Musical entrepreneurship

Thursday 25 January will see teachers and other professionals from Norway and abroad come together at the NMH to debate how higher music education can meet labour market demands.

More about the seminar

The seminar «Education for Music Entrepreneurship» will be arranged by the Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE) Thursday 25 and Friday 26 January.

Read more and download the programm on CEMPE's web pages.

“This is something we’ve dreamt of doing for a decade. This is European Creative Futures’ first programme for teachers which looks at musical entrepreneurship.”

Andreas Sønning speaks enthusiastically about the Education for Music Entrepreneurship seminar taking place at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) on 25–26 January 2018. The senior lecturer, flautist and co-organiser of the seminar has spent many years highlighting the importance of giving music students the tools they need to survive in the profession. Educators and other professionals from Europe and the US are now meeting to discuss and determine how higher music education can better adapt to the demands of the labour market. Sønning describes the seminar, organised by the NMH and the Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE), as a “major event”.

“The EU’s Polifonia project evaluated the performing arts in the period 2004 to 2010. It analysed the situation in Europe and concluded that there was a huge mismatch between what is being taught and what the profession actually requires. Most other professional study programmes take a broader approach. Norwegian organisations such as BI Norwegian Business School, the University of Oslo, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and other universities have innovation and social sciences on the timetable. To people working in performing arts education, specialisation is so paramount that we often think these subjects can be addressed later. However, raising awareness and preparing for the profession must start during the study programme.”

A cross-disciplinary approach

The seminar has its roots in the European Erasmus network ECF, which has been working since 2010 to promote entrepreneurship and relationship-building across disciplines and geographical boundaries in higher education. As well as the NMH, ECF is made up of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in Ireland, Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS) in Finland, Southampton Solent University (SSU) in England and the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (HU) in the Netherlands. Once a year the network invites students from different disciplines to an intensive course on innovation and entrepreneurship. This year’s course takes place at the NMH as an extension of the teachers’ seminar. Over the course of a week it will address everything from identifying creative markets in Europe to crowdfunding and self-promotion.

Sønning has taught at the NMH since 1987. In his role as a producer he has been working to create arts programmes for the Norwegian authorities and businesses at home and abroad since the 1990s. As an academic, performer and artistic director, he has seen cultural entrepreneurship from several perspectives. He has actively applied his knowledge in ECF and in a book he is currently writing. Sønning highlights three criteria for succeeding with musical entrepreneurship: innovation, integrity and supplementary expertise.

A mismatch between what is being taught and what the profession actually requires.

“Geologists were not alone in developing the oil industry, and a fisherman is not alone in the fishing industry. Too many of the music students we educate are alone, and too many of them come to me after they graduate and ask me to help them out with the value chains. They are highly capable when it comes to interpreting and performing music, but they haven't given enough thought to how to communicate their artistry in the form of products and services,” explains Sønning in his office at the NMH.

“Social sciences and communication skills have been recognised in music education since the seventies or eighties, but they haven’t been sufficiently implemented for performing and creative musicians. The reason is the fear that cross-disciplinary learning would compromise their focus on maintaining a high level of artistry. Of course, nobody wants to lower their artistic standards; it’s in everybody’s interest that they are maintained. It’s not a case of either or.”

Tradition versus innovation

During the seminar the fiddler Andreas Ljones will talk about his journey from diploma student at the NMH to musical entrepreneur, while Breda Kenny and Gerard O’Donnovan from CIT will address the importance of methodology in entrepreneurship education. The only speaker not part of the ECF network is Gerald Klickstein, the founder and director of the Music Entrepreneurship & Career Center at the Peabody Institute. He will be addressing changes in the value chain for symphony orchestras in the US, amongst other things. Sønning himself will be looking at concert staging as a tool for entrepreneurship. He stresses that it does not take much knowledge of staging and value chains to have a significant effect on the students’ professional future.

“What expectations do you have for a seminar like this?”

“We’ve already seen the effects of ECF on the students. Musicians, managers, visual artists, choreographers and multimedia experts find each other, establish contact and invite each other to join projects. That’s why we get a large number of ECF applications every year. But we need to sow some seeds in these organisations with their 200-year-long teaching traditions founded on the master/apprentice relationship to demonstrate that we can educate individualists at a high artistic level while at the same time helping them with team-building and giving them a broader perspective on the opportunities available to them. To achieve this, we must start with the teaching staff in higher music education and the other performing arts.”


Nobody wants to lower their artistic standards; it's in everybody's interest that they are maintained. It's not a case of either or, says Andreas Sønning.

Last updated: 24. January 2018

More about the seminar

The seminar «Education for Music Entrepreneurship» will be arranged by the Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE) Thursday 25 and Friday 26 January.

Read more and download the programm on CEMPE's web pages.