Challenge to Change | International musician re-tunes as music industry player

Terry Chen is used to getting applause playing to massive audiences around the world. But with a UBC Bachelor + Master of Management Dual Degree he’s now got a foothold in the industry at Spotify.


Already a hot ticket on the global touring and recording scene, artist Terry Chen still felt he needed something more to secure his long-term success in the business.

While his Bachelor of Music at UBC was helping him satisfy his creative goals, he was looking for ways to ensure he would land a career after graduation. “As much as I enjoy performing, I knew I didn’t want to be touring and be on the road my whole life,” said Chen. He wanted a way to enter music industry at an executive level or to pursue his dream of running his own recording studio.

So after two years of his music degree in piano performance, Chen joined the UBC Bachelor + Master of Management Dual Degree (B+MM) program, which gave him the chance to complete a graduate business degree from UBC Sauder's Robert H. Lee Graduate School while pursuing his passion for music.

“I like that I can combine my BMus with my Master of Management so that I’m learning how business can be relevant to my music experience and also fast-track me into the job market,” says Chen, who graduates next year.


Classically trained in piano from the age of five, Chen is now a versatile artist in demand, touring and recording as a session musician with award-winning acts like Lindsay Ell and Little Big Town.

A couple of years ago he found himself on the road non-stop, playing at major festivals and gigs around the world. “It was a lot of fun,” recalls Chen, “but one night I realized – this is it – I’ve achieved what I’ve always wanted to do as a performer. Now what?”

Chen saw that the B+MM could open a range of new possibilities and relished the chance to connect with classmates from different faculties across campus.

“When I started learning more about the program, I really liked the idea of becoming a part of this group of highly motivated students from a wide range of backgrounds from Science to Economics, to Kinesiology and Forestry, all seeking to get a leg up in completely different fields.”

Terry Chen quote


Right off the bat, Chen appreciated the focus on teamwork in his business classes. “An unexpected bonus of this program for me, is that every day I’m strengthening soft skills like communication, networking and time management.”

“I find myself learning a lot from my classmates., They bring a wealth of knowledge and ideas from different perspectives to our group projects.”

Chen is also finding that the creativity that drives his success in music is helping him in UBC Sauder classes where he can harness his talent to solve business problems.

“A big part of finding business solutions is being open to an array of possibilities, and improvising and iterating to find the right strategy,” said Chen. “It’s a creative process and lends itself well to people who have the impulse.”

He also says he appreciates how his professors get to know everyone on an individual basis. “For a lot of university students, you’re just a face in a big crowd, but in this program, the UBC Sauder instructors really focus on every student.”


Since starting the program, Chen is already discovering that his business training is giving him a competitive edge, recently landing a role at leading music streaming service, Spotify.

“Thanks to the connections I’ve made through UBC Sauder, I’ve taken on a position as Student Brand Manager with Spotify. Since they are relatively new to Canada, despite being the top-grossing iPhone app in the UK, my job is to help them break into the student market and bring the music service to as many people as possible.”

Down the road, Chen says he would absolutely love to take on a permanent role with the company.

“I’m still vested in opening up a music studio one day and managing other artists, but right now I’m really excited to keep building my business skills and applying them to the evolving music tech arena with Spotify.”