By Chad Abshire
A lot of aspiring musicians hope the road to fame leads directly from a MySpace page. But the reality of the music industry is that it’s often more complex and business-like than many realize. Over the past six years, Eastern has helped address this disparity by offering a relatively new emphasis in the Music Department called Music Industry Studies.
The program looks at the music industry as a whole-touching on everything from promotion and booking to managers and licensing.
Six years ago, there were only three majors in the program. But now, more than 50 students are enrolled in Music Industry Studies. And the emphasis continues to grow every year, said April Brumfield, director of the program.
“It’s just now coming into its own identity,” Brumfield said.
Brumfield teaches nearly every class in the program. And with good reason. She’s been in the music business for a while, earning a Masters in Arts Administration from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
The Music Industry Studies program was originally called Music Merchandising and dealt mostly with the retail end of the music industry, Brumfield said. But in the six years she has been teaching at Eastern, the music department has renamed the emphasis and added to the curriculum, hoping to expand the program’s reach and make it more competitive with similar programs out of state.
In addition, the Music Industry Studies emphasis has a joint-program with the College of Business and Technology called Music Marketing Studies, which is geared toward those who want to learn the music business from a different vantage point.
“It’s very helpful to those who don’t play but want to be in the industry,” Brumfield said.
There’s a deep pool of jobs for those with experience in the behind-the-scenes trades, such as recording, sound production and lighting. And most students go straight into the industry without ever setting foot in graduate school, Brumfield added.
“Music Industry Studies students have an advantage over others,” Brumfield said. “This program allows students to compete on a high level in the industry because of the background in music and business.”
Some of the program’s graduates have gone on to work for Yamaha and Paradigm, and many of them keep an eye out for undergrads still in the program, helping them get their foot in the door through internships and other opportunities, she said.
“This business is all about networking,” Brumfield said. “I always tell my freshman to get to know each other, because you may be working together some day.”
One of the classes Brumfield teaches, Survey of the Music Industry (MUS390), attracts non-majors as well as those in the program. In the course, students learn the ins-and-outs of what it takes for an artist to go on a major tour. They tackle everything from finding an agent, building relationships with promoters, learning how to make a press kit and booking brochure, how to write a solid contract and even negotiating with major recording labels.
Students use few textbooks for the classes in the program, mainly because Brumfield usually just draws on her personal knowledge to illustrate the concepts.
“A lot of the text is real life stuff that I bring to the classroom,” Brumfield said.
Brumfield also helped start the Music Industry Organization, which sponsors a handful of music events. Some of these include the Fall Crawl during the fall semester and the Jazz Crawl during the spring. Almost all the aspects of these events are handled by the students, such as the booking, contracts, tickets and more, she said.
“It’s an extension of the classroom, giving hands-on experience,” Brumfield said.
The organization also brings in guest artists during the year, and they usually hit the road for a couple of field trips, such as the National Association of Music Merchants conference (NAMM), which is the largest convention in the world dealing with music products.
One former student now works with Pearl because he traveled to the NAMM show and established some contacts that helped him later down the road, Brumfield said.
“Most students, when they graduate, they have no experience,” she said. “When my students leave, they have a lot of practical, hands-on experience. That’s the kind of stuff we’re learning here at Eastern.