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From streaming, to copyrights, to paparazzi: American Univ. students prepare for life in the music business

Billboard magazine says American University has one of the best schools for music business degrees. WTOP gets schooled about it.

While D.C. isn’t typically thought of as a music and entertainment capital, Billboard magazine has released a list of what it considers the best schools for music business degrees, and it includes American University and Howard University.

“I would say 50% of my students want to go into the music industry,” said professor John Simson, who launched the Business and Entertainment Program at American University’s Kogod School of Business in 2013.

“Some want to go into live music, some want to work at record labels — some are interested in being agents or managers, and some want to go on to law school to be entertainment lawyers.”

Simson, whose experience in the music industry includes years as a recording artist, manager and lawyer, said most music business programs come out of a university’s communications or music departments.

“The students don’t get that business core of finance, accounting — all the kinds of things every business has, whether you’re a creative business or making widgets.”

Simson said students learn about music publishing, copyrights, get a sense of what music contracts are like and discuss privacy laws and paparazzi.

While some aspects of the music industry remain constant from year to year, Simson said the program attempts to prepare students for “not just want’s happening now, but what’s likely to be coming.”

Three years ago, the Business and Entertainment Program introduced a class called “The Streaming Revolution.”

“All of a sudden, all content is being distributed through streaming services, whether it’s audio only or audiovisual,” said Simson. “You get into all of the fairness rights on residuals and how royalties are calculated.”

In an advanced-issues class last semester, Simson said, “We spent a ton of time looking at AI and how it’s going to affect the entertainment industry. We did a really deep dive into TikTok — and all the controversy brewing about whether it should be banned — and data collection.”

The program involves trips to entertainment hubs, such as New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) gathering in Austin, Texas.

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