Entrepreneurship education in higher music education

In a world that deeply values musical products, but are used to not paying for it – how can musicians secure a livelihood? They need to learn entrepreneurial skills.

By Tina Larsen

Being an entrepreneur is about recognizing and solving problems to create value, whether it’s cultural, environmental, social or economic value. Musicians create lots of value – the cultural and esthetic realm is embedded in what they do. The challenge is how they meet those values and how they bring it into the economic realm. The musical “product” is something that we humans deeply value, but in 2021 we have become used to not paying for it as Spotify and streaming has emerged . Therefore, musicians need to become entrepreneurial to secure a living. Benjamin Toscher, a Ph.D. candidate at Engage, has focused his research on how music students in higher education learn entrepreneurship.

Findings of the research

Toscher finished his doctoral dissertation on the 26th of February. His field of research is entrepreneurship education in higher music education (HME), and his findings can be summarized in three points:

  1. The first finding is that most music students value entrepreneurship and that they recognize it as being important for their future careers as musicians. They recognize that they will need to create their own jobs and to realize and create their own opportunities – that is, if they want to make a living out of their passion.
  2. The second finding is about their education and non-musical skills, such as entrepreneurial skills. Toscher found that many students felt that there is a big gap between how important they think non-musical skills are and the level of which they acquire these skills.
  3. The third and last finding is about how students explore and try new things in entrepreneurship education. Toscher says that the students balance two types of factors: personal factors (such as their own beliefs and learning styles) and social factors (such as the actual classroom environment that the educators set up and how they work in teams). He found that they balance these two types of factors to reduce uncertainty, to take actions to reduce uncertainty in entrepreneurial projects.

Dealing with uncertainty and risk

Musicians are one of the working groups that have been hit the hardest during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Norway, the estimate is that musicians earn between 35% to 50% of their income from live performances and concerts. When they no longer have the opportunity to do so, they risk losing their income base.

“If it wasn’t clear enough that musicians have to be entre-preneurial out of necessity before, the pandemic made it really clear. In the early stages of the pandemic a lot of musicians started streaming concerts, and there was a lot of response to that. That is a great example of an innovative and entrepreneurial response.”

Benjamin Toscher, Ph.D candidate at Engage

However, Toscher believes that the concept of streaming concerts may fade away as people are no longer equally interested. This implies that musicians once again have to think entrepreneurially. The pandemic has shown us why entrepreneurship education in higher music education is important and relevant.