Culture / Entertainment

Professor Knowles is Set to Teach at the University of Houston — and Megastar Guests Will Follow

Mathew Knowles' New Virtual Course Will Tap Into a Lifetime of Priceless Music Industry Knowledge

BY // 10.13.20

That’s Professor Knowles to you.

Mathew Knowles — father of one name music megastars Beyonce and Solange, and former manager of Destiny’s Child — is headed to the University of Houston to teach a special course. Knowles’ class is called The Music Industry and the Digital Age. So much for being stuck with an old boring professor.

“I want to change the way we do things in the music business,” Knowles says on a Zoom call.

Mathew Knowles comes across as more cerebral — or even professorial — than showy when talking about his new teaching passion project. His business may be in show business, but his demeanor is all boardroom. He makes it clear he is not trying to find the next Destiny’s Child in this class. Instead, he’s looking to help nurture and develop a new smarter generation of music business executives.

Of course, if you do not think that Beyonce and Solange also know business, you just haven’t been paying attention. They are fierce, accomplished businesswomen in every sense, too.

“Unfortunately, we have a very high failure rate (in the music industry),” Knowles says. “. . . Part of the reason we have this much failure is the business acumen of the team around the artists. It’s not their talent. It’s their team.”

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Mathew Knowles never wanted to let his business knowledge hold his daughters — or the other artists he represented — back. So even as he worked on massive deals for Destiny’s Child, he went back to school, starting with Saturday classes at Houston Community College and eventually working up to advanced degrees. Knowles turned himself into a savvy music tycoon with a rare combination of real-life lessons and serious classroom time.

Now, he’s trying to help future music business leaders avoid some of the mistakes he made, learn from his successes and find a little easier path. So who does he anticipate taking his UH course?

“Some people will be managers,” Mathew Knowles says. “Others will be independent record labels. Others will be in marketing. Artists will be part of this that would like to know business side of this.”

Jointly offered by UH’s Arts Leadership program at the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts and the Executive Education program at the C.T. Bauer College of Business, Knowles’ class is a 15-week master course that’s conducted virtually. Of course, celebrity instructors are nothing new in the world of major universities.

James Franco has taught at UCLA. Matthew McConaughey joined the faculty at his beloved University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication. Knowles seems to be taking his course very seriously.

Wearing a simple long sleeve black shirt and black framed glasses, with Carlsbad’s beautiful waterfront playing out behind him on the Zoom, Mathew Knowles talks about the course and the music industry in general with a measured passion.

Unlike many big names who try to rush on and off these type of Zoom sessions with the press, Knowles answers every question. And even encourages more.

He insisted on having a small enough class size (35 students will be allowed to sign up) that he could have some personal virtual interaction with the students. The professional development course is open to anyone who wants to sign up (and pay the $3,000 tuition fee — current UH students and alumni get a special $1,000 rate). The course begins on January 25 at 6 pm.

Knowles’ Guest List?

Knowles is already promising some major guests over the 15 weeks — and his list of contacts puts a plethora of interesting options in play. He will not sugarcoat his dismissal of the idea that overnight success in the music industry is a reality, however. Mathew Knowles knows how much work his daughters — and other truly successful artists — have put in.

“They think they can go from zero to a hero,” Knowles says of the out-of-touch dreamers the music industry often seems to attract. “This is not a microwave industry. I always say there is a price of admission to the music industry.

“It’s about knowledge.”

destiny’s child with mathew knowles
Mathew Knowles with Destiny’s Child.

To Knowles, it’s clear. Smarter artists with smarter teams around them are the ones who stick around. Every detail and branding move matters. Including ones that created some of the most iconic music images of recent times.

“You’ve heard so many people talk about how when they have a fan — women — and their hair’s flowing, ‘Oh like Beyonce,’ ” Knowles says of the now common music video trick. “Well, that wasn’t an accident. We had to work on it.”

And you thought Beyonce’s hair just happened. Professor Knowles knows better. Pull up a chair — and get some real music knowledge.

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