New program offers dynamic coursework, faculty and internship opportunities that will set students on a swift course for careers in the music business
Responding to student demand, a new B.A in Music Industry from The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music will set graduates on track toward careers in artist and label management, publicity, music publishing and licensing and more. Innovative coursework and creative student-led projects will draw on broad expertise from new and longstanding faculty alongside working professionals.
The only program of its kind in the University of California system, the Music Industry BA builds on the success of the School of Music’s popular undergraduate minor. UCLA is uniquely situated to operate this competitive curriculum. More than one quarter of the nation’s music industry job postings are in California, and seven of the top ten U.S. cities employing music industry professionals are within 50 miles of UCLA’s Westwood campus.
The major is also designed to attract and support incoming transfer students from California community colleges, which creates affordability and access.
“Our goal and responsibility is to empower a diverse community of exceptional students as next-generation transformational thinkers in the music industry,” said Eileen Strempel, inaugural dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music. “The success of our previous programs built our credibility and infrastructure, while providing us the time to assemble a powerful 12-member advisory board chaired by Warner Records visionary Tom Corson to guide us in building this new major’s curriculum.”
Taught by a combination of tenure track faculty and professionals at all levels of the music industry, UCLA’s new major provides a 360-degree view of the entertainment business, including music and the law, finance, entrepreneurship, artist management, live-music promotion, digital marketing, publishing and music supervision. In addition, the degree provides creative instruction in audio technology, musicianship, songwriting and production.
“What sets UCLA’s offering apart from other music industry degree programs is the integration of direct skills engagement such as internships, apprenticeships, and student-led projects with the liberal arts curriculum of a major research institution,” said Robert Fink, founding chair of the Music Industry degree program.
Since the Herb Alpert School of Music was established in 2018, it has consistently appeared on Billboard’s Top Music Business Schools list.
“UCLA’s School of Music is closely affiliated with our industry and knows it well,” said Tom Corson, co-chairman and chief operating officer of Warner Records, and inaugural chair of the dean’s board of advisors at the Herb Alpert School of Music. “Every business needs people who have the passion and the training that this program will provide. We need future professionals who’ve seriously considered many aspects of the music industry—cultural impact, creative innovation, and operational reality—and bring a fresh, informed point of view to the business.”
Students and faculty in the major will tackle the realities of the 21st century music industry in real time, with creative nimbleness, Fink said. Existing and evolving courses will introduce students to the complexities of new global markets, streaming algorithms, and generative artificial intelligence, preparing them to embrace and upend the future of the industry.
Recent additions to the School of Music have brought world-class research strength in music industry studies to its permanent faculty.
- Thomas Hodgson specializes in data science, algorithmic justice, and the global music industry.
- Catherine Provenzano explores how audio engineers understand new technologies, and how new musical tools have changed the definitions of skill and work in the industry.
- David MacFadyen, an expert in Soviet popular music culture, brings his direct experience from the collapse of Soviet cultural institutions to bear on understanding new models of musical distribution and economic value.
UCLA Music Industry students will also learn from current professionals who are driving the industry toward greater inclusion and representation including:
- Lauren Spalding, co-founder of Femme House, a non-profit collective creating behind-the-scenes and technical opportunities for women, gender-expansive, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ creatives, brings her advocacy to the classroom in courses on music, activism, and artist management.
- Amy Kuney, a songwriter (Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, Akon) who works professionally as the gender-complex artist AMES, provides a contemporary role model for the diverse perspectives and experiences of students in her songwriting classes.
In addition to basic courses on music and law, publishing, music supervision, and artist management, students are introduced to contemporary topics including:
- Data Science for Music Industry: This course explores data science for music professionals and offers a history of charts, jukeboxes, Nielsen, Sound Scan, and the latest advances in monitoring of music consumption, while reviewing the impact of data technologies and rise of data analytics in the internet era. Students work directly with real-world music industry datasets and learn basic Python programming for data retrieval and analysis.
- Music and Activism: An introduction to the history and practice of musical activism, taught by activist-professionals who combine careers in the music industry with effective advocacy for inclusion and change. Students learn about artist-run labels and collectives, social justice organizing in the media, and art as activism in both entrepreneurial and non-profit settings. Students develop and execute a music-related business plan with social awareness and potential for measurable impact.
- Artificial Musical Intelligence, Intellectual Property, and Musical Labor: This advanced class will allow a small group of students to work with and explore the implications of predictive and generative AI, whether based on advanced DSP (AutoTune, “deep-faked” vocals), or large text/music datasets (Spotify, ChatGPT, Meta’s AudioCraft). Students will interrogate the economic and ethical implications of artificial musical intelligence.
“Our students are challenged to take a critical view of the formative effects music industry and technology has had on musical practices around the world,” Fink said. “UCLA faculty have been studying the popular music industry for as long as I have taught here. Now, through the power of accessible public higher education, we’re on a mission to change it.”
About The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
In 2007, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music was created with a generous $30 million gift from the Herb Alpert Foundation. The gift enabled UCLA to enhance collaborations among UCLA’s three music-related departments – Ethnomusicology, Music, and Musicology. In 2016, the UC Board of Regents voted to formally establish The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as UCLA’s 12th professional school and the only school of music in the UC system.
With faculty devoted to scholarship in composition, ethnomusicology, musicology, music performance, and music education, the school is able to honor all global musical traditions and maintain a balanced emphasis on scholarship and practice. The school also pioneers new models for integrated musical studies by embracing innovative degree programs, including Global Jazz Studies and Music Industry.
Drawing on the superb resources of UCLA’s Music Library, Ethnomusicology Archive, Western and world musical instrument collections, and state-of-the-art recording/production facilities, as well as Southern California’s rich history of professional music-making and powerful creative community, the Herb Alpert School of Music provides students with the practical skills, confidence, and critical judgment they will need to succeed as music educators, scholars, practitioners, administrators, and advocates.