Fostering 21st century music entrepreneurship and enterprise in industry education

Joel Edmondson
| June 29, 2015

Queensland based Joel Edmondson, head of state music industry organisation QMusic, explores modernising and diversifying music industry education to help artists and industry professionals adapt to an uncertain future.

There is no shortage of professional development opportunities for emerging artists and music industry professionals in Australia. Universities, industry colleges, state music industry associations and individual practitioners offer a variety of choice for people who want to get some practical insight into how our business works. But in an industry undergoing such rapid change, how can a standardised curriculum keep pace with the contemporary realities of being a working musician, manager, label owner, or publicist?

Music entrepreneurs of the future will need to have the same set of competencies that characterise innovators in other professional disciplines. Music education, and the music industry at large, needs to start looking beyond its own narrow worldview for solutions to the big picture challenges that our future artists and industry professionals will face. There is a whole world of cutting-edge management and innovation literature out there that has generic application to the music industry.  Songwriting, production and music marketing will always be really important, but the next evolution of music industry education in Australia needs to incorporate a greater focus on the meta-skills that will enable an effective response to the economic and sociocultural realities of ever-present uncertainty and flux.

Music entrepreneurs of the future will need to have the same set of competencies that characterise innovators in other professional disciplines.

Even though there has never been one sure way of innovating within the music industry, the relatively rapid transition from CD to streaming over the last 10-15 years is proof that any strategy, no matter how successful, has a limited lifespan in this technological age. Each year some new social media platform arises that disrupts assumed ways of successfully promoting an artist’s work.  Constant change is the new normal, and we need to be able to adapt as things change unpredictably, because they will. It is therefore the adaptive ability itself that counts above all else, and something people in the music industry need to learn if they’re going to make the most of things in an uncertain future.

The ability to think critically and imaginatively about the future is a skill that can be taught, as it is already in business management classes around the globe. Being able to reason about and plan for multiple potential scenarios is fundamental to artists and industry professionals of the future being able to develop strategies that are less likely to fail when things don’t go to plan. The music industry’s current problems exist not because new technology enabled consumer opportunism/internet piracy, but because the industry didn’t see it coming early enough to proactively respond. Greater foresight will prevent similar problems arising in the future, and enable individuals and organisations to capitalise on the potential opportunities.

Constant change is the new normal, and we need to be able to adapt as things change unpredictably

Music entrepreneurs also need to have greater situational awareness. Although music has a timeless and universal quality, its role in our society and our economy is transforming all the time. We need to be able to dream up creative answers to big questions like ‘What will be the role of music in society tomorrow?’ or ‘How can music be used to shape society differently?’. In many ways, these questions will be answered by the inevitable convergence of music with other facets of life. For example, I imagine that a future dominated by health-conscious individuals obsessing over bio-data streaming from their fitness trackers might take an interest in music that’s proven to have a positive physiological or psychological impact. That would completely change the way people listen to music, and in turn, what’s popular. Being able to imagine the possibilities is key to getting ahead of the curve.

Now is the time for our industry to engage in dialogue with outsiders to come up with novel solutions to our problems

Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN’s) flagship business development programs RELEASE and CONTROL are unique in the sense that they offer an opportunity for label owners and music managers to engage with psychologists and business experts from outside the music industry and get a totally different perspective on their trade. Now is the time for our industry to engage in dialogue with outsiders to come up with novel solutions to our problems. If we are going to thrive in an uncertain future, then we need to start with a change in mindset that can accommodate uncertainty. Music education that develops the adaptive ability of students would be a good place to start.

Joel Edmondson – QMusic Executive Officer


  1. Greg Dodge

    Hi Joel

    You do not know me, however, I was one of the the original visionaries of Qmusic back in 1993/94. (I was the first QMusic President of the inaugral committee started in the days of the Goss govt).

    You may or may not want to reach out to me, however, as I am not dead as yet and I am keen to re-enter and invest in the local music industry over the next few years (if my own market research concludes my ideas have some merit) then maybe I can give you some extra perspectives.

    No hurry to meet, but at some stage would love to sit down and have a conversation with you. In the late “80’s and ’90’s I had a lot to do as a rep of industry with early Music Education/Organisation start ups (AUSMUSIC, MIAQ. AMA, Southbank Tafe etc) – and 15 years ago, became an innovater nationally in the new area of “recreational music making” (RMM). Some of my 2000 – 2008 “body of works” was summarised/captured in a chapter I co-wrote with Andy Brader from QUT and released in a published book – “Songs of Resilience” by Dr. Steve Dillon (now deceased), published by QUT/Cambridge Press.

    I have been away from the “industry” for five years now and have always had my ears and eyes open for emerging opportunities. After some extensive overseas travel in 2016, I will return and set up a new commercial organisation creating opportunities for artists, musicians and RMM.

    I have had little to do with QMusic since kicking it off, however, I have always remained connected to many involved on the board along with and other creative music business “do-ers” and academic types.

    Let me know when is a good time to chat. My best days (any time) are Mondays and Tuesdays at present or any early morning from 7am – 9.30am.

    Greg Dodge
    Mobile : 0415 282 399

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