SUNY-Purchase [Ed. Note: Jim has
background both in arts administration as CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra, et al and teaching arts administration and arts entrepreneurship at
Drexel University, Ithaca College and now as Professor and Chair, Arts
Management, School of the Arts, Purchase College, SUNY and Artistic Director,
National Orchestral Institute, University of Maryland.]
I believe I’m getting closer to how to best teach this
subject. I’ve now taught it six times in
3 different colleges, each time with varying conditions, e.g. number of
students, number of credits, available resources. In this course at Ithaca College
I had the liberty to experiment, and as such, was able to personally progress
as a teacher of this subject.
Thirty students: 15 upper-level undergraduates and 15
master’s-level students met once a week for half a semester (I had already
taught a similar course during the first half of the semester, also for one
credit). The advertised focus:
Entrepreneurship in Music and the Arts in
Frequently the failure of the most creative ideas lies with
an inability to build a working model and "business plan." In this
course students will learn to build business plans, both linear and non-linear
for projects and entities in the arts. Having a pre-existing project idea is
not a pre-requisite for this course, as for students without project ideas; the
instructor will provide theoretical ones.
The half semester course that I had taught prior to this
one, which included a number of the students registered for this one read:
Entrepreneurship in Music and the Arts
Never has it been more critical for students in the arts to
imagine new cultural landscapes, to develop fresh ideas to revitalize the
impact of the arts on society. In this course students will explore and shape
innovative ideas. They will learn how to develop, then take an abstract idea
and mold it into a feasible form, ready for the next step: making it a reality.
This reason I list this is because I want the reader here to
understand that most of the students in this second half course came into it
with ideas already formed.
I had decided to form teams that would work to develop
business plans for a select number of
"ideas.” I chose to do this
because of the heavy emphasis in entrepreneurship literature on the important
of the executive team. My intent was to
instruct the teams to divvy up the work as it might be done in an actual
entity. I suppose I also wanted to
observe music students (most were) working in chamber music-like
groupings. In other words, I wanted to
see if their skills from chamber music carried over into business entity
planning. – it did.
I asked students to come to class with pitches for their
ideas. They would have 2 minutes + one
minute for questioning. During this
class, after each pitch the student wrote the name of h/her entity idea on an
8.5X11 paper and stuck it on the wall.
After all pitches were completed, I gave each student 3 sticky dots and
asked them to vote with their dots. They
could place all 3 on one paper, or one on each of three.
Seven entity ideas received most of the dots (my goal was
six). Then, spontaneously, two of the
seven began negotiations to merge. It
was one of those delightful unexpected events that can happen in a classroom
where students feel free to explore and interact.
Once the six projects were selected I instructed students to
select their group. I started with the
most senior students and worked downward, i.e. 2nd year master to
undergraduates. The result was 6 teams
of 5 each.
I believe since the topic of the course was learning the
mechanics of business entity planning, those students whose project ideas were
not selected were not upset. I had
emphasized this element repeatedly, and had explained how those projects that
were not selected could still benefit from the learning and experience that was
about to take place.
I introduced 2 business plan rubrics, one traditional and
one that is outlined in Osterwalder’s and Pigneur’s book "Business Model
Generation.” In retrospect I would have
only used the traditional business plan model, as I didn’t have sufficient time
to discuss the Osterwalder and Pigneur "Business Model Canvas.”
Consistently in my mind were concerns that I had collected
from my previous teaching with students in the arts. Foremost among these was how they can become
totally married to their ideas, that during the market testing and feasibility
stages they can dismiss critical information.
Other areas of concern focused on marketing, where I had experienced
students with amazing energy for marketing, but with weak, or shallow plans;
and on financial planning. As such, in
my class planning I concentrated on presenting in-depth lectures and materials
in these 3 areas.
Before I continue with a description of my class planning,
here is a summary of the 6 project ideas, in the students’ own words.
Sound for Spaces
is a group of musicians and composers that specializes in creating sound
installations, designed to aurally transform a space. These installations
utilize space in unique ways, surrounding listeners with sound and musical
texture. By performing these works in art galleries, Sound for Spaces helps
create a unique experience for visitors, while simultaneously attracting new
patrons. Installations can also be created to cater to specific needs, tying in
directly with the current exhibit, or even incorporating the artists
Chameleon Cafe is
a profit/non-profit organization that has live performances for aspiring
musicians while providing a source of entertainment, food and drink to the community.
Chameleon Cafe invests in its performers by giving weekly clinics on various
skills and tools for entertainers. Every third month, Chameleon Cafe will host
a showcase for the musicians and perform for talent agencies in hopes to attain
Finger Lakes Opera -
FLO - will provide professional opera for the Finger
Lakes and surrounding area audiences. FLO will produce 3
fully staged productions a season and will include standard operatic
repertoire, musical theater, and contemporary works.These 3
productions will be supplemented by special performances, concerts, and
lectures throughout the season.FLO will encourage tourism & patronage
for area businesses including hotel, restaurant, and wineries. FLO will also
enhance the community culture by creating jobs, and through educational
Will Power is a
consulting/arranging business focusing on marching ensembles. It will
provide custom arrangements/compositions to organizations along with visual
design. Additionally, it will provide in-person consulting and rehearsal
techniques for each individualized show.
OpLift is a
non-for-profit organization that provides classical voice training to
underprivileged youth, allowing them to perform opera scenes and small recitals.
Our mission is to further diversify the audiences and performers of
develops and establishes a cross-discipline chamber music ensemble dedicated to
artistic collaborations, true audience engagement, and sound financial
organization. By allying with established arts organizations and locally known
individual artists, the ensemble will help weave itself into the fabric of the
community it serves, and by offering unique concert experiences in flexible
ways, will seek to establish a strong audience following. Further, extensive
use of technology, from social networking to concert dissemination to
fundraising, the ensemble will reach a wider audience and open itself up to new
I was pleased when during the market testing phase one of
the groups found that a similar entity already existing. It provided an opportunity to discuss when to
abandon and remap, or to more deeply analyze the marketplace and modify. The group chose the latter and created a
unique entity, but only because they had the existing model in the marketplace
off of which to build. This example also
launched an unplanned teaching (and learning) unit on competition, building
brand, patents, and the use of pricing to hold market position.
We discussed marketing plans, but only in a critique-style
manner. We looked at each of the
marketing plans and abstracted out to general principles. One of the groups that was clearly
not-for-profit asked me who their customers were. When I explained that customers were those
from whom the money would come, they were surprised, as their had seen their
customers as those receiving the benefits of their programming. This new realization completely changed their
marketing plan, as it was now focused on their potential donors: foundations,
individuals, small government agencies (arts councils).
I inserted a lecture on internal organizational structure,
giving the students a standard Table of Organization, and then taking each
group’s personnel needs and demonstrating how each one might develop, from
start up to 3-5 years out. I also
explained (briefly for lack of time) various business structures, from the
not-for-profit to various profit-oriented ones.
There was considerable personal interest in the room, as it was tax
time, and several of the students were already involved in private
I presented a standard business pro forma and worked
through, in a general way (so little time), income and expenses in each project
group. I was pleased that they each were
able to identify with some detail what each entity would require. As I had given them an admonition against
high capital expense earlier in the term, I was also pleased that all groups
heeded this advice.
I asked my friend, Bob Ellis, in the IC Business School if
he would develop a rubric to judge students’ final presentations. This rubric was shared with the students 3
weeks before their final presentations were due, so class time in the final
weeks was devoted entirely to shoring up areas related to the Ellis rubric.
All presentations were superb – they are all
performers! However, in the end, Will
Power won, and Sound for Spaces finished 2nd.
In both cases, the ultimate size of their markets provided a sound basis
for their business entities. Will
Power’s market is all high schools and small colleges throughout the country, a
total nearing 45,000. Will Power had
also already put its team together and had begun to make contacts that assured
them, and us that they would be successful right out of the chute. Sound for Spaces placed high, from my
perspective, because their business plan was impeccable and their idea fresh
and new. Their market is large,
galleries and museums, but they will face challenges, if successful, in holding
their market position. Others could
easily jump in and undercut them.
However, they, like Will Power, had already contacted local galleries
and had booked a first "gig.”
I’m now teaching a 3-credit course at SUNY Purchase. This one involves 20 students, mostly
seniors, and is taught both live and with both asynchronous and synchronous
technology. Putting the syllabus
together has been a bit like doing the New York Times acrostic puzzle!