Music Business Leadership and Ethics


Authored by David Purcell


Course Code: OMBUS-360

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Leadership, decision-making, and ethics represent vital foundations for anyone seeking a career in music and the music industries. Regardless of one's music industry focus, possessing sound judgment and leadership ability will help create the roadmap to move a career plan from the drawing board toward the realization of one's goals.

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The course begins with an examination of notable leaders, leadership approaches, and industry scenarios important to anyone in the music field. Students will explore ethics from a wide variety of industries to gain an understanding about why ethical choices are important in sustaining one's career. The music industry is, of course, no stranger to controversy or ethical inquiry. This course work will illuminate current issues such as:

  • The treatment of artists
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Revenue sharing
  • Digital media and distribution

Students will apply specific decision-making approaches and ethical frameworks toward group activities that mirror the real world. They will explore some controversial issues that have existed for decades and emerging issues that are reshaping the modern music business. Students will be fine-tuning their career plans as they progress through the lessons and they will learn to anticipate decision-making, and ethics challenges. Students will create a blueprint for sound decision-making, effective leadership, organizational planning, and ethical awareness that they can immediately apply toward advancing their careers.

This course gives vital insight in to the overall role of leadership and ethics in the music business, other industries, and in one's daily life. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Gain insight into how leadership and decision-making considerations can help create a career plan
  • Examine their plan in the context of the history and evolution and history of the music industry
  • Translate and extrapolate leadership and decision-making strategies from other industries and decision-making scenarios
  • Create a career roadmap with a focus on the achievement of specific goals
  • Identify ethical considerations and leadership opportunities in the music industry that pertain to their career paths
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Leadership and Ethics Considerations in Business and Organizational Settings

  • Leadership Considerations: Your Vision and Mission
  • Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership
  • Seminal Examples of Leadership
  • Music Industry Practices and RIAA vs. Napster Litigation
  • Recorded Music Industry Decision Making Revisited
  • Recording Sector Basics
  • Assignment 1: Laying the Groundwork for Your Leadership and Decision-Making Approach

Lesson 2: Business Leadership: Historical, Industry Sector, and Organizational Considerations

  • A Condensed History of the Modern Music Industry
  • Leadership Vision and Synergy: Emerging Opportunities in the Digital Age
  • Leadership Vision
  • Organizational Structures in the Greater Music Industry: What’s your Choice?
  • Laying the Foundation: Building a Team
  • Assignment 2: Business Leadership and Ethics Considerations

Lesson 3: Ethical Considerations in Differing Industries and Contexts

  • Ethics Considerations in the Music Industry
  • Recoupment
  • Ethics and the Right to Contract
  • Re-Recording Restrictions
  • Other Industries
  • Ethics and Your Values: Leadership in Action
  • Assignment 3: Ethical Considerations in the Music and Entertainment Industries

Lesson 4: Leadership Styles and Characteristics: Framing Issues in the Decision-Making Process

  • Leadership Styles: Autocratic, Participative and Delegative
  • Picking your Approach: Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Styles
  • Framing: Putting Your Goals, Objectives and Career Considerations in Context
  • Establishing the Tone: Your Leadership Model
  • Ahmet Ertegun
  • Assignment 4: Setting the Leadership Tone

Lesson 5: Customizing Decision-Making Approaches: Looking Ahead with Ethics Awareness

  • Expanding on Your Vision: Looking to the Future
  • Alternatives and Contingencies
  • Industry Scenario: Touring Complications
  • Decision Making Models
  • Advanced Ethics Considerations and Examples
  • Assignment 5: Leadership and Decision-Making Plans
  • Leadership Approaches Combined
  • Assignment 5: Leadership and Decision-Making Plans

Lesson 6: Working With Others in the Leadership and Decision-Making Process 

  • Decision-Making Considerations: Your Options and Choices
  • Decision-Making: More Factors for Consideration
  • Ethical Considerations and Organizational Objectives
  • Revenue Generation
  • Accountability and Responsibility
  • Assignment 6: 10 Decision Making Factors and Your Plan
  • Working with Others: Energizing Your Team
  • Assignment 6: 10 Decision Making Factors and Your Plan

Lesson 7: Advanced Ethics Concepts and Industry Application

  • Evolution of Ethics
  • Ethics and Popular Culture
  • Music Industry Ethics and Leadership in Real Time
  • Digital Download Revenue Breakdown
  • Leadership: Alternative Decision-Making Options and Approaches
  • Leadership Responsibilities: Effecting Change
  • Assignment 7: Ethics in Music
  • Leadership Responsibilities: Effecting Change
  • Assignment 7: Ethics in Music

Lesson 8: Measuring Leadership

  • Measuring Leadership: Additional Leadership Considerations
  • Leadership: Rewards, Compensation, and Ethics
  • Hedging Against Uncertainty
  • Competitive Edge
  • Assignment 8: Evaluating Leadership Processes

Lesson 9: Government, Codes, Laws, Regulations, and Standards

  • Setting the Tone and Example for your Team and Organization
  • Corporate Structures
  • Wait a Minute - Corporations Are People, Too?!?!
  • Leadership Conflicts of Interest in the Music Industry – Artist Management
  • Leadership – Fostering Individual, Team and Organizational Potential
  • Facilitating Relationships
  • Assignment 9: The Rules of the Game

Lesson 10: The Big Picture

  • Advanced Music Industry Leadership and Ethics Considerations
  • Terrestrial Broadcast Performance Royalties
  • Responsible Leadership and Decision-Making: The Ford Pinto Case
  • Artist Management Leadership
  • Financial Considerations in the Decision-Making Process
  • Break-Even Analysis
  • Assignment 10: Your Leadership Philosophy

Lesson 11: Organizational Behavior and Human Resources

  • Human Resource Considerations
  • Values and Victories
  • Hoping For The Best; Planning for the Worst
  • Worst-Case Scenarios
  • Applying One of the Four Concepts
  • Assignment 11: Your Leadership Philosophy and Approach

Lesson 12: Ethics, Leadership, and the Future

  • Born Leaders: Learning Leadership
  • Evaluating Others
  • The Continual Quest for Improvement
  • The Music Industry Ecosystem
  • Negotiating
  • Assignment 12: Putting it All Together


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Business Trends and Strategies, or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.



  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.
  • Recommended: Scanner or digital camera, if you plan to handwrite assignments.

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


David Purcell

Author & Instructor

David Purcell, Esq., is the founder and president of Music Royalty Solutions, a business management firm specializing in business management and financial solutions for independent recording, performing, and songwriting artists, as well as independent companies and startups in the entertainment industry. He works as a business and legal affairs consultant for such clients as Roadrunner Records and Robot of the Century Music Publishing.

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In addition to teaching with Berklee Online, Purcell is the assistant program director of music business at New York University and runs the summer Music Business Institute, "What Makes A Star." Courses he has taught on both the undergraduate and graduate levels include Landmark Cases in Music Copyright Law, Business Structure of the Music Industry, Economic and Legal Settings of the Music Industry, Village Records (an NYU student-run recorded music label), Village Records Leadership section, Music Industry Internship Supervision, and Managing the Performing Artist.

As a professional drummer and percussionist, Purcell has extensive performance experience both in the U.S. and internationally and has performed and/or recorded with Jesse Malin, Ashford and Simpson, Tom Wopat, Debbie Harry (Blondie), Jody Watley, Neil Patrick Harris, Mink Stole, Princess Superstar, John Cameron Mitchell, Ian Astbury (The Cult), The Rocky Horror Show, Phantom of the Opera, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. He is a proud graduate of Berklee College of Music and The University of Wisconsin Law School. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Music Business Leadership and Ethics can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


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