Laura Farruggio is a woman on a mission. That mission is to make music business a major.
Students can currently study the field through the Individualized Major Program at IU, a program designed for people determined to choose the precise flavor of their degree. These students can choose their own curriculum with the help of at least one sponsor.
And more and more these days, they are choosing music business.
The music business major has experienced a surge in popularity in the past few years and is the one of the most popular majors in the program, said IMP Director Ray Hedin.
Senior Eric "Ricky" Marcus said there were only a few other music business majors when he joined the program. Now, the IMP Web site lists 13 students involved in this major.
Farruggio said she noticed the increasing popularity of this major at least a year and a half ago. That was when she started her project toward making music business its own major with a set curriculum at IU.
When she used to make phone calls as part of her past job at the School of Music to prospective students, she heard the same responses again and again.
"I made countless calls to prospective students that would say, 'Well, I am a percussion major, but I am really interested in music business. Do you also have that major?'" she said. "And every time I would have to say, 'We don't offer a music business program'. Click ... the student wasn't interested in IU anymore."
She said IU is losing students because it lacks this major.
"I believe we lost a lot of prospective (students) and students who are already at IU who would have considered switching to music business if we had a major here."
Farruggio said she thinks having music business as a major would be an obvious decision in a university that has attracted many students with its reputable music and business schools.
"But where do you put it?" she said.
This question is the major hang up in her quest to standardize the music business major at IU with courses, faculty and requirements. All IMP students must complete a project before they are handed their degree. This was her project as an IMP student at IU -- she presented a program for music business to the IMP committee.
Many other schools already have music business programs. Along the way, she said more than 100 professors have given her advice on the project.
Music business misconceptions
Monika Herzig was one of these professors. Herzig said more students are gravitating toward this field because of its utility in the music industry post-degrees.
These days, she said, the person giving the paycheck expects more immediate results, more market appeal than talent, rather than the long process of musical development record labels used to allow for.
And with the Internet creating an explosion of exposure for independent artists, getting signed over the rest of the musicians in the Tower of Babble has become that much harder, she said.
"If you want to be a performer, these days you have to know how to create your own career," Herzig said. "There's nobody out there anymore looking for the next star and searching for them ... every time I get to talk to (these people) they all say the same thing. They look for people who create a buzz ... who just stick out of the crowd."
Herzig created and teaches a class titled "Introduction to the Music Business." This semester, she imposed 20-person limit on the class, but she said she let in another 10 people because of the huge demand for the course. Of these, she said about five are music business majors. Only about a third or a quarter of the class are musicians, she said, and of these they are mostly aspiring songwriters not enrolled in the music school.
Herzig said there are a lot of misconceptions about music business.
"I think there's still a lot of perception out there about the music business being the star struck kind of thing," she said. "Where you start a record label or you sign the next big Elvis."
"This is not how it works," Herzig said. "I mean 99 percent of the time you are struggling along, trying to make a living, trying to get somewhere ... and (even when) it really works it's still not this star glamorous type ... It's very, very hard work, and it's very competitive too. (I want to) put a little of the glamour away and make sure people really know what this is really all about."
Herzig is a jazz pianist who received a Ph. D. from IU and has put out several CDs on her own small label, as well as running a local concert-presenting organization called Jazz from Bloomington. She performs about three nights a week in Indianapolis and tours in the summer.
Herzig has sponsored several music business majors through IMP and her first student will graduate in May.
But among music business majors themselves, the debate continues about whether the field should reach the status of a standard major.
The debate: freedom or set curriculum?
Marcus, a music business student, said he likes the "free spirit" nature of getting to choose his own curriculum that IMP encourages.
"I think it is so popular as an independent major because there is a certain mystique, there's just something about having to create your own major," Marcus said. "About the freedom that makes it more desirable, the ability to make up my own class schedule and things like that."
If it becomes a standardized major, that freedom might be trampled on, he said. John Gockman, another music business major, said it would be "too rigid" if it were standardized.
Many students said they like choosing their own classes.
"I have taken so many amazing courses from many different departments that I wouldn't have been able to if I had a set required curriculum," said music business major Brian Cardillo. "Creeping toward my completion of this major a year from (now), I am seeing how all of these different courses from different academic areas are blending together nicely."
But there are also people like music business major Mitchell Ladd who said he agrees with Farruggio and wants the major to have a standard curriculum.
"At my last meeting with our IMP director (Ray Hedin) I had asked when music business would be a new major and why hadn't it become one already," Ladd said. "He said that nobody in the school really takes initiative when it's brought to their door because it doesn't directly benefit them. People just don't seem to have time for the little guy. I guess, however, that I like the fact I choose the classes I want to take."
Farruggio graduated from IU last December and now works at a local country radio station. But she has not abandoned her quest or "the little guy."
Her project for IMP ended with a "mock" budget, curriculum, faculty and sponsorships. But the real project continues for her. She said both the music and business schools were supportive when she approached them on this issue.
But the question remains.
"Where do you put it?" she said.
-- Contact Arts Editor Joelle Petrus at firstname.lastname@example.org.