With Atlanta a growing player in the music and entertainment world, students at now have the opportunity to study the business side of the industry.
At the start of this semester, the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program launched with its first class of about 100 students.
The new certificate program, headed by Director Bruce Burch and endowed by Atlanta-based entertainment lawyer Joel Katz in June 2010, plans to offer students insight and experience into what is often viewed as a tough industry to break into.
However, the program may have an edge considering the hefty resumes and industry connections of both Burch and Katz.
Katz serves as chair of the Global Media & Entertainment Practice of Greenberg Traurig LLP and represents some of the world's premier entertainers, producers and record companies. His first client was James Brown, and since then, his practice has grown to include entertainers such as Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor, Brooks & Dunn and the late Michael Jackson and his estate.
Burch worked as a hit songwriter, operated his own publishing companies and served as an artist manager over the course of his career.
He joined KSU in 2010 to found the program, leaving the music business program he headed at the University of Georgia. He said the program is especially relevant with Atlanta being one of the nation's top entertainment cities, perhaps behind only New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.
Entertainment is a broad industry, said Burch. Students will be able to take what they learn in class, combine it with practical internship opportunities and other coursework, and from there, build their own focus on a more specific course of study.
"Twenty-five percent happens in class, and 75 percent happens outside of class," said Burch.
"We're bringing in a lot of people from the industry," he said, in regards to class speakers and internship opportunities.
Burch also stressed the importance of human connections. He recalls meeting country artist Reba McEntire before her rise to fame when he worked as a desk clerk in Nashville.
"This redhead walked in. She didn't look like your typical country artist. Boy, I hope she gets in," he said he remembers thinking.
Years later, he would meet her again, this time when he was a waiter at Houston's Restaurant.
Burch would go on to write several hits for McEntire, including the two number one singles “Rumor Has It” and “It’s Your Call.”
"Somebody in this class, you'll be working with 30 years down the road," he tells his students. He encourages them to pursue their passions.
"It's a young person's business," said Burch. "It's always been a tough business, but to me, starting now, there's a lot more ways to break into the industry."
"We're still by far the number one exporter of entertainment in the world," he said. "It's the one thing we do great in America."