Music Business Trends and Strategies


Authored by Mike King


Course Code: OMBUS-240

Sept. enrollment open until this Friday, 5PM ET

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This course provides an in depth look at the main structures of the music business, the important changes that are guiding its future, and strategies for creating successful business models. Music Business Trends and Strategies will guide students through the critical areas of the music industry, including publishing and licensing, marketing, promotion, and retail best practices.

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Students will also learn about proper utilization of free music, fan funding and other forms of creative revenue for musicians, current practices for utilizing video, and new business opportunities. By the end of this course, students will have a deep understanding of the pressing issues that all musicians, music industry entrepreneurs, managers, and other music business professionals face in these main segments of the music industry, and how to leverage opportunities that the new business provides.

By the end of this course, you will learn:

  • The impact of technology on record label operations and finances
  • Current and developing approaches to copyright
  • The structure, the traditional and emerging partners, and the revenue opportunities available from music publishing
  • Marketing ideas and techniques for building up awareness targeted at your specific community
  • Players, payment, and pricing models associated with traditional music retail and distribution outlets
  • Nuances and best practices associated with the emerging retail and distribution models
  • Approaches for utilizing free music
  • Best practices and opportunities available with third party video services
  • How musicians are making money, and how to properly prepare and execute on a fan-funded campaign
  • New and evolving technological developments that are driving the overall music industry
  • Innovative approaches to building a music-focused business

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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Inside the Record Business

  • Record Industry Overview
  • Major Label Consolidation
  • The Major Label Approach to Working with Artists
  • Recoupable vs. Non-Recoupable Expenses
  • How Major Labels are Structured
  • Interview with Donald Passman on 360 Deals
  • Other Revenue Options for Record Companies
  • Alternative Distribution Options with a Major Label
  • The Indie Label Approach to Working with Artists
  • What an Indie Label Can Do for Artists
  • State of the Record Industry
  • The Causes of the Decline in the Record Industry
  • Roadmap for Record Labels

Lesson 2: Copyright

  • Copyright Fundamentals
  • The Six Exclusive Copyrights
  • Problems with Traditional Copyright
  • New Approaches to Copyright New Copy
  • Creative Commons
  • Cory Doctorow and Creative Commons
  • Fair Use
  • Psy's Subtle Approach to Copyright

Lesson 3: Publishing

  • Music Publishing Overview
  • Major and Independent Music Publishers
  • Typical Publishing Deals
  • Types of Licenses and Revenue Sources for Publishers
  • Mechanical License
  • Synchronization (Sync) License
  • Print License
  • Performance License
  • The Role of Performing Rights Organizations
  • Sound
  • Exchange
  • Performance Royalty Edge Cases

Lesson 4: Marketing

  • New Approaches to Music Marketing
  • The Stages of the Internet
  • Niche Marketing
  • Demographic and Psychographic Overview
  • Geographic Data
  • Psychographic Data
  • Examples of Psychographic Marketing in Action
  • Alessandro Cortini and Providing Psychographic-Focused Products
  • Jónsi and Alex and Psychographic Collateral Marketing
  • Building a Foundation: Acquisition some similar copy to FOM
  • Primer for Musicians on Building Up Their Fanbase
  • Web Optimization on Your Own Site
  • Web Optimization on Third-Party Sites/Search
  • Social
  • Email
  • Public Relations
  • Touring
  • Making it Viral: The Science of Sharing

Lesson 5: Traditional Music Retail and Distribution

  • The Foundations of Traditional Physical Distribution and Retail
  • Notes from Industry Experts
  • How Traditional Physical Distribution and Retail Works
  • What a Physical Distributor Does
  • The Finances of a Physical Distribution Deal
  • Alternative Options for Developing Artists at Physical Retail
  • The Putamayo Approach to Retail
  • Diversification and Specialization in Physical Music Retail
  • Online Distribution and Retail: Structure and Process
  • Online Retail Model-Label Involvement
  • Online Retail Model-Independent Model
  • Online Distribution Overview
  • Digital Retail Outlets

Lesson 6: Developing Retail Outlets

  • Overview of Digital Recorded Music Retail Models
  • The Permanent Digital Download Model
  • The Subscription Streaming Model
  • The Advertising Model
  • The Variable Pricing Model
  • The Subscription Streaming Model
  • The Past, Present, and Future of the Subscription Model
  • Steve Jobs on the Subscription ModelThe Subscription Streaming Payments
  • Payments to Rights Holders for Non-Interactive Streaming Services
  • Payments to Rights Holders for Interactive Streaming Services
  • The Artist's Opinion: Streaming Vs Ownership
  • The Utility Model
  • Consumer and Artist Perspective
  • Bob Lefsetz and Seth Godin on the Utility Model
  • "Vaulternative" Retail Model

Lesson 7: Utilizing Free

  • Introduction
  • The Foundations of Free: Napster, Labels, and Where It All Began
  • The Debate Continues
  • The "Correlation Does Not Imply Causation" Principle
  • Anatomy of a Modern Day Pirate
  • How to Utilize Free Music
  • The Serialized Approach to Utilizing Free Music
  • Noise
  • Trade
  • Topspin
  • Case Study: Billy Van
  • Case Study: Berklee College of Music
  • Case Study: Wilco

Lesson 8: Video Opportunities and Strategies

  • An Overview of Video for Musicians
  • Current Video Options for Musicians
  • The Social Component of Video
  • Case Study: Rufus Wainwright & a Participatory Approach to Social
  • Third-Party Video Options for Musicians
  • YouTube Live Streaming
  • Interview with Evan Lowenstein – StageIt
  • Live Video Streaming Case Study: Erin McKeown and her Cabin Fever Series
  • Additional Ways to Raise Your Visibility Using Video
  • Video Optimization: Musician Case Studies
  • Interviews: Karmin's Approach to YouTube, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers Van Sessions
  • Data and Tracking Your Video's Success

Lesson 9: The Future of Music Coalition

  • About the Future of Music Coalition
  • 42 Revenue Streams Project
  • About the Artist Revenue Streams Project
  • Population of Study/Who was Surveyed?
  • How Was the Data Collected?
  • Research Questions/What was Asked?
  • Artist Revenue Streams Project Findings
  • Role and Revenue
  • The Impact of Technology on Musicians' Earning Capabilities
  • Reports
  • Policy Issues for Musicians

Lesson 10: Funding your Project

  • The Traditional Approach to Funding
  • Funding From a Label
  • The Traditional DIY Independent Artist Approach to Funding
  • Grants
  • Sponsorships
  • New Funding Opportunities
  • Erin McKeown on Her Fan Funding Campaign
  • Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking Ted Talk
  • Fan Funding Service Providers: Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Indiegogo
  • PledgeMusic Case Study: Rachael Yamagata

Lesson 11: Technology in Music: Music Discovery, Music Marketing, Music Consumption

  • History of Technology in Music
  • Facebook, Sharing, and the Social / Open Graph
  • Optimization of Streaming Services
  • A Three Point Plan for Using Streaming Technologies for Good
  • The Freemium Approach to Building Awareness
  • Streaming Services: Playlists, Social, and Best Marketing Practices
  • Hardware Integration of Streaming Services
  • Interview with Peter Gotcher on the Streaming Approach to Marketing Acquisition
  • Future of Music Discovery: Filters and Curation
  • Pandora
  • Nolan Gasser on Creating the Music Genome Project
  • Drip.FM
  • The Echo Nest

Lesson 12: Music Entrepreneurship and New Business Opportunities

  • View from the Top: Roger Brown and Peter Gotcher
  • View from the Top: Liz Leahy
  • View from the Top: Peter Alhadeff
  • View from the Top: Tony VanVeen
  • The Lean Startup Approach to Music Business
  • Part 1: Vision, True North, Validated Learning, and the MVP
  • Part 2: Steer-Test, Measure, Pivot
  • Innovative Companies in the Music Business
  • Eyes and Ears
  • Mobile Roadie
  • DigSin
  • PledgeMusic
  • Nettwerk


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

This course does not have any prerequisites.

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. 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 (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection




Mike King is a course author, instructor, and the Vice President of Enrollment at Berklee College of Music and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Berklee Online. Prior to working at Berklee, Mike was the Marketing/Product Manager at Rykodisc, where he oversaw marketing efforts for label artists including Mickey Hart, Jeb Loy Nichols, Morphine, Jess Klein, Voices On The Verge, Bill Hicks, The Slip, Pork Tornado (Phish), Kelly Joe Phelps, and Frank Zappa's estate. Mike was the Director of Marketing and Managing Editor of Herb Alpert's online musician's resource, ArtistsHouseMusic, for three years.

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Mike has written and teaches three courses for Berklee Online: Music Marketing 101; Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution; and Music Business Trends and Strategies. His book, Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail was published by Berklee Press in 2009. Mike was recognized as the Best Music Business Teacher by the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) in 2011.

Mike has written for Making Music magazine, International Musician, Hypebot, and American Songwriter, and has been quoted in NPR Morning Edition, the Huffington Post, Billboard, The Boston Globe, Wired, CNN, the Boston Phoenix, The Chicago Tribune, Music Connection, and Muso. He's also presented at MIDEM, CMJ, SXSW, NAMM, NARM, SF Music Tech, Futures of Entertainment @ MIT, and Music 2.0. Read Less



Chandler Coyle is a partner and "digital geek" at the Topspin-certified digital marketing firm Music Geek Services based out of Chicago. Music Geek Services provides artist services for the music industry and been Topspin-certified since 2009. Music Geek has worked with, or is currently working with, acts such as Barenaked Ladies, Sloan, Said The Whale, Josh Rouse, The Odds, and Rhett Miller. From 2000-2010, Chandler managed a 10-person web development firm and has done everything from setting up networks to programming content management systems to create graphic designs for clients. Then, in 2010, Coyle brought his web skills to Music Geek Services where his passion is to help bands establish or enhance their online presence to increase their fan base and sell more music.



Bruce Houghton is founder and president of Skyline Artists Agency, representing a diverse roster of national and international touring talent including Zoe Keating, Darlingside, Poco, Freddie McGregor, Roger McGuinn, and many others. A sought-after industry expert and speaker, he has served on the Advisory Boards of Midem and SXSW Accelerator, is a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Music program, and serves as a senior advisor to Bandsintown. His top-ranked sites Hypebot and MusicThinkTank cover the new music industry and the way that technology is changing how music is created, marketed, consumed, and monetized.



Jay Coyle is the founder and "Music Geek" at the digital marketing firm, Music Geek Services. His company provides artist services for the music industry and has been a Topspin-certified marketer since 2009. Built upon a life-long omnivorous obsession with marketing bands and mixing in equal parts of knowledge gained from an advertising-focused Journalism degree at the University of Georgia along with his skills running a Marketing consultancy for 5 years in Atlanta, Music Geek Services was finally created in 2008 immediately after Jay left a marketing position at the EMI CMG label in Nashville.

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Jay's first project under the Music Geek moniker was doing work as band archivist and label product manager for Canadian music veterans, Barenaked Ladies. Since then, Jay has worn a lot of hats including sales, marketing, artist development, business development, tour management, and product management. Jay is currently working with Sloan, the Presidents of the United States of America, Jars of Clay, and Carbon Leaf. Jay's core focus is to help further the careers of artists while partnering with them in a "D.I.Y. +" sort of way to have long-lasting and fan-focused careers. Read Less



Benji Rogers is a British-born, New York-based entrepreneur, technologist, musician, and the CEO and co-founder of the Dot Blockchain Music Project. A pioneer of the direct artist-to-fan model of music distribution, Rogers founded PledgeMusic in 2009, which is now one of leading artist-to-fan platforms online with more than 4 million users and over 50,000 artists. In his current role heading Dot Blockchain, Rogers is working to revolutionize the commercialization and movement of music in the digital economy. The project aims to create a decentralized global registry of music rights through a new music format by leveraging blockchain technology and to forge meaningful industry partnerships to overhaul how artists get paid. Straddling the worlds of technology and music, Rogers advises a range of tech and music companies on how to bridge the divide between their industries and is also an instructor at Berklee College of Music on digital trends in the industry. A dedicated patron of arts and creativity in all its forms, Rogers’ work is rooted in a belief in the democratizing power of the Internet.



Jeff Apruzzese graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2008 with a degree in Music Business. Jeff is the Media and Operations Manager for the Berklee Popular Music Institute, which provides students with an experiential learning experience in live music and performance. He is also a course instructor for Berklee Online’s Concert and Touring course.

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Jeff was the bassist of Passion Pit (signed to Columbia Records) for 8 years. During his time in the band, he toured the world extensively, performed at some of the largest festivals (Lollapalooza, Coachella, Summer Sonic, Austin City Limits), and played on some of the most high profile late night shows (Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel). A career highlight for Jeff was selling out the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 13, 2013 during a blizzard. Read Less


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