When Business Meets Art: Majoring in the Business Side of Creativity, with CIT Consultant Heather McCowen

Written by Heather V McCowen, PhD

College Consultant, College Inside Track

Dec 21, 2023

Much attention is paid to the artists on stage, in front of the microphone, or standing next to their masterpieces. However, none of the creativity you see can happen without the support of the business creatives behind the scenes. There are many paths to a career in the creative industry, and finding a major where you can apply your business skills to the arts is becoming more and more common. Long gone is the myth of the starving artist. 

Artists and creatives are resilient and better able to adapt to a changing world and economy. We have seen this play out in recent years with the global pandemic. In response to this pandemic, creative solutions continue to play resilient and adaptive roles in the global economic recovery.  The creative economy contributes 6.1% to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to the United Nations (UN), it was estimated that the creative economy generates annual revenues of over $2 trillion, accounting for nearly 50 million jobs worldwide. 

In a recent report by Bloomberg, “the creative economy employed nearly 30 million people worldwide and generated $2.25 trillion in revenue—or 3 percent of the world’s GDP… This is substantially more than global telecommunications ($1.57 trillion) and greater than the GDP of India, Russia, or Canada.” It takes 3500 people to make 1 Marvel movie. And it takes creatives who understand the business world to make it all happen. Imagine a career in the arts with the creative control to make things happen and lift up other artists. If this sounds like you, perhaps a career in Arts Administration/Creative Business is your path.

There are basically two routes you can take – Major in Arts Administration (also called Creative Producing, Business for Creatives, or some variation). This path will teach you business skills through the lens of being a creative. Many times, this is tied to a specific arts genre. For example, Chapman University in Orange, CA, has a Creative Producing Major through their Dodge Film School. It teaches you the business behind the film industry and gives you the finance, marketing, and business skills to be in that part of the film Industry.

Another example is the Business of Creative Enterprises major at Emerson College in Boston, MA. Emerson is known for its robust theatre program and describes it as a program for creatives with a prowess for business and a passion for the arts and communication. Check out Ringling College of Art & Design’s  Business of Art And Design major for a different angle related to the Visual Art world. In this degree, “creativity meets business management in this BA Program.” Are you looking for a traditional big college experience? Check out the BS in Arts Management at Indiana University Bloomington.

These degrees aren’t limited to the US. We’re seeing programs all over the world. The Berlin Univ. of Applied Sciences offers a 3.5 year degree, taught in English in Creative Industries Management. This degree adapts traditional event planning and time management concepts to the world of cultural and creative industries. Toronto Metropolitan University’s Creative Industries – BA program prepares students for management, leadership, and entrepreneurship roles in communication, design, media, entertainment, arts, and culture. The Canadian University of Dubai, the #1 University in Dubai (according to international school ranker QS), offers a truly unique program in Creative Industries, having just launched in Fall 2022. 

The second way is to major in business and minor in a creative field. You’ll learn business skills and concepts with all the other business majors, and you can then apply them in any field you want. This is the most flexible path you’ll take if you don’t find the arts management major in a school you otherwise love. One innovative example is the minor in Arts Management and the minor in Arts Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, TX. These minors grew out of the successful combined MBA/MA program in arts administration, a graduate degree that was an early pioneer in the field. 

THE SMU Program is unusual; what is more typical is a business major combined with an arts minor. For example, the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon is known as a top business school. The University of Oregon also has a robust Music program in its School of Music and Dance. They have several options to minor in music that you can combine with your Business degree at Lundquist. The minor doesn’t require pre-screenings or auditions. Just declare the minor once you’re a student at the University of Oregon and work with your advisor to take the required lessons and classes. 

This is true for other arts disciplines. If this is the path you’ll take, then the list building will include all the things you usually look for in a great business school, with the ability to minor in a creative field. Look for universities with a strong business program and a film school (or music school, or theatre school, etc). Head over to the Theatre School’s website and see if they offer a minor in theatre. Odds are they do, and it’s an easy way to participate in the arts and gain valuable business skills to make the creative magic happen.

One final thought – the skills that help you excel in the arts – collaboration, discipline, creativity, and non-traditional thinking – are the skills that help you excel in business. Many terrific examples exist of students taking their creative skills and becoming standouts in their fields even if they aren’t playing their violin. A career in creative business could be an excellent way to showcase your artistic skills in a new and exciting way.