Music Business DNA: How Policy Defines Your Income Streams

Author: Casey Rae   •   Course Code: OMBUS-450

Today’s artists and entrepreneurs have a shared interest in music policy, though it might not be immediately obvious. At its most basic, music policy determines what is possible in the evolving, global marketplace for music. It’s no longer enough to learn the nuts and bolts of the business; long-term sustainability also requires a working knowledge of the laws and regulations around the world. Music policy has a direct impact on the paychecks of working artists and entrepreneurs, and seizing opportunities means taking a proactive role in the debates that are shaping the future of creativity and commerce. The goal of this course is to expand the knowledge base and cultivate leadership among artists and entrepreneurs who will help solve persistent problems in a global music industry. Taught in a plain-language, conversational style, Music Policy demystifies complex topics and inspires confidence to engage in these important discussions. In addition to understanding the systems and structures that govern music, students will learn real-world strategies via case studies featuring musicians such as My Morning Jacket, R.E.M., OK Go, and more. By the end of the course, students will recognize how creators, technology, and fan communities can work together to effect positive change. More importantly, they will be able to use this knowledge to make a difference in their own communities all the way up to the international policy arena. 

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

  • Make career decisions based on an understanding of how federal, state, and municipal policy shapes the music ecosystem from the local to the global
  • Recognize the challenges to devising and implementing music policy and opportunities to evolve the global framework for music entrepreneurship
  • Identify the zones where policy intersects with music: copyright, digital distribution, telecommunications, broadcast, live performance and urban development
  • Describe the primary stakeholders in music policy, their historic emphasis and situational leverage in current debates on issues such as copyright reform, access to audiences, participatory economics and competition
  • Explain how bills are drafted, introduced, and passed
  • Debate copyright reform from the position of recognizing the basic history of how this specific body of law established the framework for every business directly or indirectly involved with recorded music
  • Describe how public policy provides for differing levels of equity for artists
  • Explain the different standards for setting statutory rates for the use of sound recordings, the rationale behind each, and the practical ramifications regarding modification
  • Explore how new tech developments such as the blockchain may reduce the necessity for policy intervention, and evaluate where policy guidance may still be required

Lesson 1: Introduction to Music Policy

  • What is Music Policy, Anyway?
  • How We Got Here: A Brief History of Federal Policy and Music
  • Making Change in Music Policy
  • Assignment 1: Policy Analysis

Lesson 2: Music as a Special Interest

  • Core Policy Areas that Impact Music
  • Policy and the Butterfly Effect
  • How Music Policy Gets Made
  • Stakeholder Bingo: Interested Parties and Agendas
  • Assignment 2: Profile a Stakeholder in Contemporary Music Policy Debates

Lesson 3: Schoolhouse Rocks

  • The Federal Agencies
  • The Legislative Branch
  • The Executive Branch and the Courts
  • Leverage: Who Has It, and How They Got It
  • Assignment 3: Determine What Agency to Petition

Lesson 4: Recorded Music Policy

  • Copyright and the Music Industry: An Awkward Evolution
  • Policy Response (and Non-Response) to Technological Disruption
  • Legacy Frameworks vs. Policy Reinvention
  • Music Policy Case Study: The Digital Public Performance Right for Sound Recordings
  • Assignment 4: Describe the Impact of Key Legislation

Lesson 5: Recording Artist/Label Challenges and Opportunities

  • Licensing Frameworks and Artist Equity
  • Ratesetting Standards for Sound Recordings
  • Neighboring Rights and the Problem of Global Harmonization
  • Policy Pain Points
  • Assignment 5: Describe an Ideal Policy Framework for Sound Recordings

Lesson 6: Songwriter/Publisher Challenges and Opportunities

  • The History of PRO Consent Decrees and Government-Set Mechanical Royalties
  • Ratesetting Standards for Musical Works: Which Works best, and for Whom?
  • Direct vs. Statutory Licenses for Publishers and Songwriters
  • Label Recording Artist Response to Songwriter/Publisher Proposals
  • Assignment 6: Describe the Ideal Policy Framework for Musical Work Royalties

Lesson 7: Music Policy and Digital Distribution

  • The Development of Online Music
  • Net Neutrality and Music Entrepreneurs
  • Access as Business Model
  • Emerging Innovations and Potential Policy Response
  • Assignment 7: Choose a Music Application or Digital Storefront and Describe the Policy Framework that Governs It

Lesson 8: Rights Enforcement in the Digital Age

  • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Internet Safe Harbors
  • Lessons learned from the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
  • Voluntary Agreements and Best Practices as Alternatives to Legislation
  • Licensing Proposals to Reduce the Impact of Piracy
  • Assignment 8: Examine Three Anti-Piracy Proposals 

Lesson 9: The Quest for Industry Transparency

  • The Three Types of Music Transparency
  • Takeaways from Berklee’s ReThink Music Report
  • Copyright Ownership Databases: Necessity or Fantasy?
  • Emerging Technologies for Data Transparency
  • Assignment 9: Devise an Authoritative, Global Registry for Music Rights Ownership

Lesson 10: Radio and Broadcast Policy

  • Radio and Music: the Original romance, the Original Cage Match
  • Music Policy Gone Haywire: Commercial Radio Ownership Consolidation
  • Similarly Situated but Differently Calibrated: Radio’s Identity Struggle
  • Radio’s Ongoing Influence in Music Policy
  • Assignment 10: Describe Policy Developments Significant to Radio

Lesson 11: All Politics Are Local

  • State and Municipal Music Policy
  • Government Arts Agencies and Music Communities
  • Arts Nonprofits, Community Media Hubs and Tech Incubators
  • Music and Civic Engagement: Strategies and Solutions
  • Assignment 11: Plan of an Artist Collective

Lesson 12: All Politics Are Global

  • How Federal Engagement Shapes a Global Industry
  • Managing International Policy
  • Relevant Groups and Organizations
  • Should Global Music Policy be Harmonized?
  • Assignment 12: Profile an Organization Doing Work in Global Music Policy

Casey Rae


Casey Rae is Director of Music Licensing at SiriusXM satellite radio, a service with more than 40 million listeners in the United States. He is responsible for the direct licensing of repertoire for transmission across 150 channels, overseeing metadata, royalties, and performance. Casey was previously CEO of the Future of Music Coalition, a Washington, DC-based education and advocacy organization for musicians and composers. He is also a musician, recording engineer, professor, and author. He regularly speaks on issues such as emerging business models, creators' rights, technology policy, and intellectual property at worldwide conferences, universities, and in the media. He has testified before Congress on copyright and has written hundreds of articles on the impact of technology on the creative community in scholarly journals and other publications. Casey is an in-demand commentator in media outlets such as NPR, Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Billboard, L.A. Times, CNBC, and more. Casey is a member of the faculty at Georgetown University and Berklee Online, and serves as board President for the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. In his “spare time,” he runs the DC-based label Lux Eterna Records.



Required Textbooks

Software Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


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  • Level
    Level 4
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

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