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 www.Studio120Music.com 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.

Coachella Grosses $47 Million and What it Means to Indie Music

Boxscore has now come out with the numbers on Coachella 2012. This year’s Coachella had over 47 million in gross revenue with over 158,000 in attendance over the two weekends. It was interesting when Coachella made the announcement last Summer that Coachella would become a two weekend same lineup event many people in the blogosphere argued that it was a crazy idea and that the second weekend would fall entirely flat since most people would come the first weekend. I saw that risk at the time but still thought it was a brilliant experiment. Yet now, with almost 81,000 in attendance week 1 and almost 78,000 in attendance week 2, that concept was entirely proven to be false and Coachella was immense success. More importantly, for the purposes of independent artists, it points to the new crucial importance festivals and live shows play in a successful music career.

At last week’s New Music Seminar in New York City Sean Parker(creator of Napster) and other music business professionals discussed what they referred to as the fall of the record business and the rise of the music business. They essentially explained how twenty years ago, labels produced physical albums that could sell millions of copies and provide huge revenues for their affiliated artists. Today we are seeing a rise in the music business as a whole; there is still revenue from standard mechanical royalties and physical sales, but there is also now revenue from a variety of music distribution sites, licensing in other media such as commercials and movies, and of course live entertainment revenue, all of which are now becoming more important than ever. Distribution sites like www.Studio120.org and licensing music are vital, but the live entertainment revenue is also growing very quickly. Finally, I would add that performances at colleges and especially festivals are the best to get noticed because it is a soft ticket which allows you to perform in front of so many people. When I say soft ticket it means people are not going to hear a specific band but they are just going to the event regardless of the lineup. So for instance, the Roger Waters tour or any other tour that people buy a concert ticket for a particular artist it is a hard ticket, but for all the music festivals like Bonnaroo and Ultra Music Festival  which sells tickets before the line-up is announced these are people buying a soft ticket because they do not know who is playing but they know that great music will be there. So getting festivals and college gigs which are soft tickets are crucial for exposure. After all, when else other than giant music festivals like Coachella are you able to be exposed to over 150,000 music-obsessed people in a week and a half. It’s a very powerful thing for indie artists.

Independent Labels Jumping Ship From Spotify

Since the launch of Spotify in the States, the twitterverse and blogospheres have been abuzz with the new platform. However, every week there is more Independent labels leaving the platform because they are unsatisfied with the sites payout structure. For a model like Spotify, the company must keep their labels happy with the payout structure if the idea is going to be a success for the music industry as well as the company. Yet, this has led some question whether the payout structure of a ‘freemium’ model may diminish the financial of the music. So far, Prosthetic Records, Metal Blade, and Mode have removed their music from the site and Century Media will now limit its presence on Spotify to music samplers.

In a recent Billboard article entitled “Century Media Scales Back Spotify Presence”, the label released a statement further explaining their decision to jump ship from the Spotify model for their independent artists. The statement explained that the ‘freemium’ model “in its present shape and form isn’t the way forward” and added their acts, “are depending on their income from selling music and it is our job to support them to do so.”

The fact is that the Spotify model may make sense for Major artists, yet has been unable to satisfy the independent labels and artists. In response to Labels jumping ship the company put out a statement saying they are “providing an alternative to piracy”. The company should have taken the opportunity to improve the benefits of the model, instead of essentially ignoring the leaving labels. In the digital age, multiple revenue streams are the secret to profitably. In the Billboard article, “Strength in Diversity”, Glenn Peoples explains that, “Diversification is paramount in the digital music era- labels simply can’t survive on digital music sales alone.” Until the company adjusts their payment structure or diversifies their revenue streams the site will not satisfy the needs of the independent industry and labels will continue to leave.