Henderson ’02 Adds Executive MBA to Musical Credentials

Internationally-renowned jazz musician and record label owner Lauren Henderson ’02 was profiled in the Financial Times in November 2019 after earning her executive MBA from Brown University and the IE Business School. On choosing to pursue a business degree, the full-time jazz singer, with five albums and tours of Europe, South Africa, Mexico, and Russia under her belt, said, “I wanted to be taken seriously and to effectively ask for what I wanted and needed as an artist. I wanted to feel equipped to handle various aspects of my music business. I didn’t want to rely on other people.”

The founder of her own record label, Brontosaurus Records, Henderson knew she needed insight into how business worked if she wanted to retain control over her music and career. The IE Brown executive MBA program in Providence, RI, gave her the experience she needed to be in control of how she is represented as an artist and how much money she makes. Learning the fundamentals of economics, marketing, communications, and business strategy was empowering. “Really going deep into why things appeal to different audiences or having goals and deadlines—looking at things in an organized manner—was very helpful to me,” she said. From analyzing the market and adapting different marketing strategies for different regions, to how she communicates with venues, “I’m already doing things more efficiently. I have a better understanding of what I’m putting out there,” she explained.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits for Henderson of earning an executive MBA has been more personal: she’s now more comfortable balancing business needs and personal relationships. “Before,” she said, “I wanted everyone in my band to make a certain amount of money and stay in a really comfortable hotel, but now, I know that if I can’t provide that I need to come up with another solution, to make sure I’m making money and not losing it.” She is also more confident working with her accountant, expressing what her financial goals and expectations are for the fiscal year.

Through Brontosaurus Records, Henderson hopes to give other artists the confidence to develop their business acumen, too. “I do whatever I can to prepare my artists to be entrepreneurs, as well as to own and develop their intellectual content,” she said. “Some artists are taken advantage of when they can’t express what they need and what their limitations are, but I want them to realize that when you sign a contract you need to be sure you are reading the fine print and what is happening with your work.”

Still, Henderson intends to run her label while performing as much as she can herself, which means balancing her time and focusing on realistic goals. “While I’m still young I think about my retirement, and what I want to do later—I hope to be wheeled out on stage still singing.”
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    • Photo by Cole Wilson for the Financial Times

    • Performing at Blue Note jazz club in New York; photo: Noel Woodford