Music Business Program off to a ‘mind blowing’ start

icons: microphone, guitar, light bulb, increasing graph in a hand

Preparing students for industry careers – on or off stage

musicians perform on stage, silhouetted by stage lights

The first course in Colorado State University’s new music business program in the College of Business has brought down the house. An impressive set list of award-winning recording artists and top music execs has provided students a rare glimpse into the industry, complimenting an innovative curriculum envisioned by concert promoter and artist manager Chuck Morris.

Taylor Shae, from Longmont, Colorado, is one of the 47 students in Morris’ class, which is open to all students across the university — a novel interdisciplinary approach devised by Morris, not seen at other universities.

A senior studying journalism and media communications, Shae is also an aspiring singer-songwriter who has already released four independent albums.

“Learning from legendary promoter and manager Chuck Morris, as well as the amazing guests he brings in, is just absolutely mind-blowing.”

– Taylor Shae, ’21, Journalism & Media Communications

Taylor Shae poses with a guitar
Taylor Shae aims to raise awareness about large-scale environmental issues, such as climate change, through her music.

“Starting out as an independent musician, I never really had anyone to tell me how to book shows, develop myself as an artist, get my name out there, or how to build relationships in the music industry,” Shae said. “It’s an opportunity I would have never been able to have otherwise.”

Morris designed the program to foster the next generation of leaders in the music business. He’s sharing wisdom from a 48-year career in the industry that culminated in his role as CEO of AEG Rocky Mountains, which typically produces nearly 1,000 concerts a year. He is also using his extensive network of connections to put students in touch with professionals who can help them better understand the nuts and bolts of the business, ranging from booking shows to getting sponsorships.

All three courses in the College of Business’s Music Business program are now available for Spring 2021 enrollment.

  • BUS380A2 – Introduction to the Music Business
  • BUS380A3 – Creating Value in the Music Industry
  • BUS380A4 – Principles of Music Marketing

Fall Semester Guest Speakers

Musician GRiZ sings on stage with a saxophone around his neck

GRiZ

DJ, songwriter, and electronic producer

A portrait of Sarah Trahern cut out on a purple background

Sarah Trahern

CEO of the Country Music Association, Billboard Power 100

Michael Franti plays guitar on stage

Michael Franti

Award-winning musician and activist

Jay Marciano sitting in an industrial-chic office

Jay Marciano

Chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, Billboard Power 100

Mike Gordon sits in a chair with a guitar in an empty room with wood floors and wood walls

Mike Gordon

Founding member of Phish

A portrait of Paul Tollett cut out on a light blue background

Paul Tollett

Co-founder of Coachella & President or Goldenvoice Productions, Billboard Power 100

Morris has been impressed with the professionalism and dedication the students bring to the classroom. He noted that some want to be in the music business, while others are interested in law or just have a sincere appreciation for music.

Chuck at his 2018 induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame
Chuck Morris at his 2018 induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

“When I was a student in 1843, we were pretty wild in class,” Morris said. “The students in my class are very serious and attentive. It’s a different generation, probably a better one than mine when I was younger.”

If there’s one thing that Morris hopes students take from his class, it’s just how difficult it is to make it in the music business.

“I was lucky,” he said. “I never took a business class in my life. I sort of winged it when I first started, but I loved music. That was my passion, and you better have that if you want to make it.”

Shae, whose music has a bluesy-Americana vibe, exudes that passion. She said Morris’s class has taught her about the intricacies of record deals as well as what managers look for in an artist.

“One important thing I’ve learned so far is that one key to being successful in the music industry is all about constantly evolving and coming up with creative ideas and being willing to adapt at any time,” she said.

“This rings especially true now during the pandemic, where festivals, concerts, and other large-scale live music events have almost completely been put on hold for the unforeseeable future.”

 

Fulfilling a lifelong dream

As the son of a teacher and principal in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, education has been the subtle bassline of Morris’ life, having graduated high school at 16 and earned his bachelor’s degree at 20.

Before getting into the music industry, Morris was a 20-year-old in 1965, taking a train from New York to Colorado to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Boulder in political science.

“I was a (teaching assistant), and I loved it,” Morris said. “I’ve always loved teaching, and I’ve always wanted to teach at a university.”

Two years into his program at CU, Morris dropped out and took a job at the Sink on the Hill in Boulder, booking local acts that would one day get national attention such as Tommy Bolin and Flash Cadillac. That decision set his career down a new path that eventually led him to become CEO of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, promoting some of the region’s biggest concerts.

Growing the program

With portions of the music industry on pause, Morris said it has opened the opportunity for a variety of guest speakers to share their insights with his students.

In addition to bringing in guests, Morris provides lectures on the various topics based on his experiences. He also teaches the class with Bart Dahl, an instructor who also has music industry experience.

Veteran music promotor Chuck Morris shows off his tattoo in his Introduction to Music Business class at Colorado State University, November 5, 2020.
A classroom at
Chuck Morris moderates questions with music industry standouts Henry Root, Mike Luba and Ben Lovett in his Introduction to Music Business class.

As of now, there is one class in the music business program, with plans for two additional classes in Spring 2021.

One is set to focus on music marketing, which will be taught by Kellie Donahoe, co-director of marketing at AEG Presents. The other class will explore ancillary income in the music business, examining sponsorships, tickets and other areas.

Morris said the goal is to continue adding classes to grow the program so students can earn a certificate and one day a degree.

At CSU, Morris has found a warm welcome for his immersive approach to education.

“The university has been absolutely great in supporting the program 100%,” he said. “It really has been a great partnership. I’ve been having the time of my life, and we’re just getting started.”