The Top Schools For Music Business Degrees

You don’t have to be musically inclined to harbor dreams of musical greatness — and we’re not talking about lip-synching and air guitar in front of the full-length. Great music needs behind-the-scenes women and men, too: Managers, publishers, promoters, and many others collaborate to make records. Of course, if you’re a musician or songwriter (or both), an understanding of the business you’re trying to break into can only help your career, too. Either way, Billboard magazine has your back: The chart- and trend-setting media outlet has released its 2017 list of the 15 best places in the United States to get a music business education. (See the complete list on the next page.)

Unsurprisingly, the unranked list is loaded with schools that emphasize entrepreneurship. Popular music puts a premium on pioneering new paths, after all, making schools like the Berklee College of Music, based in Boston, Massachusetts, destinations praised by artists, moguls, and teachers alike.

“Current music business students must focus on acquiring the knowledge to build their own DIY businesses and opportunities rather than seeking employment with one of few remaining major labels,” Don Gorder, chair of Berklee’s music business/music management department, told Billboard in 2014.  “And the possibilities are endless.”


Dr. Dre has co-endowed with Jimmy Iovine a music business academy at the University of Southern California

Billboard’s list of top music business schools has grown over the years. It was 11 schools in 2014, and it grew to 12 last year. Many schools have found their way onto the list year after year, including Berklee, The Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. Of the 15 schools on this year’s list, 11 were listed by Billboard last year.

All but one of the schools on the 2017 list have graduate offerings, and several have MBA programs. (The Los Angeles Film School offers bachelor and associate of science degrees in music production, recording arts, entertainment business, animation, graphic design, and film.) In addition to program information, Billboard also lists famous alumni and noteworthy programs and instructors, the kind of fun factoids that rankings of regular MBA programs lack. Did you know Pharrell Williams did a residency at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2015-2016? Were you aware that Herb Alpert and vocalist Lani Hall are among the performers booked this fall at the Smothers Theater on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California? Funk pioneer Sly Stone’s alma mater made the list this year: the University of North Texas College of Music in Denton, Texas, like many other listed schools, is putting a renewed emphasis on entrepreneurship, and this fall welcomed Emmy Award-winning composer Bruce Broughton as composer-in-residence.

Music business schools are just like non-music business schools in at least one respect: They rely on the generosity of their graduates, a “previous generation of music power brokers,” to provide financial support. For the schools on Billboard’s list, endowments have come from such luminaries as A&M Records co-founder/­artist Herb Alpert, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Chairman/CEO Martin Bandier (Bandier Program for Music and the Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University), ­former MCA Records President Mike Curb, and Sony Music Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis. Apple executives Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young recently endowed the Jimmy Iovine and ­Andre Young Academy at USC, which announced an online and on-campus master’s degree program, Design@USC, in March and which will graduate its first bachelor’s class in May 2018.


Among the program highlights at schools on Billboard’s list, USC’s Thornton School of Music announced in July the launch of five new professional master’s degree programs focused on arts leadership, community music, contemporary teaching practice, screen scoring, and the music industry. The new offerings complement a revamped curriculum for the conservatory’s undergraduate degree in the music industry, which has added courses such as “DIY Music Marketing.” Among the campus speakers at Thornton: Smokey Robinson, Moby and Chaka Khan.

The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, recently launched online graduate-level certificates in music business and entertainment industries, and arts presenting and live entertainment management. The school, which also has 80 undergraduates majoring in music business, has new master classes this year featuring Adam Parness, head of publisher licensing and relations at Pandora; Miles Braffett, Sony Music Entertainment chief information officer; and Susan Chertkof, RIAA senior VP for business and legal affairs.

The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University enrolls 160 undergraduates and 80 master’s students who are happy to take advantage of the internship opportunities availed by the school’s prime location. Steinhardt’s student-run Village Records is in its 22nd year, and the music program has hosted its Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions for six years; moreover, the school boasts numerous music-related studies abroad. And Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee — 40 miles southeast of Nashville — created a new bachelor’s degree in audio production this year to complement its undergraduate degree in the recording industry, as well as its music business MBA and its MFA in recording arts and technologies. MTSU also co-sponsored (with the University of Salford in Manchester, England) the first international conference on the music of Prince.

See the next page for the list of Billboard’s 15 top music business schools.