S3E major gives window into music, entertainment industry


The Paul L. Foster Business Building houses the Curb Learning Lab, where students have access to technology used in the music business and beyond.

Abby Roper | Photographer

By Emma Weidmann | Arts and Life Editor

Baylor’s music and entertainment major was scrapped in 2014 after the music industry tanked a year prior. But this semester, Baylor’s Sales Strategy in Sports and Entertainment major has brought the music and entertainment focus back.

Dr. Kirk Wakefield, executive director of the Center for Sales Strategy in Sports and Entertainment, said this new, old addition has been met with lots of student interest.

“At our orientation meeting we had in the fall for S3, … I asked out of the 80 or so that were there, ‘How many of y’all would also be interested in considering a career in music and entertainment?’” Wakefield said. “Every hand went up.”

Wakefield said the major is appealing because sports and music tend to be the things many students — and Americans at large — enjoy the most.

“If you think about the two things you’re most passionate about, most people, it’s going to be something in music and entertainment,” Wakefield said. “Who doesn’t listen to music? Only strange people. So music, entertainment or sports — those are the two biggest pastimes we have in America. So I think it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

Taylor Ashcraft, who graduated from Baylor in 2011, now works as the director of commercial sync licensing with Columbia Records, where she pitches songs put out by Columbia Records to be used in commercials and brand partnerships. Ashcraft was a music and entertainment marketing major before the program ended.

Ashcraft said the lessons in negotiation and insights into the music industry that the program gave her showed her what aspect of the music industry she wanted to work in and gave her the tools to get there.

“I told all of the students in the S3 major that they should take a negotiating class, because that’s something that you’re going to do in any job,” Ashcraft said. “Even if you’re not in a sales role or a role where you’re negotiating contracts, you’re still going to be negotiating the terms of your employment and your salary, so I think [that class] was super helpful.”

During a minimester at Belmont University in Nashville, Ashcraft and other Baylor students were shown around “music city,” meeting with performing rights organizations, record labels, music engineers, publishers and more. Ashcraft said she finished the minimester knowing she wanted to work with Columbia Records.

“Any opportunity you have, get your foot in the door,” Ashcraft said. “I knew that I wanted to intern at Columbia Records or at Spotify, so when Dr. Wakefield said that there was an internship opportunity at Sony, I jumped on it.”

Wakefield said placing students in internships and jobs is a big priority for the program. Its mission has been to follow up with the 160 graduates of the original music and entertainment major and help provide contacts to current students.

“Where it comes to, though, is can we provide internships and career opportunities in those fields?” Wakefield said. “And that’s the most critical. … We’ve never been about just making a big program that no one gets to go work in that field.”

Having worked in the industry for 12 years now, Ashcraft said helping artists break a song and gain recognition is an amazing feeling.

“My favorite part of my job is definitely just getting to work with — even if in a small way — so many amazing artists and work in a capacity where we can help make them money,” Ashcraft said. “And hopefully, if we get their song and a big commercial, help them help the song get a little bit of recognition or … more streams.”

Ashcraft said the artists that come through Columbia Records’ Manhattan, N.Y., office have made lasting impressions on her.

“Céline Dion came to our office, and she was really, really, really fun,” Ashcraft said. “She was making up songs and singing them to us off the top of her head, and she was so much fun and really sweet.”

Bruce Springsteen is another artist whose sense of humor has brightened a day at the office.

“I said, ‘I’m not from Jersey. I’m from Texas,’” Ashcraft said. “And he said, ‘That’s OK. We can still be friends.’”

It was years after Ashcraft’s internship at Columbia Records in summer 2010 before she returned to the label in her current position. Having lived in New York City that summer with her college roommates, Ashcraft said she fell in love with the city and moved back the day after her graduation from Baylor.

In 2018, after working for a British music company called Audio Network since graduation, Ashcraft met her current boss, SVP of brand partnerships in commercial licensing at Columbia Records, through a Women in Sync networking event.

Ashcraft said she couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of networking, both post-grad and while at Baylor.

“Don’t be scared to speak to people,” Ashcraft said. “Don’t be scared to go to informational interviews. South by Southwest volunteering, literally every year, every spring break, instead of going on a spring break trip with my friends — that’s how I made a lot of contacts, and it’s something I was able to do in Texas. I didn’t have to move to New York to do that.”

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