In business for music

In business for music

Ever had the feeling university is pushing you into becoming a researcher? For some, this sounds like a dream, but for others, the exact opposite. Rosalie Visser, a 21-year-old Business Administration student at the UvA, feels her future isn’t in academia, but in the music industry. With her network, she’s organized Your Next Stage- an event where like-minded students can meet people from the music industry. Why is it that the UvA won’t organize such an event themselves?

I met Rosalie by accident, bumped into her by the REC’s piano. She had a bag full of flyers for her event and spoke to almost everyone she came across; she knew how to advertise and sell her ideas. We quickly started talking about the lack of music-focused courses at the UvA and concluded that our university wasn’t alone in giving the music industry a lack of academic attention. No universities in the Netherlands offer specific studies for those with a passion for working behind the scenes in the music industry. Yes, there are excellent HBO and MBO studies for these types of jobs, but their focus is on practical experience and not on academic thinking. Why is there not an array of academic courses on this subject? Especially since the music industry in Holland is booming and needs people with this exact academic mindset.

Julian Schaap, an assistant-professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, understands this problem like no other. A couple of years ago, he set up a minor program in collaboration with Codarts University of the Arts that attempts to bridge this academic-practice gap. The minor Mu$ic: The economy, sociology and practice of popular music, encourages students from diverse academic backgrounds to put their academic thinking to the test in the music industry field. It’s unique because Schaap focuses neither on academic nor practical skills, but teaches his students to bridge the two. ‘’Guest speakers on this minor often tell me that a course of this sort would have been extremely helpful to them at the start of their career’’, Schaap tells me.

Without an academic-level course on the subject, Rosalie had to gain experience in another way. ‘From age 15, I started doing simple jobs connected to music. Starting as an intern for several companies, I eventually started working for Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings label’, Rosalie tells. For her, networking is one of the most valuable skills you could learn if you want to land a job in the music world. ‘’In my business, I believe most job openings go through the “network” first. This is the big difference between this and other job markets. With a Master’s in Accountancy for instance, they happily grant you a job – no networking required. Without your network, you’ll drown in the music business’’, says Rosalie.

So, the big question remains: why isn’t the UvA trying to fill the gap that exists? The thing is; they are, but no one is aware of it. Rosalie explained how several universities, including UvA, are studying the music industry with its interconnectivity to other sectors. She recently discovered that UvA researchers are studying Amsterdam Electronic Dance Music. Do these studies bridge the gap or are they focusing their attention on the wrong area? ‘’Researchers have trouble organizing events for students who want to work in music, because they focus on the research, and not the actual practical experiences. Without a proper network, getting quality guests for your events can be tricky’’, says Rosalie.

Rosalie also discovered how diverse the music business is; ‘I know an artist manager with a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering, but also managers who have tons of practical knowledge without ever going to college. The music industry thrives because people with different backgrounds are working together; Universities should offer more options to students with similar passions. ‘The industry also needs researchers, political experts, and accountants. Right now, the UvA is mostly inspiring people into becoming researchers, whilst their talents could be way more useful somewhere else.’

Julian Schaap shares this last view but partly disagrees that it’s the university’s responsibility to change this. ‘Students should be more aware that academic studies are broad by definition and won’t lead them towards a specific job in the music industry. I don’t think this is a bad thing. In fact, it grants students ideal, research-driven knowledge to deal with future challenges that aren’t yet defined. If they want to learn a specific trade, they are often better off getting a MBO or HBO degree. The urge of students (and their environments) to strive for the supposedly ‘highest’ goal – a university degree – has put universities under pressure to offer job-specific courses as well, which I don’t think should be part of a university’s task package.’

With a full house of 120+ attendees and many enthusiastic speakers for Rosalie’s Your Next Stage event, it’s clear that something has to change. There should be a way of granting students the chance to explore their music industry ambitions in an academic setting, without pushing the educational system off balance.