Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' Entrepreneurial? This MBA Program Has a Course Based on Michael Jackson

Posted by Liz Dwyer

MJ

There's no shortage of pop culture-inspired college classes—we're still trying to forget the Twilight English class and the fact that James Franco got to design a college class on himself— but here's some good news for Michael Jackson fans. On what would have been Jackson's 54th birthday comes news that this fall the MBA program at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college and university in Atlanta, will be offering a fascinating new course on the business side of the King of Pop.

According to The Grio, the class, titled "Michael Jackson: The Business of Music" will be taught by prominent entertainment attorney James Walker and will explore how Jackson ran his empire, including how he negotiated and ran "tours, record deals, and merchandising," as well as "how he revolutionized legal practices related to entertainment copyrights, trademarks, licenses," and his dealings "in TV, real estate, film and music publishing." Walker, who has taught at several universities, says his "goal is to help students who have an interest or future desire to work in the entertainment industry," and provide students "with a comprehensive understanding of the music industry and the business mechanics involved.

Walker's not alone in believing people should learn from the business that was Michael Jackson. Forbes writer Zack O'Malley Greenburg is currently working on a book, Michael Jackson, Inc., that, like Walker's class, will detail how Jackson made plenty of money over his lifetime, and was a shrewd businessman and investor—hello, Beatles catalog!—but he also spent like crazy, paid out settlements to child molestation accusers, and had well-publicized financial difficulties that left him in significant debt at the time of his death.

That debt is a thing of the past since Jackson's estate has earned nearly half a billion dollars over the past three years, "more than any single living musician earned over the same period of time," says Greenburg. The folks Greenburg's talking to say that much of that success is due to "smart business decisions" that Jackson "made early in his career." Sounds like there are definitely lessons from Jackson's life that every business student would be wise to learn.