To succeed in the music business, technical skills are not enough (guest column)

This is a guest post by David Loscos, Director of the International Music Business School. IMB School offers courses on the global music business, including its own Masters and Postgraduate courses. It also builds intensive courses for major global music business companies.

Wider understanding in an increasingly complex music industry

The world of professional training is constantly debating whether to provide specialist knowledge and hard skills – or to focus on the transmission of a wider understanding of things, and the development of soft skills. It’s a debate that has been going on for decades and has recently gained higher attention due to David J. Epstein’s popular book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”.

The music business is not alien to this debate. Actually, because it has traditionally been a highly technology-driven business, it seems as if the new generation of music business leaders may be forced to acquire some specific technical knowledge in order to lead their organizations.

But there are some objections to this approach that deserve our attention. The first is that despite it being obvious that technology plays a pivotal role in the music sector of today, there is also a need for a wider comprehension of the complexity of the whole music business ecosystem. 

Looking beyond technology as a driver of innovation in the music business 

This “overall understanding” may become a priority as value-exchange interactions start to expand beyond the music sector. This trend is also speeding up: music is becoming a source of value for almost any sector, and in any society. So while technology may be perceived as the environment where the game is being played, what may help us win the game is a broad, thorough understanding of music-based value creation itself.

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On the other hand, the music industry has traditionally faced and overcome unexpected problems that – usually due to the disruptive impact of technology – challenged its “business as usual” approach to decision-making. 

So far, innovation in the music sector may have been led mainly by technology. According to the famed management consultant and educator Peter F. Drucker, there are seven sources of innovation – and technology (or new knowledge) is only one of three external sources (along with demographic and perception changes.)

This means there are four other internal drivers of innovation – unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs, and industry/market changes – and in the music business, these may become drivers of innovation that are just as powerful as technology. 

Sustainability and innovation through holistic thinking

What makes the difference is whether companies are able to combine at least two of these sources to help innovation become sustainable in the long-term. Therefore, senior management now face complex challenges requiring a holistic approach to problems – and the ability to explore and adopt innovation beyond technology.

This is the scenario we’re working with at IMB School, where we have created a Masters and Postgraduate Diploma in Music Business Innovation (online) with a very clear idea of what the learning experience of future leaders should be. 

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We want to place students in a completely different position where –  rather than being mainly receivers of knowledge – they become the source of inspiring, valuable solutions for the global music business.

For this reason, we have partnered with seven world-leading companies in the music sector, including YouTube, Warner Chappell, Sony Music, and Primavera Sound – and we asked them to outsource their problem-solving process for a real and complex challenges they are each facing in their activities as major music business companies.

One of these major global players is BMAT, the music innovation company that has partnered with us to create 24 scholarships (funded with €3,000 per student) for students striving to make an impact in the present and the future of the music business. 

We believe this is the right approach to provide the most valuable training to the future generation of music business leaders. They will need to acquire a broad and interconnected knowledge and a diverse set of soft and hard skills – in order to help the music business become bigger than ever.

The BMAT-funded scholarship application is open until 10th October for Postgraduate students only. The application form is available here.

Joe Sparrow

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