Berklee Launches Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship

By 
Nick Balkin
January 29, 2014
Panos Panay

Berklee College of Music announced the launch of the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE). Alumnus and Sonicbids founder Panos Panay has been named as its founding managing director. The institute will offer an academic curriculum, research projects, online courses, and an incubation environment to encourage new startups within the music space. Berklee ICE will inspire innovation through outreach to other Boston-area universities, such as MIT, Harvard, or Babson in order to offer Berklee students the unique chance to conduct joint research projects under the umbrella of the new institute. Plans are underway to begin introductory lectures in this spring, leading to the institute’s full launch in the fall. 

“We’re thrilled to appoint Panos to lead this new initiative at Berklee that will give rise to new ideas, thinking, and startups in the music industry,” said Berklee president Roger H. Brown, himself a successful entrepreneur. "Contemporary artists by necessity function as entrepreneurs and the music industry is ripe for new ventures that support both the creativity and compensation of musicians. Panos will bring energy and imagination to the education of these aspiring artists and innovators."

The institute will foster entrepreneurialism within the Berklee community and prepare graduates to be professionals at the intersection of creativity, technology, and business. Through a blend of academic backgrounds, Berklee ICE will leverage Boston’s research ecosystem to unearth new opportunities within the music industry related to audience engagement on social media, and identifying emerging artist trends or new channels of music discovery. Additionally, it will prepare students to self-manage and promote their careers as performers, writers, or producers.

“Tomorrow’s leaders need a broad set of skills to bring their ideas to fruition. It’s impossible today to separate technology from the experience of creating or consuming music," said Ken Zolot, senior lecturer and head of The Founder’s Journey for aspiring entrepreneurs at MIT School of Engineering. Zolot serves on the Berklee ICE steering committee. "This presents an opportunity to combine MIT’s engineering forte with the musical expertise of Berklee to foster new solutions and encourage diversity of thought.”

According to Panay, “Today, as creativity, business, and technology converge, entrepreneurs need to increasingly think like artists, and artists need to cultivate their instincts as entrepreneurs. Berklee is in a unique position to build on its institutional excellence in developing creativity to produce a new crop of successful graduates and leaders who are ready to take advantage of the opportunities presented within the new music industry.” Panay, a native of Cyprus, holds a music business/management degree from Berklee and is an active member of the Boston startup community, serving on a number of boards and actively mentoring young entrepreneurs around the world. 

Bill Kaiser, a Berklee trustee, Greylock Partner, and member of the Berklee ICE steering committee, pointed out that the institute can set an example for other academic institutions. “Every major college and university needs to embrace entrepreneurship throughout the core of their institution and curriculum,” he said. “As the leader in contemporary music education, Berklee is embracing a unique opportunity to foster innovation by fusing together creativity, technology, and fundamentally new approaches to the music business. We hope to help our students as they become the new generation of disruptive thinkers, leaders, and entrepreneurs." Greylock Partners is an early investor in innovative brands such as Facebook, Pandora, Airbnb, and LinkedIn. 

Building on a Record of Entrepreneurship

Berklee ICE will build on the college’s impressive track record of launching alumni who are successful in music entrepreneurship. Panay is the founder and, until November 2013, CEO of Sonicbids, the leading platform for bands to book gigs and market themselves online; CD Baby, an online music store for independent musicians, was founded by alumnus Derek Sivers; PledgeMusic, a direct-to-fan music platform, was launched by Benji Rogers and Jayce Varden; and Round Hill Music, a creative rights management firm, was founded by Josh Gruss, with support from fellow alumni Michael Lau and Mallory Zumbach. In addition, many Berklee performers are incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship into their own careers. Pop artist Bleu has been a pioneer of crowdfunding his projects, and at one time held the record for Kickstarter Music campaigns, earning a nearly unbelievable 496 percent of his goal, to produce the album Four.

In addition to Kaiser, Berklee ICE will draw on the support and experience of other successful Berklee trustees, entrepreneurs, and academics including Peter Gotcher, successful entrepreneur, investor, chairman of Dolby, and cofounder of Topspin and DigiDesign; Mike Dreese, Newbury Comics CEO; and Ken Zolot, senior lecturer at MIT School of Engineering. 

Lyor Cohen, who recently announced the launch of his new Google-backed label 300 added, “Digital technology is allowing artists to have greater control over their careers, while also giving entrepreneurs like Panos the opportunity to create new platforms. Berklee ICE’s program will help to drive the industry’s long-term evolution by enabling some of the world’s most creative, innovative thinkers to apply their talents within the music industry."