Music Business Trends and Strategies

Author: Mike King | Course Code: OMBUS-240

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; 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

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

Mike King

Author & Instructor

Mike King is a course author, instructor, and the Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Recruitment / Chief Marketing Officer at Berklee Online, the online continuing education division of Berklee College of Music. 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,, for three years.

Mike has written and teaches four courses for Berklee Online: Online Music Marketing with Topspin; 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. Check out his Website, Blog and follow on Twitter:@atomzooey

Benji Rogers


Benji Rogers is an independent musician from London who has been making his own records since 1999. In 2009, Benji founded PledgeMusic, the leading international direct-to-fan platform offering artists a unique way to engage their fans in the music making process while interacting with a global audience of music super fans, resulting in chart topping albums worldwide. In 2013, Benji was recognized on Billboard’s 40 Under 40 Power Players list and in 2014 at the MUSEXPO International Music Awards, he won Digital Executive of the Year.

Jay Coyle


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.

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.

To learn more about Jay Coyle or Music Geek Services, visit:

Music Geek Services:

Seth Hochman


Seth Hochman is a music business veteran who has worked for Epic Records, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group. He has held various marketing and digital account roles working with innovative commercial partners. His most recent role was with Universal Music Group as a Commercial Services Account Director, managing day-to-day business relationships with streaming partners. He launched & marketed UMG's content on Spotify, from it's introduction in the US in 2011 through it's explosive growth stages. As account lead, Seth led UMG’s 20+ labels through an evolution in music consumption and revenue growth. Best practices that were developed over three years with Spotify were then focused on video streaming with Vevo, the #1 premium music video channel on YouTube. He worked with labels, artists, and digital marketing teams to develop and monetize visual content. With both Spotify and Vevo, Seth was responsible for Universal's digital advertising strategies which increased download sales and streaming revenue for the company. Prior to working for major labels he was part of the original marketing team that launched Barnes & and developed promotional strategies for, an early forerunner in the on-demand delivery business.


None required

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, or Safari
  • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Edge
  • Flash Player (if using the Record Live tool)

Hardware Requirements

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.7 or later
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Sound card
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam

PC Users

  • Windows Vista SP2 or higher
  • Intel Pentium 4 or higher
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 500 MB hard drive space recommended
  • Sound card
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam


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