Embracing Change: Austin Luke’s BDIC Major in Arts Management

Campus student Austin Luke (UMass ‘19) is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration in Arts Management. Luke charted a path to prepare himself for a career in Music Business by integrating Arts Extension Service (AES) classes with courses in psychology and marketing. His story can help other campus students interested in designing a BDIC major focused on Arts Management.

During my time as a BDIC student, my trajectory and interests have altered and morphed into goals that I wouldn’t have imagined when I first applied. I’ve grown as an individual and my major has grown parallel with me over the last two and a half years. As a Sophomore, I declared as a Music Business major, stemming from for my passion for the art form since my early days of high school. Music was my escapism to the stresses of life and quickly turned into a hobby, writing lyrics and learning digital audio workshops. Ultimately, my end goal out of college was to work for a record label, targeting giants like Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment. At the time, I was also an Accounting major. However, a year later, I discovered I had little interest in Accounting and switched to Marketing, a major I found more enjoyable.

AES classes and the faculty have provided me influential experiences and opportunities that guided my path towards my current BDIC major, Arts Management. The five classes I’ve taken through AES have broadened my understanding of the arts in general and introduced me to other career paths besides music. I’ve become interested and had the pleasure to work with various non-profit organizations through the Arts Marketing, Arts Fundraising, and Arts Programming classes offered through AES.

The Arts Extension courses were integral in shaping my major, but I also combined others departments to forge my Arts Management degree. I opted to take Social Psychology and Developmental Psychology, both of which aided in my understanding of human interactions and influences. Social Psychology was instrumental in grasping why people behaved in certain social settings, which could then be applied to a business environment.

I wanted to intertwine Marketing courses into my BDIC concentration, as they were imperative in my progression as a marketer and business professional. Courses such as Product Strategy, Consumer Behavior, and Direct Marketing all have relevance towards the arts in terms of funding, soliciting, and building awareness to an organization. Consumer Behavior explains the reasoning behind an individual’s purchases and spending, whether that be due to a market or psychological factor. Understanding one’s customer base and audience are important to any organization, such as motivational factors like pricing, competitors, tastes, and demographics.

This can relate to Arts Management and creating a product strategy plan to increase membership subscriptions, ticket sales, and merchandise sold. Direct Marketing is focused on utilizing direct mail, email, digital advertising platforms and analytics to help reach audiences and develop customer loyalty. In relation to the arts, organizations can use direct mail and email campaigns to promote performances, engage with their target demographic, and distribute research materials such as surveys and questionnaires. The class also provided hands on experience of Google Analytics and Adwords, which was relevant in Arts Marketing with AES instructor Todd Trebour.

The case study for Arts Marketing for the Spring 2018 semester was WAM Theatre, a theater company that serves the Berkshires and focused on women artists and productions that feature the stories of women and girls. For many of the Arts Extension courses, the class would collaborate with established organizations to consult and solve existing problems theorganization is facing. In Arts Marketing, my marketing plan was one of seven students chosen to present to the founder and Artistic Director, Kristen van Ginhoven. My plan focused on a central marketing objective for WAM to increase their first time attendance rates of African Americans and Hispanics in their 30s and 50s by 10% from June 2018 until the beginning of October 2018. I recommended a more cohesive focus on their digital media presence to open the organization up to more visibility and differentiate themselves from competitors. Arts Marketing provided me the opportunity to develop a creative marketing strategy and act as a consultant, challenging me to apply not only what I learned from Professor Trebour, but also my collective knowledge as a Marketing major.

The Arts Extension curriculum has been both enlightening and rewarding. I owe Terre Vandale, the AES Program Coordinator, for connecting me with Heather Cahill, Director of Development at the Springfield Museums, and Aaron Shackelford, the Director of Programming at the UMass Fine Arts Center. In the Arts Fundraising class taught by Professor Vandale, my group and I worked closely with Heather Cahill to formulate a three year fundraising plan with an emphasis on an 18-month campaign that projected a 7% income growth by 2021. The entire experience demonstrated to me that working for a museum would be both a fulfilling and exciting position to explore in the future. During my time in Arts Programming, I worked closely with Shackelford and my classmates to curate a proposal of Food Mood: An Exploration of Food’s Relationship to Justice. From a combination of networking with Aaron Shackelford, developing an in-depth understanding of the FAC, and the perfect timing of a vacancy at the FAC, I was able to secure a job during the school year with the organization.

Arts Management and the process of curating my own major has been a rewarding experience as the end draws near. I’ve learned to embrace change and evolve with the circumstances and opportunities presented. I remember sitting in the BDIC introductory seminar as a Sophomore and having little direction of where I wanted to go with my major. Dee Boyle-Clapp, the Director of AES, introduced me to a new industry colored with opportunities. I personally met with Professor Boyle-Clapp to gain more information about the Arts Extension Service before committing to the program. She later agreed to be my Faculty Sponsor and has watched me grow not only as an arts professional, but also as a person.

I’m very fortunate to have gone through the Arts Extension Service, embracing the rigors of the program with open arms. I had to take the initiative and create an opportunity for myself so that in the future I would be happy and have zero regrets. I forced myself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable by committing to the program. By creating a major that truly interested me I grew as a student and professional. Through my curriculum, I was placed in situations where I had to creatively think as a leader and develop solutions. Many students don’t get the opportunity to have proactive conversations with industry professionals on topics that could affect the decision-making of an organization. The entire AES staff is dedicated and passionate in what they teach. Utilizing my business knowledge developed throughout my college experience and what I know about the arts industry, I hope to enter a management or marketing role for a performing arts center or museum in the future. I know now that Arts Management is not only about becoming a strong arts leader and executive, but also about being an educator.

If you are a campus student interested in designing a BDIC major with a focus in Arts Management, AES staff are happy to help. Contact us at aes@acad.umass.edu or 413-545-2360.

To find out more about the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration visit https://www.umass.edu/bdic/content/bdic-major or contact BDIC here.