Sunday, March 14, 2010

MAC Week #2 Media History: Rise and Fall of the Music Industry

"I'm very fond of quoting my friend Larry Niven: 'The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program.'"

- Arthur C. Clarke

Steve Knopper, in a January 2009 interview with NPR Fresh Air from WHYY, discussed his views on the rise and fall of the music industry. Knopper is a contributing editor for Rolling Stones and author of Appetite For Self-Destruction. He shares from the book, his description of how the music industry made bad decisions and missed opportunities in the transitions from vinyl records to CDs to file sharing and iTunes.

He states that with the perfect vision of hindsight that it was clear that the music industry was going to crash in the digital age. The music industry business model was based on owning the entire recording, production, and distribution pipelines. They took advantage of the retooling for CDs to reduce compensation for recording artists while raising prices for consumers. This created the backlash that crashed the industry when file sharing made the old business model obsolete. Suing average fans for illegally downloading music only further alienated the fan base that brought in huge profits in the past. The industry was unwilling and/or unable to transition in a timely manner a different business model that accepted the new economy created by free Web 2.0 technologies.

The education system can draw parallel lines to the rise and fall of the music industry. Our current school system was designed to prepare students for the Industrial Age. It has an assembly line mentally that does not personalize for the individual students and departmentalizes knowledge as if there were no connections between the disciplines. With bans and restrictions on cell phones, iPods/Zunes, and Internet access, it is said that students must power down when they come to school. The drop out rate is huge and thereby the graduation rate dismal.

Alienating the fan base, however, is not going to crash compulsory education. The school system is propped by taxpayer money distributed by the government. It is this false economy created by the local, state and federal government that now appears to require governmental assistance in changing how we do schooling. High stakes testing was suppose to bring better accountability and raise achievement, but has really only served to narrow the curriculum. So now $1.35 billion proposed additional dollars for the Race To The Top Fund might soon bypass the states and be offered directly to cash strapped individual school districts to accept conditions allowing for more government control. The conditions? Easier justification to close schools, easier creation of charter schools, common or national content standards, and teacher evaluations tied directly to test scores.

These conditions, popular across the board in American politics, do not address the need to fundamentally change the way we do schooling. An education version of Napster and/or iTunes is what it will take to fundamentally change our education system. A highly cost effective (nearly free) business model of school and eLearning that can draw students from the current system en masse will be the only thing that can make a difference. You’ll see.

1 comment:

jbb said...

OMG, I have to use that Arthur Clark quote... perfect!