Joel A. Katz Music & Entertainment Business Program and the 'Business of Entertainment'

MEBUS Executive in Residence Leads Panel on Music Industry

KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 9, 2019) — More than a dozen entertainment industry insiders gathered this week in Atlanta to discuss the growing importance of film, television, music, and videogame production on the state’s economy. Among the guests was Bryan Calhoun, a director at Pandora Media and the new executive in residence for the Joel A. Katz Music & Entertainment Business Program (MEBUS) at Kennesaw State University - a nationally recognized entertainment business program.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle hosted the event, titled Business of Entertainment, on Dec. 5 at Atlanta’s historic Variety Playhouse concert venue. Featuring a panel of entertainers, producers, marketing executives, and a host of other professionals with ties to entertainment, the event provided a snapshot of Georgia’s current role in the industry as well as a glimpse into its future.

Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program Business of Entertainment
MEBUS executive in residence Bryan Calhoun (right), artist in residence John Driskell Hopkins (left), and Dee Dee Murray

“Our goal was to bring these great minds together to discuss the true economic impact of entertainment, and discuss how we can collaborate to continue to create a sustainable source of economic growth, jobs, and revenue” says Keith Perissi, director of Kennesaw State’s MEBUS program, who was one of the event’s chief organizers.

Housed within the Michael J. Coles College of Business, MEBUS is a 24-credit certificate program with courses in music and entertainment business, marketing, management, audio/video production, communication, and entrepreneurship.

Business of Entertainment included five panel discussions on topics ranging from Georgia’s entertainment industry tax credit and the state’s increasing popularity among videogame developers to the changing role of digital technology in content distribution.

One panel, “Music’s Economic Impact on Georgia: Past, Present and Future,” was moderated by Bryan Calhoun, the MEBUS program’s new executive in residence, who is also the head of digital strategy for Blueprint Group/Maverick and the director of artist marketing and industry relations for Pandora Media.

Bryan Calhoun, MEBUS executive in residence
MEBUS executive in residence Bryan Calhoun
Calhoun has more than 25 years of experience in the music business. After working for Relativity Records and Warlock Records in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he opened Label Management Systems, a consulting firm for independent record labels. He later became Vice President of New Media and External Affairs for SoundExchange, a nonprofit that distributes digital performance royalties. In 2007, Calhoun created the Music Business Toolbox, a collection of print and electronic resources that help new musicians successfully manage their careers. In his current role at Blueprint Group/Maverick, Calhoun has developed digital strategies for artists like Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, T.I., and the Roots.

John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band
John Driskell Hopkins of the Zac Brown Band
During his panel, Calhoun spoke with Dee Dee Murray, owner of Murray Media Music Production Partners, and with John Driskell Hopkins, MEBUS artist in residence and founding member of the Zac Brown Band. He asked about their choices to work in Atlanta rather than in cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville.

“So that’s definitely one of the things I want to push them on,” Calhoun said in an article published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Is it the business environment, the creative environment? What are the significant things that have tied them here?”

Calhoun has been working with the Kennesaw State MEBUS program as executive in residence since August 2019. He assists students with artist marketing projects using his Music Business Toolbox to solve challenges that marketers face in the modern digital music economy. Perissi says the MEBUS students have benefitted immensely from Calhoun’s experience.

“Bryan shares my love of the entertainment business, creating meaningful business engagement, and education the next generation of entertainment industry professionals,” he says.

Perissi, Calhoun, and Hopkins were not the only panelists at Business of Entertainment with a connection to Kennesaw State. Dr. Jon Preston, dean of the College of Computing and Software Engineering, moderated the session “Atlanta as an eGames Destination,” which looked at Georgia’s place in the $48 billion videogame industry.

Preston is currently partnering with MEBUS on a new KSU Disney Interactive Entertainment Study Program for summer 2020. The initiative will see students in the Computer Game Design and Development Program traveling with their peers in the MEBUS program to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where they will learn about traditional and interactive media production from Disney Imagineers.

Being involved in events like Business of Entertainment provides the MEBUS program with a platform to highlight the innovative programs that keep their students on the leading edge of the entertainment industry, while also demonstrating to production companies the value that Georgia’s current and future workforce brings to their projects.

Joel A. Katz Music and Business Entertainment Program Business of Entertainment

“My goal with this event – and of the MEBUS program itself – is to show that our state needs to focus on all areas of digital entertainment,” he says. “The more the disciplines of film, music, videogames, and digital entertainment collaborate, the more all will prosper. ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’”