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Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab: Learning to be a Cultural Change Agent

Those studying Cultural and Music Management at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich learn how to establish a creative enterprise in the “Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab.” The institute director, Prof. Maurice Lausberg, shared some more information with us about the Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab.

What is the Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab?

During the second and third semester, students in the MA program “Cultural and Music Management” at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich work together in small teams to develop a cultural business model. The process comprises the initial artistic vision, market and competition analysis, as well as a complete business plan. This can be anything from establishing a vocal agency to founding a record label or launching a new festival. Support is provided in the form of regular coaching sessions with lecturers from the degree program, and as workshops with outside guest speakers from culture and industry on topics such as design thinking, online marketing and pitch presentation. At the end of the first half of the CEL, all of the ideas, research results and strategies are presented and discussed in a full assembly: based on the work performed in the first semester and the results from the first assembly, the students then refine, develop and complete their business plans during the second semester.

At the end of the Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab program, a large investor presentation is held where the business plans are presented and evaluated by experienced entrepreneurs, investors and cultural professionals. The students immediately receive valuable feedback on their presentations, as well as concrete recommendations and comments regarding the ideas and strategies they developed.

Do you think there is a kind of reservation between cultural professionals and entrepreneurship?

There are different areas of emphasis within the cultural and creative sectors: generally speaking, a large number of small and microenterprises is characteristic of the cultural and creative industries. Musicians and performing artists in particular often act as self-employed “masters of survival.” In these cases, entrepreneurship is limited to the production, marketing and arrangement of the professional’s own skills or self. You also have entrepreneurs who are motivated by their ideals in the nonprofit sector, or also cultural entrepreneurs who establish companies with a cultural focus and would also like to make them profitable on the market. Some examples are record labels and music publishers, concert and festival organizers, talent agencies or musical producers.

The reservation between cultural professionals and entrepreneurship does not just come from the professionals, but is also rooted in the market environment: the market is often too small or offers very little growth, business models are often not scalable or profitable and the marketing costs are often too high in relation to the generated sales. The ability to recognize and seize an opportunity to then be successful as an entrepreneur requires skill, courage and dedication. Fortunately, there are cultural entrepreneurs who discover these kinds of opportunities and come together with artists to found ventures such as festivals, orchestras, labels, apps, crowdfunding platforms, music instruments and many other activities.

Prof. Maurice Lausberg (photo: Wilfried Hösl)
Prof. Maurice Lausberg (photo: Wilfried Hösl)

To be successful as an entrepreneur, a cultural professional needs to…

be completely on board with the idea (doubts will surface soon enough), have a strong will and be resilient (every startup goes through serious crises), and also have sufficient experience in the industry, a high degree of commitment, as well as a pronounced ability to communicate and sell their idea (you have to be able to sell your idea if you want to win over customers, partners, supporters and investors).

What is the biggest mistake a startup can make?

Investing too much time and energy in developing a product before analyzing and testing the actual market situation.

The trend of the year is…

Artificial intelligence.

What makes Munich special?  

First of all, Munich is an important metropolitan area for the cultural and creative industries (the sector ranks third based on the local labor force figures) and is also one of Europe’s creative hubs, as was demonstrated by the report from the Office of Cultural Industries Research. The large number and high quality of cultural institutions in Munich is also of great value for cultural activities. This encourages the founding of concert promoters, talent agencies, PR agencies and further service providers for cultural institutions in the local area. The construction of a new concert hall also demonstrates that culture in the city is seen and appreciated as a central topic in politics and industry and that further cultural growth is possible. Excellent universities, diverse founding initiatives, and concentrated expertise in a variety of fields make Munich an important location for young startup teams.

Has a startup been founded from the Cultural Entrepreneurship Lab that you find particularly intriguing?

In late 2016, a graduate of the first class from the Master program “Cultural and Music Management,” Jonas Rothe, founded a virtual reality company. The TimeRide GmbH utilizes the latest technology to bring the past to life and make it accessible to a broad audience. The offer is unique worldwide, and the first virtual journey through time will be offered in Cologne in just a few months.