While some music students crave the limelight of performing on stage or writing the score for the next blockbuster film, all wouldn’t be possible without the behind-the-scenes powers of music management.The career path runs the gamut from working at record labels and distributors or in artist and concert management, retail sales or music publishing, etc.
The College of the Arts (COTA) spoke with School of Music Professor of Practice in Music Management Al Thrash about this dynamic program that includes real-world experience, industry immersion and management opportunities to ensure career readiness.
Professor Thrash, whose deep experience spans more than two decades of music and entertainment business, shares insight about the Music Management program and its engagement with Atlanta’s thriving music industry.
What would you say is a strong or unique attribute that differentiates Georgia State’s program from other music management programs?
Our location in the heart of downtown Atlanta is certainly a key benefit of our program. Our students are positively impacted by the creative energy and vibes that flow through the center of this city. I also feel that our practical and experiential learning approach allows students to learn and further explore the fundamentals of the music industry and apply that knowledge to real-life projects throughout the semester.
We partner with several local labels and distribution companies to offer promotion and marketing services for various types of releases. Needless to say, we have the very best instructors on our team. All our faculty members are currently working in the music industry, each with more than two decades of experience. Lastly, and most importantly, the diverse, talented and enthusiastic group of students that enroll in our program each year truly makes it a unique experience.
Music management covers a range of career paths. Can you please share some of the top career paths that you’re seeing in the industry and why?
I would certainly say that two of the top career paths in music at the moment are in the areas of publishing/licensing and label services. With such a huge influx of programming over the last several years from services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, to name a few, the need for licensing music has increased tenfold. Not to mention the integration of music into services like Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Peloton, etc. Most of these companies had to quickly create music departments to handle licensing and distribution concerns as it relates to music being used on their platforms. Furthermore, with all this music being created mainly by independent artists, there is an increased demand for service providers with specialized skills in project management, digital marketing, radio promotion, publicity, etc., to manage the releases and maximize opportunities for artists.
Internships and experiential learning are integral to the program. Please share some strong internship opportunities in Atlanta and how might these differ from a 9-5 office internship?
- Working with a distribution company like StreamCut or Blueprint Group
- Working at a performance venue like City Winery or Center Stage
- Working at a record label such as Quality Control
These are just examples of some of the internships our students have worked over the last few years. Since these are all music-related businesses, of course, there is some element of fun and excitement for students to enjoy. When I think of a 9-5 office internship, I think of the literal time frame in the workday, as well as the structured setting that typically comes with that type of set-up. Whereas most of the internships mentioned above do not fall into the 9-5 time frame, we do encourage students to adopt positive workplace behaviors that bring about a structured setting in a not so 9-5 type of work environment.
With the film industry being a major force in Atlanta, is there an interdisciplinary role where music management crosses paths and how might that come into play?
Music management absolutely crosses paths with the film industry in a number of ways. Artists, producers, writers, publishers, labels, music supervisors etc., are all involved in the process of getting music placed in film, TV and advertising. Our curriculum prepares students to enter whatever lane they choose as it relates to creating and/or licensing music for film. Furthermore, we encourage our management students to collaborate with students in GSU’s robust film and media programs to develop original content and build up a strong portfolio while still in school.
Can you touch upon industry events that the program hosts?
We have several events each semester where students are exposed to industry professionals and gain insight into various career paths in the industry. Most recently, we hosted a two-part presentation with BMG Music Creative Synch & Licensing, where members of their team discussed the mechanics of licensing music for film & TV. Students were also presented with actual client briefs and allowed to submit their own original songs for consideration. Just a couple of weeks before the BMG Music event, we hosted the Senior Director of Hip Hop at Pandora, Joshua “J1” Raiford, who also completed his graduate work at Georgia State. J1 provided students with useful tips on promoting their music on the Pandora platform, as well as invaluable advice on navigating the industry and carving out a niche. We also hold a Music Management Meetup each semester where students can network with each other, share music and learn more about resources within the program.
For many students, starting a business and brand are top-of-mind after graduating. How are we preparing them to launch an independent career?
Mostly everything we do in the music management program has an entrepreneurship undertone. Whether the student is on the creative path or the executive path, our experiential learning approach is designed to let students encounter “real world” challenges while still in school. Rigorous course projects, assignments and internships, all allow students to emulate the type of work they want to do when they graduate.
Branding is key in any business and is certainly very important in the music industry for creatives and executives alike. We offer courses that speak specifically to promotion, marketing and overall brand development. In addition, one of our most popular courses, ‘Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry,’ formalizes the process of formulating a business idea and developing a full business plan for a startup music company.