Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat once observed that “Art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.” If that sentiment is accurate, however, then why is there such a deficit of funding for the arts in the United States today?
Colorado State University has taken an alternative approach to this question, by creating the College of Music Business. Never before has there been an accredited path like this to get to the forefront of the music industry. Today’s global recorded music market stands at roughly $20—21 billion for this year alone, so where is the training for the people in management or promotion?
Chuck Morris, one of the biggest figureheads in the music industry today—having formerly been the President and CEO of AEG Rocky Mountain and Northwest Regions of America—set out to accomplish his dream of starting a music business program to pass his knowledge to a new generation and fueling the fires of the entertainment industry.
“Only plan I ever had was that I wanted to teach when I was done,” Morris said. After a lifetime of accomplishment in the music industry with feats like winning a Grammy as an executive producer on Will the Circle Be Unbroken vol. 2 by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and managing Big Head Todd and the Monsters while they sold 1.5 million copies of Sister Sweetly, among many other achievements, this is the latest development for Morris.
“I got offers from other schools, and I really liked CSU’s attitude. They allowed any student, from any year, at any major to take this class,” Morris said. “Starting with one class, adding two more next semester, and within a few years it’ll be a minor, and then a major”
Morris chose Barton Dahl to teach the Intro to Music Business class. Dahl is a former music industry executive who has managed the band Cake and worked with Nathaniel Rateliff among many other endeavors in music.
“Around October 2019, Chuck told me he was starting a new music business program at dinner before a Brittany Howard show,” Dahl remembered. “It became clear that I was a good candidate for the position… We try and create a curriculum week by week that takes a segment of the music industry and pulls the curtain back. We try and put that into the mosaic of the music industry as a whole, try and give it context, then on Thursday, we bring in a guest that can reinforce that on the professional side.”
In Dahl’s music business class, the first period of the week is spent in lecture on a specific topic; say music management. The ins and outs of what is expected of a music manager on Tuesday, then on Thursday, Jeffrey Azoff (Full Stop Management/son of Irving Azoff) comes in via Microsoft Teams to speak on his knowledge and field questions from the class. That is the class in the nutshell.
“After doing this for 40 years, I have some friends in the business,” Morris joked. That is an understatement considering the star-studded guest speakers that got on board for the class. From industry professionals like Jay Marciano (AEG Worldwide) and Mike Luba (Madison House Presents) to artists such as GRiZ, Mike Gordon (Phish), Michael Franti, James Blake, and Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons), and many more.
Of the many amazing guests that spoke, a few of them allowed for short interviews to garner some insight into what they thought about the class including Ben Lovett, Michael Franti, and US Senator-elect John Hickenlooper.
Michael Franti, an American musician, poet, and activist, came to the class to speak on management in the music industry. He introduced a “management hub” which broke down all of the important tasks that a manager must do in order to be successful.
“You know both my parents were teachers, so it felt natural to be in the classroom,” Franti said. “You can spend 20 years trying to achieve something and if someone has already done it, they can explain it in five minutes. So, to have experience like Chuck, who has been around for decades, and has worked with the biggest stars in the world as well as young, up and coming artists, the knowledge that you get from that is super valuable.”
Ben Lovett, the Grammy Award-winning British rocker, also sat in as a guest speaker in the class.
“Chuck and the band [Mumford and Sons] have worked together for years, beyond promoting shows, he’s been an adviser, one of those titans, the Rocky Mountains don’t exist without Chuck when it comes to touring,” Lovett said. “It’s an honor to be asked to speak… One of the most frustrating things for me over the last 15 years is the lack of infrastructure around great art, there’s no shortage of people that are writing amazing music. We need more qualified, smart, thoughtful managers and support teams, I think that is what Chuck is shooting for with the program.”
While 2020 was most certainly a rough year for entertainment, we cannot expect this to continue. Senate-elect John Hickenlooper observed that, “The whole economy of the music business is upside down and it’s going to reorder itself.”
Hickenlooper is a personal friend of Morris, who observed that, “[Hickenlooper] goes to more shows than three-fourths of my whole staff every year.”
But it is because of the massive shifts in the live music industry that education in this field is all the more important.
“Classes are on sale for next semester, I keep using rock terms,” Morris laughed “You don’t say they are on sale… Once someone has taken 3 or 4 classes, I can call and recommend them [to industry professionals].”
Including the Intro to Music Business class, there are three classes total in the program, with two new ones starting in spring 2021. A marketing course taught by Kelly Donahue (head of marketing at AEG Rocky Mountain) and a Streams of Revenue class taught by Eric Griffin (professor and entertainment lawyer).
“Our hope is that people are hearing this stuff and are flipping out, like ‘whoa this is really cool,’” Dahl said.
With the new year dawning, and the changes happening in entertainment, this is a program that is truly revolutionary and is an amazing opportunity for anyone wanting to branch out into the industry. For more information on the Introduction to Music Business course offered at Colorado State University’s college of business, visit the university’s website. Scroll down to see a full list of guest speakers for the course.
Full Guestlist for Intro to Music Business
Week 1: Jay Marciano (CEO AEG Presents), Todd Park Mohr (Big Head Todd)
Week 2: Paul Tollett (President Goldenvoice/founder of Coachella), Jeremy Stein (President Madison House Presents/Founder of Electric Forrest Festival), Bill Nershi (The String Cheese Incident)
Week 3: Michael Franti (The Beatnigs/Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy/Michael Franti & Spearhead/Activist /Author), Bernie Cahill & Matt Maher (Activist.co – Managers of giant bands including Franti)
Week 4: Kevin Morris (Red Light Management), Jason Colton (Red Light Management), Mike Gordon (Phish)
Week 5: John Huie (CAA – agent), Don Strasburg (co-President AEG Rocky Mountain), Brent Fedrizzi (co-President AEG Rocky Mountain), Matt Hickey (Agent: High Road Touring)
Week 6: Randy Reed (manager Red Light), GRiZ (artist, real name Grant Kwiecinski)
Week 7: Jim Zumwalt (attorney/founding partner Jim Zumwalt Law), Susan Genco (co-President Azoff Music)
Week 8: Nick Forster (founder eTown), Sarah Trahern (CEO of the Country Music Association)
Week 9: Todd Goldstein (Chief Revenue Officer AEG Worldwide), Elizabeth Baker Lindsey (President, Brands and Properties at Wasserman)
Week 10: Greg Perloff, (President of Another Planet/founder Outside Lands Festival), BOB ROUX (Senior Vice President of Live Nation)
Week 11: Mike Luba (President: Madison House Presents), Henry Root (attorney), Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons/Founder Communion Records/Communion Presents)
Week 12: Holly GLEASON (publicist/author/songwriter), Ken Weinstein (president Big Hassle Publicity)
Week 13: Jim Hathaway & Jeff Trump (Dave Matthews band Tour Coordinator/head of security)
Week 14: Jeffrey Azoff (Full Stop management/son of Irving Azoff), James Blake (Mega Start artist/songwriter)
Week 15: John Hickenlooper (former Governor Colorado/Senator-Elect: Colorado), Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers)