amplified orchestra performing for attentive audienceArts entrepreneurship isn’t a slice of the educational pie – it’s the pan.

I adapted that opening sentence from a statement attributed to Andrew Rasiej (“Innovation is not a slice of the pie – it’s the pan”).

The concept of pan versus pie strikes me as apt to encapsulate the distinctions between traditional arts curricula and ones that incorporate entrepreneurship education.

Here are 3 reasons why I find arts entrepreneurship education to be so compelling.

3 Compelling Features of Arts Entrepreneurship Education

1. Adaptability

Entrepreneurship education provides an adaptable container in which today’s artists can build rewarding careers. Like a pan, it can accommodate limitless artistic and professional recipes.

For instance, music students in entrepreneurship courses identify their individual creative interests and explore varying ways in which they can flourish artistically and economically, whether as performers, composers, producers, recording engineers, and so forth. They forge their own routes to create income streams that align with contemporary and emerging opportunities.

In contrast, traditional music curricula, especially classical ones, groom students for scarce, predefined roles – say, as players in full-time orchestras, singers in opera companies, or as touring virtuosi handled by managers.

Graduates of such old-school programs often scratch out meager livings because only the tiniest percentage succeed in the jobs they were trained for, and they typically lack the career readiness skills needed to prosper in alternative roles. For more about how U.S. arts graduates fare, see the SNAAP website. (Update, 2020: Also view the ROI data from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.)

Entrepreneurial graduates, by comparison, learn to discern professional opportunities, create value with their art, and market their work to all sorts of audiences.

Plus, the analytical, managerial, financial, collaborative and other skills they acquire fortify their overall career readiness and transfer broadly to diverse fields. So, along with growing entrepreneurial careers, they can also pursue an array of good-paying employment options that their narrowly educated peers cannot.

2. IntegrationThe Musician's Way book cover

When schools add entrepreneurship education to their curricula, they do well to aim for integration as opposed to creating an entrepreneurship-studies silo (i.e., a pan rather than a pie slice).

Such integration can interweave curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular offerings, as I describe in “Music Education and Entrepreneurship,” to the overall benefit of students.

As an illustration, to reinforce the work students do in their entrepreneurship classes, integration-minded music history teachers can juxtapose historic and current arts economies rather than solely examining historic ones.

Graduates of traditional curricula may know more about 19th-century music economies than present-day ones because their accreditor-approved coursework won’t include any study of contemporary arts ecologies. That is, they may have learned in music history courses how Mozart won commissions to compose some of his famous works but be unaware of the ways in which today’s composers attract and fund commissions.

Moreover, entrepreneurship education is, by nature, interdisciplinary, so it integrates content from both arts and non-arts coursework.

Here are a few more examples of integration:

  • Undergraduate curricula can incorporate experiential learning requirements such as field projects and internships that enable arts students to collaborate with professional arts organizations and build marketing, production, audience development, and other real-world skills.
  • Music literature courses can include exercises in concert programming, which would challenge students to apply their coursework in creative ways that would be meaningful to local audiences.
  • Music theory classes can incorporate more composition exercises, emphasizing creative applications of things like traditional part-writing as opposed to merely analyzing, copying and mimicking historic compositions.
  • Career-development seminars can address issues of Web culture and music technology so that music students connect their entrepreneurial roles as, among other things, live performers, recording artists, and online personalities.

3. Inclusiveness

Entrepreneurship education doesn’t favor the most virtuosic musicians – it enables students of all levels of accomplishment and from diverse backgrounds to find avenues via which they can thrive.

For instance, students who might be good but not stellar soloists (i.e., nearly all of them) can apply their entrepreneurial studies to plan portfolio careers in which, depending on their interests, they might arrange community performances, launch small ensembles and festivals, contract, gig, and teach.

Conversely, traditional curricula have tended to lavish attention on the most virtuosic performers, granting them concerto appearances and other sorts of support while leaving the majority of students to bring up the rear, neglecting such students’ post-graduation needs.

As an example, traditional, accreditor-approved orchestral instrument curricula may oblige students to devote the bulk of their energies to playing in orchestras and preparing for professional orchestra auditions, even though faculty recognize that few students will be competitive for full-time orchestra positions and that, even for top students, the scarcity of opportunities and fierce competition for them means that such auditions can pose lottery-like odds of winning. The situation for opera students is no different.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although arts entrepreneurship education is an emerging field, we possess sufficient know-how to empower all motivated students to transform their well-considered dreams into exhilarating realities.

Of course, it isn’t easy to build up music and arts careers – whether as entrepreneurs, employees, or both – but it’s probably more possible than ever, especially given the power of 21st-century technology.

And the intrinsic rewards for living a life in the arts have never been sweeter.

Want expert guidance to incorporate entrepreneurship offerings at your arts school? Contact me to discuss possible consulting.

Related posts can be found in the Entrepreneurship category. 

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo licensed from