Allison Lickley

The business side of a music career prepared Allison Lickley for her MBA program.


Photo: Will Lew

Allison Lickley
Age: 27
School: Desautels Faculty of Management (McGill University)

Allison Lickley began recording music at the age of 16. After graduating with a major in chemistry from Mount Allison University in 2006, she gave herself five years to build a career as a singer-songwriter. Acting as her own manager, there were many moments that made her want to throw her arms up and apply to an MBA program: the show in New York when five people showed up, leaving her $25 in the hole; the 17-hour drive across Canada; having to set up and tear down her own equipment. There were also high points, such as playing for an audience of 10,000 in Bhutan on a month-long tour in the Himalayan kingdom, and being nominated three times at the 2009 Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards. But during that time, one thing remained consistent—Lickley had a head for the business side of the industry. “I hadn’t considered business as career option,” she says, “but once I started working as an entrepreneur, I got really fired up about it.”

After touring her first full-length album across the U.S. in 2010, Lickley returned home to Montreal and decided to give the artist in her a rest. This September, she entered the MBA program at Desautels, where she plans to focus on finance in the hopes of finding a career that combines her creative and analytical skills, such as management consulting. “The work and glamour of being a starving artist was starting to wear off,” she says. “Being your own boss is tough and can be lonely. I enjoy being part of an office community.”

Though she’s excited to have a career with more infrastructure, Lickley says she’d never take back her time as an “artist entrepreneur,” which she considers a mini-MBA of sorts, forcing her to learn the arts of networking, cold-calling and time management. “There was maybe a one- to two-week window prior to a show that I had to get in touch with radio stations,” she says, “and that also coincided with me driving 10 hours a day for a performance.”

Lickley plans to keep music as a professional hobby after earning her degree, and hopes to find a job that allows time for releasing a new album and some touring. In the meantime, Lickley says she gets a kick out of how many business fundamentals she’s already gleaned from managing her singing career. “It was something that wasn’t financially profitable at the time,” she says, “but it led to a lot of good exposure in my career.”