Learning the business of music

March 6, 2013 •

Sophomore Daniel Mullan is preparing for a career in music by learning business and entrepreneurial skills from the Entrepreneurship Center for Music (ECM) at the College of Music.

Mullan is majoring in classical saxophone performance with a minor in business, and will be one of the first students enrolled in the  new certificate in music and entrepreneurship debuting in the fall. He realizes that to be successful, musicians need to be adaptable to a rapidly changing marketplace.

“To be a musician today you have to be an entrepreneur,” Mullan said. “You have to be smart about what you’re doing to promote your career. You need to develop business tools that will help take you where you want to go.”

Changes have been occurring in the classical music industry for the past several years. As the business of music continues to change in ways unanticipated a decade ago, the arena in which musicians jockey for success has become more complicated than ever. Yet, for the enterprising musician, opportunities abound.

As one of the first such programs in the country, the ECM, which opened in 1998, is itself an entrepreneurial endeavor. The ECM offers academic courses for credit, a guest lecture series, internships, and mentoring opportunities for music students. Starting in the fall, the curriculum will also include a Certificate in Music Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business.

“Oftentimes students in the arts see entrepreneurship as this foreign thing beyond their understanding,” said Jeffrey Nytch, director of the ECM. “For some, it may even feel threatening. Part of my job is to demystify the process. ‘Being entrepreneurial’ simply means using your creativity to develop your career in ways that are financially viable, sustainable, and artistically fulfilling.

“We provide a whole range of business and career tools,” he said, “but the tools are just the beginning: understanding the entrepreneurial process allows students to take those tools wherever their dreams and passion lead.”

Internships provide opportunities

One of the ways Mullan is building his music career is with internships arranged through the ECM.

Last summer, he completed an internship with Kilimanjaro Live, Ltd., in London, a concert and events promotion agency. The internship provided Mullan with experience in production and marketing of large touring shows, including Donny and Marie Osmond, Andrea Bocelli, and Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus. He also worked onsite as a contractor liaison for a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert and a music festival in Wales called Wakestock.

In his current internship with Boulder-based Darkghost Agency, Mullan books Colorado bands into local venues. Since Darkghost is a young company, he gets a variety of hands-on experience, such as marketing, administration, booking, and talent acquisition strategies.

“I have learned that even in the age of technology, in-person relationships outweigh the ease of email,” he said.

Mullan has taken a systematic approach to planning his career by dividing it into five-year increments. Five years after graduating he plans to be working for a leading national entertainment company, such as AEG or Livenation. Five years after that he hopes to start his own company and perhaps teach. Through it all, he would like to play the saxophone professionally.

“As music students, we come to CU to work on our art,” said Mullan, “and that’s great, but there’s another facet we must hone in on to really become successful. That’s the business side of music. The entrepreneurial center is a strong program with great resources that allows you to see the business side of music, which is just as important as the creative work."