The ‘Squeeze’ On Music Education

When I was in fifth grade I remember the best days were when we go to either art or music and we got to paint something or play instruments. Those were the moments that really stuck with me; not learning my grammar in English and not memorizing equations. Recently, Michael Blakeslee, the deputy director of the Music Education Conference (MENC) talked about school board’s making hard decisions like ”What if we don’t start band in the fifth grade? What if we wait until the seventh grade?” He goes on to explain that this national lack of music funding, “has a long-term impact on what goes on in schools with music at the undergraduate and graduate level, and our culture as a whole”

Program Manager at VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, Rob Davidson, explains that standardizes testing has had a “squeezing effect” on the funding for music, arts, physical ed, social studies and other subjects that are not tested. This truly touches upon the fear of standardized tests that we teach kids how to be good test takers as oppose to being creative thinkers. It is ironic that the end result we want is a competitive workforce and so we create these standardized tests to measure the progress and then cut funding for music and art programs to teach to the test even though music and arts education has proven to spur the innovative workforce we desire.

Blakeslee went on to conclude, “The current [Obama] administration has said some very nice things, but most actions have not been favorable to music education.” National cutbacks on music should inspire us to localized solution like to help music programs school to school, district to district, and state to state. But also think locally about how you could help music programs by holding fundraisers, directly donating, or just volunteering as an assistant.


Future of Music After Universal Music Group’s 1.9 Billion Dollar Acquisition of EMI

Universal Music Group’s 1.9 Billion Dollar purchase has officially been completed. After months of deliberations with both European and American fair trade regulators, the deal has been approved. Much of the deliberations involved Universal being required to sell off various assets of EMI so that it was not a de facto monopoly in music. To give you an idea of the magnitude of these asset sales, one of the labels they sold off included acts such as Coldplay. So, now that the dust has settled, is this a good thing for the industry? Over the past few months various music groups have come out against the deal as creating unfair competition in the music industry. I will concede, that usually consolidation of large companies (like Univeral-EMI) result in unfair pricing, unfair competition, and other exploitations as the market leader position. BUT, I’m going to take a different route and be hopeful for the good that could occur.

The acquisition of EMI by Universal will enable both companies to eliminate redundant jobs. This elimination of redundant positions and increase in efficiency will hopefully result in them investing more in artist development and an even broader artist roster. Looking at the labels acquired in the deal it quickly becomes apparent how diverse the music is in this acquisition: Capitol Records, Def Jam Recordings, Capitol Nashville Recordings, Island Recordings, Universal Music Nashville, Virgin Records, Blue Note, EMI Records, Interscope Records, and more.

`               Another notable point made by UMG Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge is that, “EMI is finally returning to people who have music in their blood.” Since February 2012, EMI had been acquired by dun dun dunnnnn Citigroup. So with this sale going to Universal and Sony acquiring EMI publishing, these music entities are no longer owned by venture capitalist. These entities are now in the hands of people who are actually in the music business. One of the most frustrating things I’ve found in the music industry , whether its live music or labels or any other aspect, is the unscrupulous people who are only in it for the money and not the love of music. It’s good to at least know that people who have made their life in music will now be able to lead the future of EMI, Universal, and the industry.

Long-term, I think it’s hard to say whether this will be a great thing, a bad thing, or have little impact on the industry. But I always like to look toward the horizon with my focus on the great possibilities.