Archive for September, 2014

Thiel: Ask more questions before enrolling in college

By Joanna DiGeronimo

Billionaire venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel says high school seniors need to take a long look before they leap into college.

Thiel, author of the new book “Zero to One: Notes on Start-ups or How to Build the Future,” thinks the current secondary education system has become a “substitute for thinking about the future.” Thiel, who co-founded PayPal in 1999 and became Facebook’s first outside investor five years later, says young people need to ask themselves what they want to do with their lives before enrolling in a school and choosing a course of study.

“Great message from a great source. Don’t just swallow the idea that college is a given. Think, plan, think again before, during and after you enroll.”

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Teaching the unknown: The key responsibilities of music business programs

By Jason Free, Executive Editor

One of the many, many struggles within higher education is in preparing students for an uncertain job market. Too often undergraduate and graduate programs seem as if they were designed decades ago and then vacuum packed so that they may be opened and then resealed with each new semester. This lack of forethought not only creates a glut of unskilled college graduates, but it also degrades the validity of the academic institution and its staff. Thankfully, students wishing to learn about current and possible future business models in the music industry have Berklee College of Music’s Music Business/Management program, a set of courses that are not freeze dried in any way.

I spoke with Dr. Peter Alhadeff, Professor at Berklee College of Music, to learn more about the philosophy behind his institution’s curriculum and how other programs can easily create similarly adaptive programs.

Jason Free: What do you feel are the core components that any music business program today ought to provide its students?

alhadeff1Dr. Peter Alhadeff: A music business program that is not based on the changing music industry, shall we say that is not based on a recognition of the many changes that the industry is undergoing, would do no service to anyone. Programs have to prepare students for the realities of the modern market place, and while many of those realities have not changed, on the distribution side of things and the self empowerment that students now have to pursue their own projects, there has been a lot of change. Music programs must reflect these instances as accurately as possible so that their students have the best possible footing as they begin their careers.

Free: What are the specific subject areas that ought to be addressed in order to create the industry reflection you describe?

Alhadeff: A music business program has to be both cutting edge and prepared to cover areas that are more traditional in terms of academics. For instance, music business law and copyright law courses will always be essential due to their long established legal precedents and the effects they create today within the creative industries. An effective program also needs to provide a strong sense of the business elements that are unique to the music industry, such as understanding how record labels interact with artists, concert promoters, booking agents, publishers.

Funding should always be a large area of study. At Berklee, we are starting to address new ways of funding the creative industries. There has been a move away from corporate funding, as you know, to alternative ways to pay for a project or raising the money from fans. Crowd funding, for instance Kickstarter or PledgeMusic, in the industry is becoming more and more important. Students may think they have a firm understanding of these sorts of projects, but most are unaware of many subtle, yet extremely impactful nuances of such fundraising. For big money, music business students may plan to seek venture funding. We provide discussions on the latest strategies and considerations for approaching angel investors and the like.

Finally, nurturing the entrepreneurial aspect is key; how to empower students to function at a high level around the structures of the old music business and, at the same time, stay in touch with the new, evolving entities that are rising out there.

Free: It seems pretty simple on the surface. In your opinion, why aren’t more music business programs taking a similar approach?

Alhadeff: I cannot speak for other programs but I can say it’s not easy to stay on top of these constantly moving topics. At Berklee, it takes a team effort between our faculty, alumni and students. We speak in groups often about what we see in the industry and how we ought to expose our students in class to the various changes that are occurring in the market. We share how a certain method of teaching or a topic may or may not have yielded the best results and we make any changes that we feel are necessary.

My guess is that some institutions do not have this level of discussion and revision, and on the surface, I can understand why because it is a lot of work. However, to stay current in our field, it has to be done on a regular basis.

Free: From your perspective, how have Berklee’s students changed as incoming freshmen? Have they matured in their expectations over the years? Are they a little more aligned with reality today than maybe students from a few years ago?

Alhadeff: Students that come into our music business program do not expect for something to magically happen to them without hard work on their part. I do think there is more of a sense that they have to get out there and look for opportunities themselves. Even when I started at Berklee in the early 1990’s that used to be the case. The thing is there were less music business programs around than there are now. The business was more predictable and growing at a faster rate, rates of 7 percent in recorded music a year, extraordinary periods of growth. New multi-media was allowing more opportunities for musicians to place their work in positions like the Internet and video games where a wider audience could have access. Music business students were able to take advantage of a college degree and exploit the new formats that were there, making success a bit easier than many find today.

The reality now is that music business students are coming into a crowded market place both in terms of music business programs and the industry itself. Also, the industry is quite chaotic in dropping sales of recording music which used to be the cash cow of the business, but obviously there are other areas that are picking up today.

Yes, over the past decade, it has been a scramble, but now I think students are more aware that they have to not just understand the entire industry, as used to be the case back in the 1990’s, but now you also have to engage with entire industry. You have to get out there and work before you graduate. For instance, historically, internships were done at the very end of one’s academic career and they were an afterthought. Students now are taking internships very early on and are piling up as much experience as they can, even if they do not earn college credit for their work. Students at Berklee recognize that it is hard to make an inroad in the industry and internship not only given them tangible contacts but they also provide another level of skills you cannot find in a classroom.

I would say those are the biggest factors that students have to come to terms with today. You have to be more flexible in your preparation for a career. You cannot take the same approach as students did in the early 1990’s when they just wanted to study music business and develop street smarts to know how to talk the talk and walk the walk. Now students need other things too. You might need to be aware of social media in greater detail, understand a bit of programming, understand the language of hackers, be aware of the many new distributions outfits and on and on. You have to have a broader outlook in how you are going to place your product and distinguish yourself from others. Those are important changes that students must appreciate.

Free: The music industry has changed so many times, and one thing that’s certain is that it will continue to change. As a professor, you are being given the task of preparing students for job titles that don’t exist today, to work with business models that don’t exist today. How do those sorts of considerations impact your planning and your teaching?

Alhadeff: That’s a great question.

Higher education, in general, must continuously raise the bar in terms of its expectations of its curricula especially when focusing upon the rapidly evolving creative industries. I am fortunate in that I work at Berklee, an institution that from its very formation in 1945 was geared toward the marketplace. I am not just advertising Berklee here. Our entire academic culture is based on our constant adjustments to the market place.

I will give you some examples. In the mid 1990’s Netscape became the standard for the web, in other words bulletin boards and the like stopped being the layman’s approach to the web. You had email and folks went to their own account within the web via, let’s say CompuServe or AOL. When Netscape, the first browser, became popular and the World Wide Web opened up, the faculty at Berklee had to start thinking about that. We soon realized that many store fronts would be created by the younger generation putting up their product information and advertising themselves. We immediately recognized the importance of students learning to design a website and moved quickly to include that in our curriculum.

Lately, I have designed a course on music business finance which I teach at Berklee Online. The course came about as I was recognizing crowd funding, micro financing and big-money venture capital were becoming ever more important in music business. Micro finance is used for smaller projects and getting a record out there. Venture funding is secured for bigger projects like how you get music streaming and setting up a service like Spotify, or working on music intelligence for future electronic devices so that you can tap on a particular song, on a particular aspect of the music, that might be connected to a game. All of these are new problems that will need to be solved by students and through my class they have the chance to begin thinking about possible solutions.

Free: Is there one particular area that you feel music business programs must keep in mind in terms of their future planning?

Alhadeff: It is important to me to closely pay attention to the financial aspects of the music industry and how money is changing hands differently in the music trade. Breaking down emerging distribution methods and data analysis has become more important in my classes too. There have been a lot of new ways of teaching and I am sure other schools are doing the same. You cannot just use the manual of the 1990’s which was, essentially, a legal manual of laws, and structure a program around the legal aspects of music business. There is so much more to consider these days. More importantly, we know there will be so much more to consider in the years to come.

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Professors on food stamps: The shocking true story of academia in 2014

By Matt Saccaro

You’ve probably heard the old stereotypes about professors in their ivory tower lecturing about Kafka while clad in a tweed jacket. But for many professors today, the reality is quite different: being so poorly paid and treated, that they’re more likely to be found bargain-hunting at day-old bread stores. This is academia in 2014.

“The most shocking thing is that many of us don’t even earn the federal minimum wage,” said Miranda Merklein, an adjunct professor from Santa Fe who started teaching in 2008. “Our students didn’t know that professors with PhDs aren’t even earning as much as an entry-level fast food worker. We’re not calling for the $15 minimum wage. We don’t even make minimum wage. And we have no benefits and no job security.”

“So, in case you are not paying attention, students are getting short changed in terms of developing the lifetime skills needed for multiple sustained careers AND instructors are earning less than minimum wage. How is this system still in existence? What will it take for people to demand more? (Our beef with higher education rarely involves instructors. Hell, we are instructors. Higher education administrators and government ‘leaders’ are to blame for the mess that we are all in.)”

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Why Federal College Ratings Won’t Rein In Tuition

By Susan Dynarski

College costs have been rising for decades. Slowing — or even better, reversing — that trend would get more people into college and help reduce student debt. The Obama administration is working on an ambitious plan intended to rein in college costs, and it deserves credit for tackling this tough job.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to work, at least not in controlling tuition at public colleges, which enroll a vast majority of students. The plan might dampen prices at expensive private colleges, but some of them may close if they can’t survive on lower tuition.

“If higher education were run like the business it is, costs could be lowered and quality increases could occur on multiple levels. Too many vestiges from the 19th and 20th centuries stand in the way. The whole system must change if it is to survive.”

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Spotify ranks America’s “Top 40 Musical Universities”, identifies college students’ listening habits

By Michelle Geslani

Like so many of the students that have come before and after me, I’d say that a majority of my fondest college memories are closely associated with music.

As a student who commuted to New York University from the outer boroughs of the city, I made sure to stack my playlists with hours upon hours of music. Morning ferry rides were soundtracked by Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire. Meanwhile, my nights and weekends were spent seeing live music at any of the nearby venues. I distinctly recall drinking a shitload of wine and then seeing, aka falling in love with, M. Ward at a 2006 show on campus.

“The music environment of a college often describes the level of creative curiosity that is promoted in class and on campus.”

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How to approach your professor for a reference

By Katlyn Tolly

The clock is ticking towards graduation and you’ve yet take on a job or an internship in relation to your major. College is the time to expand your professional horizons, so don’t let the ‘List Academic References’ section of an application scare you off or keep you from applying from incredible opportunities.

Although it may be difficult when you’ve sat in a lecture hall with over 300 other students and the professor has yet to learn your name, I’ve gathered my most valuable advice to ensure all is smooth sailing when approaching your professor to request a reference for a professional application.

“If you have to approach a professor for a reference, then you should consider yourself a bit of a failure. Your professors should be coming to you with the offer to write you a reference. Stand out. Make an impression. Demonstrate that you are worth outside professional validation. If you can’t do those things then when you ask for a reference, you are really asking for a bogus endorsement that will not give you the advantage you need.”

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Student Loan Debt Burdens More Than Just Young People

By Elizabeth Olson

Janet Lee Dupree, 72, was surprised when she received her first Social Security benefits seven years ago. About one-fifth of her monthly payment was being withheld and she called the federal government to find out why.

The woman, who is from Citra, Fla., discovered that the deduction from her benefits was to repay $3,000 in loans she took out in the early 1970s to pay for her undergraduate degree.

“I didn’t pay it back, and I’m not saying I shouldn’t,” she said. “I was an alcoholic, and later diagnosed with H.I.V., but I’ve turned my life around. I’ve been paying some of the loan back but that never seems to lower the amount, which is now $15,000 because of interest.

“I don’t know if I can ever pay it back.”

“Today, there are about 2 million people over the age of 60 with unpaid student loans. In 20 years, this number will seem as cute as a kitten.”

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Unequal elementary and secondary schools shut out poor, UB professor says

By Jay Tokasz

Just over a year ago, against a backdrop of the nation’s deepening divide between rich and poor, President Obama stood at a lectern in the University at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena, pitching higher education as a pathway to the middle class.

Education has long been viewed as the surest way for Americans to brighten their economic futures and for the middle class to expand.

But a UB professor argues that growing disparities within the nation’s elementary and secondary schools are threatening those prospects.

“Education, not just higher education, needs a complete reboot. If it does not occur soon, the middle class will become extinct and the poor will have little hope of a life driven beyond the most basic levels of survival. If we don’t change our academic processes, our academic processes will certainly change us.”

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Dear Professors: Please Don’t Respond to the Mean Things Students Say About You Online

By Rebecca Schuman

Ask any college instructor about online professor-rating sites such as Rate My Professors, and she will insist that not only does she find the anonymous student-rant irrelevant to her career, she hasn’t so much as peeked at her own ratings—in fact, she doesn’t even know if she’s on there.

Hardly. I know enough professors to know that there are two kinds in the world: 1) those who have been equal parts elated and bent out of shape by their RMP ratings—and 2) liars.

“If students took sites like Rate My Professors more seriously and made strong efforts to post honest reviews of their instructors, within five years higher education would be a much better partner for students and the business world.”

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U2 Back Catalog Sees Massive Sales Bump After ‘Songs of Innocence’​ Launch

By Miriam Coleman

After the massive surprise launch of their new album Songs of Innocence on Tuesday, U2 have seen a dramatic chart bump for their back catalog.

An unprecedented number of U2’s previous albums have now entered iTunes’ album chart since the new record’s launch. Earlier this week, 24 of the band’s titles had reached the top 200, and the U218 singles album struck the top 10 in 46 countries. The Joshua Tree from 1987, 1991’s Achtung Baby, 1983’s War and two versions of the singles collection are currently in the U.S. top 50, with 1988’s Rattle and Hum and 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire following close behind.

“It’s 1983 all over again. U2 has always understood the importance and power of a strong back catalog. In the winter, we will release a podcast about the release of Under a Blood Sky and how it not only gave new life to U2’s career but also to Island Records as well. We are sure that Apple is currently approaching other established artists with similar catalogs of material. Too bad few at the company seem to be thinking about how to develop new business models for emerging artists.”

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