Artistry, Innovation, and a Sustainable Career in the Music Industry


Authored by Sean Hagon


Course Code: OSONG-676

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This course will explore in detail how to approach building a sustainable career in the arts and entertainment industry as an artist, producer, composer, songwriter or diverse creator. Understanding the business side of what artists do artistically is vitally important to ensuring long-term success and how the intersection of business and innovation are critical components to elevating and supporting one’s artistic vision, craft and career path as the artist-entrepreneur. This course develops a student’s awareness and provides hands-on, real-world experiences of music and entertainment as a business. Students will conduct self-directed research into their current or future career path in addition to developing and applying strategies for independent music success. Areas covered include (but are not limited to) research, entrepreneurship, self-promotion and self-presentation skills (written and verbal), digital marketing & social media techniques, touring, networking in a new music economy, goal setting, copyright, performing rights organizations, distribution, general business techniques (contracts, publishing, licensing, diversifying revenue streams) and various other strategies on how to make a living in the new music business will also be discussed and applied. All of these ideas and concepts will be formulated, structured and synthesized into a business plan related to a student’s company, product, service or career path.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the global music and entertainment industry and their future role in it as the artist-entrepreneur
  • Gain a methodology and techniques for researching opportunities, creating a business entity and effectively branding themselves in the business aspects related to their artistry
  • Create a goals-driven plan to succeed in today’s music industry as an artist/entrepreneur
  • Evaluate and develop an innovation skill set, resources and plan for effectively applying this to career and life goals
  • Identify the value of collaboration and expanding their network of resources
  • Analyze and identify successful traits of an artist-entrepreneur
  • Formulate a promotion strategy
  • Effectively communicate their brand identity to target audience
  • Analyze and identify industry opportunities in order to diversify and create a variety of income streams
  • Evaluate and apply general business techniques related to contracts, publishing, and licensing
  • Assemble an e-portfolio of business and artistic materials as a template for future use
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: The You, Inc. and the Artist Entrepreneur

  • Your Why, Passion and Purpose
  • Why The You, Inc.?
  • The Artist-Entrepreneur Defined
  • What Is The Entrepreneurial Mindset?
  • Assignment 1.1: Life Values Inventory

Lesson 2: Experimenting, Collaboration And The Artist’s Business Challenge

  • Experimenting
  • Collaboration
  • Artist’s Business Challenge
  • Wearing Many Hats
  • Assignment 2.1: Unanswered Need Or Market Opportunity Project

Lesson 3: The Goals and the Iteration Mindset

  • Why Music?
  • The Goals and Clearing Obstacles
  • Demoing, Failing, Producing and Defining Your Niche
  • Shaping the Way Forward and Connecting
  • Defining Your Niche
  • How to Tell Your Artist Story and Connect With Your Audience
  • Assignment 3.1: Artist-Entrepreneur Business Concept Worksheet

Lesson 4: Mapping Out Your Artistic Destinations Part 1

  • How to Structure a Business Plan
  • Foundations of the Business
  • Business Profile: Goals and Objectives
  • Business Profile: Form of Business Ownership
  • Assignment 4.1: Complete section 2 of the business plan

Lesson 5: Mapping Out Your Artistic Destinations Part 2

  • General and Target Market Description
  • Product/Service Description
  • Product Comparison
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Assignment 5.1: Complete Section 3 of the Business Plan

Lesson 6: Management, Organizational Structure, Marketing and Sales

  • Building Your Team
  • Leadership Philosophy
  • Organization
  • Location and Breaking Into Your Market
  • The Business Plan: Marketing And Sales
  • Marketing And Sales
  • Assignment 6.1: Complete Section 4 and 5 of the Business Plan

Lesson 7: Financial Information

  • Cost of Doing Business
  • Start-up Costs
  • Projected Cash Flow Statement
  • Income Statement
  • Assignment 7.1: Complete Section 6 of the Business Plan

Lesson 8: Business Plan Conclusion and Bibliography

  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Executive Summary
  • Table of Contents, Company Logo and Brand
  • Assignment 8.1: Promoting Your Brand - How to Write an Effective Artist One-Sheet
  • Assignment 8.2: Crafting an Elevator Pitch

Lesson 9: Music Publishing and Your Income Streams

  • Shares of the Publishing Pie
  • Types of Publishing Income: Mechanical and Performance Royalties
  • Types of Publishing Income: Print Royalties
  • Performing Rights Organizations
  • Types of Publishing Income: Synch, Electronic Transmissions and Sub-publishing
  • Types of Publishing Deals
  • Assignment 9.1: Research Project - Music Publishing Companies
  • Assignment 9.2: Complete First Draft of Business Plan

Lesson 10: Diversifying Your Activities and Revenue Streams

  • Distributing Your Music - Sales and Distribution
  • Different Ways Artists Can Make Money
  • The New Asking Economy
  • How to Get Music Placed in Film and Television
  • Assignment 10.1: Research Project - Methods of Digital Distribution
  • Assignment 10.2: Second Draft of Business Plan

Lesson 11: Live Performing and Touring

  • Purpose and Opportunity
  • Deals, Negotiations and Contracts Part 1
  • Deals, Negotiations and Contracts Part 2
  • Merchandising, Endorsements, and Sponsorships
  • Assignment 11.1: Final Portfolio Presentation

Lesson 12: It Takes A Network and Pursuing a Career in the Music Industry

  • Relationship Building in Professional Life
  • Forming Solid Connections
  • Career Execution: 15 Tips for Career Success Part 1
  • Career Execution: 15 Tips for Career Success Part 2


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Career Strategies: Brand Identity Development for Songwriters, Producers, and Artists, and Songwriting Sync Success: The Art and Craft of Licensing, Film/TV, Advertising, and Production Music or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.
In addition, students should have:

  • An understanding of songwriting, publishing, and creating a master, as well as the basic rules of ownership and how compensation for these sides of a composition work
  • A general knowledge in branding and creating your Artist or Band project
  • Knowledge of basic and popular social media platforms, digital distribution services, streaming platforms, and generally how they work
  • Knowledge of building a fan base and awareness of the multiple ways you can engage fans and earn money
  • An overall knowledge of how the various sectors of the music industry interact, communicate and collaborate




Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Sean Hagon


Sean Peter Hagon (he/him) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and orchestrator for the film, television, and advertisement industries, and the chief creative officer and managing partner of Raging Cloud Studios. As dean of pre-college, online, and professional programs at Berklee Online, Hagon oversees Berklee Online's academic and registrar areas as well as Summer Programs. He previously served as associate dean of career education and services and as chair of the Professional Music Department at Berklee. Prior to his appointment at Berklee, he was the director of continuing education at New England Conservatory. He's also a visiting professor at the Universidad Panamericana School of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, Mexico. An active film and television composer, he has a number of TV and film composing credits to his name, including the History Channel's hit show American Pickers, PBS's Genealogy Roadshow, and the independent films Ride the Wave and Seduction and Snacks.

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A Massachusetts native, Hagon has worked in nearly every aspect of the music industry, from performance, business, composition, and education to technology and production. His educational and administrative philosophy is that he wants students to be able to have the freedom to explore and feel inspired. Most importantly, he wants students to come away with the feeling that what they have learned is relevant, real-world–based knowledge and skills that they can immediately apply, tempered with an entrepreneurial spirit and the mindset to continue to learn and adapt throughout their careers.

Hagon holds a B.M. in professional music from Berklee with concentrations in music education, music production, and film and TV composition; a master's degree in music technology from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis; and a diploma in media composition from the London School of Creative Studies.

Hagon was the recipient of the 2010 Exemplary Music Educator Award from Berklee College of Music in recognition of his outstanding teaching and efforts to advance the music education profession. Read Less

Kirstie Wheeler


Kirstie Wheeler is an educational consultant in the New England area and an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music. She has a strong background in education where she spent 10+ years in a diverse set of public schools in the northeast eventually leading her to consultant-based roles in K-12 education while working in higher education. Kirstie feels strongly that all students need access to an equitable education and that all teachers and faculty need to be supported in order to reach this goal. As a consultant, she worked as an Intervention Coordinator at an independent school in Maine using data to inform instruction and identify students who need additional support. This work led to the opening of the school’s first Achievement Center and several professional development offerings for faculty and staff throughout the year. At Berklee College of Music, Kirstie recently developed and began teaching a new course titled Wellness for the Holistic Artist which is running during the 2023/24 academic year and slated to continue. Kirstie is regularly featured as a speaker and clinician in the New England area.

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As a performer, she sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, chorus to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops and continues to perform in her community for various events. Wheeler is a certified McClosky Voice Technician where she currently serves as Vice President, using her knowledge of vocal physiology and pedagogy to prepare students for a lifetime of healthy singing. This commitment is evident in her private teaching. Kirstie’s Voice Studio is limited only by her own time and capacity. Serving students both in person and online, she works with students of all ages and prepares them for their individual goals. Whether a novice who wants to learn to match pitch and carry a tune or a student hoping to be ready for their next audition, Kirstie creates an individual pathway to help them achieve their goals. Students have been accepted to many prestigious music programs and every student she’s prepared received at least one college acceptance. When goals are of vocation based, Kirstie supports students to help them find the joy the desire in making music - many students have gone on to find they love to perform at open mic nights or community choruses. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Artistry, Innovation, and a Sustainable Career in the Music Industry can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


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