Bandier students.
Munir Griffin, a member of UCLA’s class of 2018, inside a studio at the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center, funded by a gift from the former longtime Warner Music executive and his wife.

Los Angeles

“Blurred Lines” and copyright clarity will be featured in the new course Forensic Musicology, which will be introduced this fall at the Herb Alpert School. The legal battle between Marvin Gaye’s family and Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over songwriting credit for the 2013 No. 1 hit will be examined in the class along with technical aspects of music copyright and issues related to expert musicological testimony. In other new moves, the school’s Center for Music Innovation has introduced a music-marketing initiative, The Lab @UCLA CMI, using social media analytics and other tools.

Guest speakers: UCLA’s student music-industry committee, MIC at UCLA, partnered with the Herb Alpert School to launch a new series in 2018, Music Power Players, featuring talks with Mitch Rose of Creative Artists Agency, Dave Rocco of Spotify and David Marcus of Ticketmaster. They were among the 25-plus music industry executives who made campus visits this past year.

Julia Maltz
From left: David Brik, co-founder of the Music Industry Committee at UCLA and class of 2018 grad, interviews Creative Artists Agency’s Mitch Rose in the recording studio of the Herb Alpert School of Music. 


The Frost School’s fall-semester class Topics in Music Business will examine such industry developments as Spotify’s recent initial public offering, Facebook’s interaction with the music business and the Music Modernization Act pending in Congress. In March, the music business/entertainment industries program and the student-run Music Industry Association hosted the annual Southeast Sound: Music Business Conference with representatives from Warner Music Group, The Recording Academy, the Country Music Association and United Talent Agency.

Former student: One-time University of Miami student Patti Scialfa transferred to NYU before graduation, but fondly recalled studying at Frost, including a class where, she said in a 2004 interview, “you’d listen to Charlie Parker or John Coltrane straight from six to nine.”

Denton, Texas

The College of Music at the University of North Texas describes itself as the largest public-university music program in the nation, and its music entrepreneurship curriculum serves many of its nearly 1,600 music majors along with those studying other areas in UNT’s 38,000-strong student body. A new graduate course, Seminar in Performing Arts Management, had students preparing a consulting project that evaluated the strength of the nearby Lewisville Lake Symphony. Two UNT students who excelled at the project and completed an internship with the symphony were then invited to join the symphony’s board. Through the UNT Music Entrepreneurship Competition, students vie for grants as they write business plans, drawing upon workshops, tutorials and the experience of faculty mentors.

Alumnus: Saxophonist Jeff Coffin in 2017 released Next Time Yellow, his 12th solo album, ahead of touring this summer as a member of the Dave Matthews Band.

Los Angeles

During the first graduation ceremony in May for the Iovine Young Academy at USC, founded in 2014, co-valedictorian Caitlin Tran congratulated her classmates on “making it through four years of explaining that we don’t go to a music industry school.” Iovine, with the support of Dr. Dre, conceived the school as teaching a mix of arts and technology that he has called essential to the future of the music industry, but the academy’s scope is far wider than a music-biz school. The first class of graduates, who earned a one-of-a-kind bachelor’s degree in arts, technology and the business of innovation, are pursuing careers in such fields as children’s fashion, medicine, video-game design and technology policy.

Guest speaker:, the academy’s first commencement speaker, was a familiar presence to the class of 2018: They had met him freshman year during a barbecue at Iovine’s home.

Los Angeles

Kevin Lyman, founder of the Vans Warped Tour, and veteran music manager Trudy Green, who represented Heart, Aerosmith and others, will join the Thornton faculty for the 2018-19 school year as the conservatory continues to strengthen its music business curriculum. A new undergraduate course, Professional Music Capitals of the World, offers first-hand exposure to the top music cities with students spending two immersive weeks in Nashville’s music industry, with London to follow. In the fall of 2019, the school will launch a new music-business master’s program, complementing four other master’s degrees it offers in arts leadership, community music, contemporary teaching practice and screen scoring.

Guest speaker: Irving Burgie, who wrote Harry Belafonte’s 1957 hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song),” visited campus during the past school year as part of USC Thornton’s partnership with the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Ziva Santop
From left: Iovine, Tran and Dr. Dre at the first graduation ceremony for USC’s Iovine Young Academy in May.

Wayne, N.J.

“There is no doubt in my mind that William Paterson University does an amazing job preparing students for the future,” says RCA Records co-president Joe Riccitelli, an alumnus of the school. “Their courses are relevant and competitive in today’s music business.” WPU’s music and entertainment industries program is now complemented by an MBA in music and entertainment management. The school produces the Music Biz 101 & More radio show and podcast, whose recent guests have included Scooter Braun and Florida Georgia Line manager Seth England.

Faculty: The school, 20 miles west of Manhattan, has visiting music/entertainment industry experts who lecture undergraduate and MBA students. Along with Riccitelli, recent participating executives have included Atlantic Records executive vp promotion John Boulos, Warner Music’s Matt Young and Dan Goldberg, and Atlantic head of digital strategy, marketing and e-commerce Paul Sinclair. 

This article originally appeared in the June 30 issue of Billboard.