By Lucie Šilerová and Martin Pešl
Assistant professor, Music Faculty, Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU, Brno, Czech Republic)
Assistant professor, Medical Faculty, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
Music Agency Trials as a practical tool for professional music management education
Music management students and their curricula at the Music Faculty of the Janacek Academy of Music and Performing Arts are currently focused on three education paths: theoretical, professional, and practical (applied knowledge) courses. Since 2014, the Department of Music Production opened a new system of collaboration connecting the work of music management students with students in the music interpretation areas. This system aims to handle specific music agency problems in educational modules and create simulation of a peer-to-peer work environment between a manager and an artist. Music Agency Trials (MAT) combine acquired knowledge, as well as provide practical experience before entry level employment for future bachelor graduates. Our teaching experience represents an innovation in bachelor programs. MTAs take place for two semesters and represent a project-based cooperation between students in the second and third semesters. The music management student works individually (possibly also as a team of two or three students) and interacts with individual students of music interpretation. The preparatory phase involves modules focused on the creation of a musician portfolio design and a joint focus on understanding the basic problems of each participant – both manager and artist. The realization phase involves a focus on the online and on-site presentation of the results and the music event production. A final evaluation of the cooperation, with external (pedagogical and/or praxis-based expert) and internal (participating students) feedback is crucial.
In three academic years, three complex projects were finalized. More than 30 students participated. In each year of the project, the head of the specific department (2014: opera singing; 2015: piano; 2016: jazz) was involved, as well as the head of the Department of Music Production. Participating professionals oversaw different modules of the project (webpage programmers, recording studio and audiovisual specialists, photography and imaging specialists, marketing communications, the general secretary of the faculty, etc.). Evaluations have shown great appreciation for the projects and we would like to expand this model, in order to provide this new type of experience for all music students.
Technology has professionalized the music industry, and this is both an opportunity and a threat for musicians and managers. They are struggling with more specific areas of work, such as IT, photo shooting, audiovisual recording and multimedia presentations. In this article, we present an example of a modular educational tool merging theoretical and practical experience. At the same time, the process for the basal Music Agency Trial (MAT) – also called “Music agency for dummies” (Šilerová, 2016) – gives un-interrupted supervision and qualitative and quantitative feedback through the musician mentor and the course leader evaluation. Music academy students are finding their roles, marketing streams, and responsibilities like those that many of today’s musicians are managing. The pedagogical efforts arose among the dedicated people at the Janacek Academy of the Performing Arts and Music, Brno, Czech Republic. The Music Management study program runs as a three-year, fulltime study mode at the Faculty of Music. Students can continue their curricula to the master and eventually doctoral level. During the whole program period, students collaborate across other study programs at the faculty. Here we will also discuss further questions and possibilities for program development. We hope that this report of the initial three years will facilitate both practical and theoretical discussion in arts management pedagogy and encourage scholars to engage in groups similar to MATs.
Bachelor study program enrichment
Key components of the early educational process in the first academic years are theoretical and professional subjects, and practical workshops. Subjects are taught by academia professors while professional courses represent a transfer of practical issues directly by external specialists from arts institutions, e.g. orchestra directors, concert managers and various music entrepreneurs. With a great deal of student involvement in the practical workshops, many useful skills are highlighted and improved. These focus on key components of classical music management: festival organization, chamber opera and the practical handling of music competitions. All these processes develop as real time activities supervised by teachers and administration teams. Even when participating in real time organization within the education program, peer-to-peer contact with the main consumers of production managers and cultural managers and with musicians of their own age and experience was missing. Contrary to the team experience of festivals, competitions or opera productions, where it is necessary to follow clear plans and where management trainees usually prepare collective productions, we wanted to strengthen individual creative processes and personal responsibility of the students before they become responsible for their own full scale project, done in the final year (see figure 1).
The teaching project Music Agency Trial (MAT) has to be complex enough to give valuable experience. At the same time, even a cultural manager dummy (first year student) has to be able to complete it, being responsible to help a beginning artist reach his/her first audience. Musicians used to be their own managers and producers, or even had no manager at all. Nevertheless, careers in the music business today seldom succeed without a dedicated manager. The work is demanding for both partners, yet sometimes the manager may be under-appreciated (“anyone can do that!”) in the eyes of many in the music community. The student will be soon facing the do-it-yourself (DIY) role of the music manager and has to be a specialist not only in management, but also in recording, PR and leadership. Today the industry anticipates more than a musician’s helper, we try to educate students to be skilled career architects as we believe they should be (Artist Management Resource, 2017).
A modular structure was prepared in order to provide teaching projects simple enough for a dummy, while at the same time complex and educational. The complete set of modules is flexible enough to fit different artistic professionals. The introduction to each module is educative. The most important teaching parts are the initial setting up of goals and the final internal and external feedback. We have developed a teaching course that aims to be used both in arts management and music specialties teaching. We hope that this report from three teaching years will facilitate both practical and theoretical discussion in arts management pedagogy and encourage scholars to engage in similar projects and modules.
Cooperative set up
During each yearlong course, a specific leader is selected. Until now mostly, the head of the Department of Music Management was responsible for the flexible implementation of the desired specialist. Their selection was setup in cooperation with musician mentors. Modules were implemented directed by supervising specialists for photo, image, video, audio, IT/web and marketing. The musician‘s mentor was responsible for appropriate and timely communication, and also for feedback on ideas, realization, dramaturgy, recording and the aims of the overall presentation of the artist. Ideally, the initial cooperation of the musician and the manager should result in the setting up of individual goals, beneficial for both partners (e.g. CD preparation for the musician, recording experience for the manager). This discussion takes place at a kick-off meeting, in the presence of the manager, the musician, the musician’s mentor and the course leader. The selection of applicable modules was discussed.
Essential for success and for keeping a professional level is the utilization of professional tools. Even in a DIY strategy, students have to have a clear understanding of the available technology and a working proficiency with up-to-date tools. This “hardware” includes:
- Rooms of the Orlí Street Theatre/ Musically Dramatic Lab, which in 2012 opened as the theatre venue of JAMU. It contains a high-tech black box theater (http://divadlonaorli.jamu.cz/en/) with stage technologies and a recording studio (http://studio.jamu.cz/en/).
- A special production workplace at the Faculty of Music (equipped with photo cameras, a printer, computers with software for audiovisual material handling and final postproduction).
- Concert halls of the Faculty of Music: a classical concert hall, small theatre studio and a small concert hall for chamber music and jazz.
The general modules are selected after discussion on specific topics. Directed forming of an idea and a literature search is supervised by the course leader. Specific general modules are mirrored in the 14 weeks of each semester. A total of 28 meetings are scheduled dealing with topics such as documentation, negotiation, strategic planning, controlling and evaluation. Interim feedback on encountered problems and obstacles takes place in these lessons. Specific modules during the two semesters were scheduled in a variable number, depending on the needs of individual teams. Each specific module typically consisted of an introduction of problem, planning, and a realization of outcomes. In the case of ongoing dynamic tasks, such as an online presentation, further “routine” meetings also took place in order to maintain and update the results of the modular work.
Timeline: 1st semester
When mentors setup the framework of the cooperation, the manager and artist are also getting together. This represents the preparatory phase. Specification of ideas allows for a clear production strategy, responding to the private market system. The first step is a modular portfolio production, using available ingredients. The aim of this phase is a joint agreement on methods to be used and idea formation. The outcome is a complete printed and online presentation of the artist and a marketing strategy. This will allow for a final presentation of the artist in the traditional way, with a concert, with the full involvement of the music manager.
Timeline: 2nd semester
Music event production is a cornerstone ability, combining the arts of (re)presentation, promotion and concert organization. The goal is to showcase the results of the mutual cooperation. Usually the group provides a music event (not open to the general public) for an invited audience of teaching professors, students and guests. The event is built like a small exhibition, including the managers’ verbal presentation of the results, presenting the artist’s portfolio and a short performance by the participating artists.
- Internal (participating students) feedback and self-evaluation;
- External (pedagogical or praxis based) expert from the field – professional renowned music agency;
- Mentor and course leader feedback.
Students provide course documentation with a description of all activities and outcomes. They summarize and self-evaluate their own work. The first interim evaluation takes place at the end of the 1st semester and is part of the so called “dean” examinations. The presentation by the students provides an overview of achieved goals and planned activities for the 2nd semester. The provision of feedback is anticipated also by the participating musician. This is usually prepared individually during the project and finally at the end of the 2nd semester. Often this experience is refreshing for all participants, due to focusing on the music from different points of view (product x feelings). The final concert serves as a discussion point for the comparison of achieved results and can be mentioned as an external evaluation. On regular basis, the results are discussed with an expert from the field – a professional from a renowned music agency. The course leader provides the regular feedback and controls all partial outcomes, together with the musician’s mentor.
The motivation of participants can be divided into three sectors:
- Music management students appreciate the possibility to touch and use up-to-date technologies; they can adopt the role of producer and develop a special strategy applied to the one-year cooperation. After the realization of the course, they have their own materials, which they can use to present themselves in the labor market.
- The material acquisition benefit applies for musicians maybe even more. Music students usually have their first possibility to create professional recordings, websites or fan pages. They are often proud of it and consider the results quite prestigious (not all music students can participate).
- There are at the same time mutual aspects for both musicians and music management students: to understand each other; since there is a joint responsibility for decisions and active participation during realization, the musician’s needs have to be expressed while managerial innovation has to be introduced and “sold”. At first, the relationship is between the artist and the manager, but it finally shifts to being between the audience and the artistic team.
Typical components of outcomes, among others, are as follows: case studies and distributed materials, high quality photos, a customized biography of the musician, dramaturgy of the event, social media presentation, professional recording, webpages, sound cloud platform, full event production and a final evaluation report. Some examples of these outcomes are available here:
- 2014: voice (pilot case; e.g. YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX2lQJ5BRg9Koqjk2yFZ_qA).
- 2015: piano (e. g. webpages of participating pianists: http://www.pavelzemen.cz/en?lang=en; or http://www.anastasiafediuk.com/).
- 2016: jazz (musician/composer).
Problems and challenges
- Process of choosing the “right music student” or department (solo instruments/ orchestral instruments, etc.).
- Cooperation is ongoing between students of the first/second study year, while on the other hand, the future musicians are usually have been in their profession for a longer time, and so do not have the same expectations.
- Developing of “one to one” course at advanced (master) level.
- Legal issues regarding the financing and revenues of the final product.
We have started the long-term development of a supervised cooperation between music and music management students. In the first three years, we could witness a respectful mutual relationship of musician and agent – students on both sides understand their own needs and work processes better. In addition to acquired theoretical knowledge, the creation of materials that students get and can use to start to present themselves is appreciated. The program will continue in 2017 with two conducting candidates as the artists. Cooperation on module development is open and the whole program is available for sharing among cooperating educational institutions.
Questions for further discussion
- What possible pitfalls and challenges have you experienced or do you foresee?
- Do you have similar programs?
- Would you suggest any further modules?
- Would you like to participate in the spreading of the project to your institution?
- What is the difference between “academia” and practical experience?
- What should be stressed in theoretical and practical education related to music agencies? What is their place in the curriculum of music management?
- How to educate practically and conduct practical education?
ARTIST MANAGEMENT RESOURCE (2017) How to Become a Music Artist Manager. Artist Management Resource. Available at: https://www.artistmanagementresource.com/articles/16-how-to-become-a-music-manager
SILEROVA, L. (2016) Cooperation between students of Music Management and other Music Interpretation study programmes: “Music Agency for Dummies”. In: VV.AA. 24th ENCATC Annual Conference “Cultural Management Education in Risk Societies – Towards a Paradigm and Policy Shift?!” Conference Proceedings 2016. Valencia: ENCATC. Available at: http://www.encatc.org/media/1487-encatc_ac_book_2016.pdf
Lucie Šilerová works as an assistant professor at the Music Faculty, Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU) in Brno, Czech Republic. She is focused on research on symphony orchestras, in particular on their organization, structures, financial sustainability and social functions. Her interests lie also in historical research about exiled artists and musicians (native groups of resettled Czechs in Minnesota (United States, after 1858) and Austrians in London (after 1938). She received her master degree (MA) from the JAMU, her economical master degree (Ing.) from the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic, and her doctorate (Ph.D.) from the JAMU.
Martin Pešl is a researcher and an assistant professor at the Medical Faculty, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Besides his medical work, he is focused on research writing and publishing. He believes that culture and medical arts has many common focuses and that cultural research can benefit from systemic views of academic research and writing. His interests are related to the application of project management processes in education and in particular in his specializations: cardiology, stem cells research and genetics. He received his medical doctor degree (MD) and doctorate degree (Ph.D.) from Masaryk University.