UGA’s Music Business Certificate Program Exceeds Original Expectations

Ellen Catlin waited all day to meet the guitarist for Of Montreal, known in Athens as the R.E.M. of the 90’s. Catlin is a music business student at the University of Georgia, and was at the program’s annual event, Protect Athens Music Conference. The guitarist, Bryan Poole, was on stage. She met him afterwards, then sat in on a recording.

For Catlin, the conference and her experience with Poole were evidence of the success of the Music Business Certificate Program and the unique opportunities it provides. The conference was an idea from Music Business program students; today, the program has doubled in size and continues to thrive with the Athens music scene.

Three years ago, a group of students enrolled in MBUS 5100, Emerging Issues in the Music Business, proposed the Protect Athens Music Conference as a class project. It was spearheaded by law student Jennifer Prigeon and has been a joint effort of University of Georgia’s Music Business Certificate Program and the Law’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

“We wanted to present the business aspect of the music industry to people who might not have thought about it before,” conference organizer and third year law student Walker Beard said. “I think PAM was really intending to be a celebration of the awesome music industry that we have here [in Athens]. The Law School and MBUS don’t get together as much as they should, which is why PAM is such a great event.”

Panelists included the advice and experience of local, well-known artists such as Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, Julian Dorio of The Whigs, Dottie Alexander of Of Montreal, Ryan Engelberger of Reptar, and other professionals in the music business in order to encourage the musicians and students pursuing a career in the music industry.

The panelists spoke about adapting to the new up-and-coming digital age of the music industry.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHdcSMiUv2A

Athens has a reputation for its music scene due to the production of big-name artists, music venues, and record stores. Livability.com voted Athens the ‘Top City With the Best Music Scene Outside of Nashville, NYC and LA.”

As Georgia’s music industry expands, so does the need for managers, agents, technicians venue operators, accountants, attorneys, and producers, and other similar positions, according to the Terry College website.

Because Athens is a musically rich town, the students of the Music Business Certificate Program are rewarded with opportunities such as interning with local bands such as The Breaks.

In 2002, Bruce Burch brought the idea for the Music Business Certificate Program to Dean George Benson of Terry College of Business.  A year later, Steve Dancz, director of the jazz program at the Hodgson School of Music proposed the idea for a music program to Benson.

Because the University of Georgia didn’t have enough money to fund the program, Burch and Dancz began to ask for donations.

George Fontaine, co-owner of the record label New West in Los Angeles, heard about the idea and placed his faith in Burch. He initially donated $750,000 in order to start up the Terry College and Hodgson School’s program in 2006, and has significantly helped fund the program since.

“Every business school needs a way to distinguish itself,” Dean of Terry College Robert Sumichrast said. “Our goal for the Terry College is national prominence and music business can be a part of that.”

The Music Business Program provides students with an Interdisciplinary Certificate from the Terry College. The 21 hours of coursework pertains directly to the music industry along with foundation business skills. The students are also provided with an active internship program.

“The program rewards you with hands-on involvement in the music scene,” second-year MBUS student Hillary Riley said. “Not only are you provided with unbelievable opportunities every day, you are almost forced to go out and be someone – to do something you wouldn’t normally do and learn from that experience.”

Succeeding Burch as the director of the Music Business Certificate Program, David Barbe has been the interim director since 2010. Barbe’s experience in the music industry as a musician and studio owner has helped prepare him to be director of the program.

“We have pretty much blown past most of the original expectations,” Barbe said.

When Barbe started in 2010, there were 125 students in two classes. The program has grown and now has over 340 students in eight classes this semester.

Graduates and current students of the program are working in Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Atlanta and other cities.

“Because of the experience I’ve had in various internships and in MBUS classes, my future looks so much brighter and I’m actually psyched to graduate and make something of myself in the music industry,” Riley said. “Last summer, as a result of MBUS connections, I got an internship with a record label in Los Angeles.”

Barbe hopes to continue expanding the number of students and courses the program offers.

“We also want to continue to see our graduates make their presence felt in the entertainment industry through the quality of their work, which is something we are definitely already seeing,” Barbe said.

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