Vanderbilt Professor Creates Online Course About Music Industry

Jen Gunderman

Jen Gunderman

A new online open course will give music fans the opportunity to learn from Jen Gunderman, a veteran Nashville musician and Vanderbilt Blair School of Music professor, about the music industry in the United States.

The course, titled Understanding the Music Business: What Is Music Worth?, is offered through the Coursera platform. All course content is free and open to the public. In addition, the on-demand format allows learners to sample any or all of the material, in any order they wish, on their on time schedule.

Drawing from her extensive experience as a recording and touring musician, Gunderman created and produced the course to provide a broad outline of the various segments of the music industry, which have been evolving quickly during the digital age, and to encourage learners to think critically and entrepreneurially about these changes.

“My whole motivation was to offer free information to musicians and music fans, and to spark discussion about the way that music is valued in the digital age,” she said.

With the help of the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning, Gunderman filmed both traditional lectures and 12 on-location segments featuring interviews with educators, the Nashville musicians’ union president, and entrepreneurs including recording studio and club owners, a radio station owner, an artist services company president, a production/tour manager, and a performing rights organization executive.

Additional highlights from the location shoots include a new cylinder recording created on an original 19th-century mechanical (non-electric) Edison machine, and a behind the scenes look at the home studio recording session for the course theme song titled “What’s It Worth?”, which she composed specifically for the project.

Participants will grapple with questions about art and commerce which are both timeless and crucially important today, and will emerge from this course with tools allowing them to make more informed decisions as creators, promoters, and consumers of music.

Gunderman divides her time between teaching, performing, and recording. She is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School Of Music, specializing in American popular music history courses, but she is also an active studio session musician and producer, and she plays keyboards and sings regularly with several groups based in Nashville, most often with Sheryl Crow.


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Craig Shelburne is the General Manager at MusicRow.

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