Our lives are better with music

Classes are back in session here at Berklee, and Rethink Music is celebrating our seventh year of work on the future of music. Over the years we’ve looked at music marketing and music consumption, and hosted various events meant to spur discussion and innovation in the music industry. The Fair Music report in 2015 brought to life the Open Music initiative earlier this year, which is now underway with over 140 stakeholders signed on to help develop new tools to manage the rights clearance process for music licensing. The goal of the Rethink Music project has always been to serve as the thinktank arm of Berklee’s music-related research endeavors.

We’ve seen large changes since our launch in 2010. The music industry grew by 8.6% in the U.S. last year, according to the RIAA, due to the rapid uptake in streaming, which we predicted at our very first events. AR/VR is finally emerging as a viable format, and undoubtedly will bring new music uses and experiences with it. Discussions continue about high fidelity, exclusives, and recommendation engines on streaming services, and how to make the music listening experience better.

My hope is that we can better connect people with music for all kinds of uses, give them immersive experiences, and continue to grow the business of music so that those who create can continue to make a living. As a whole, the top three areas of focus I see on the horizon are:

1.    Building stronger relationships with music consumers through new and improved live and recorded experiences. This can include better recommendations, better connections between fans and artists throughout all points of contact, new uses and experiences for music, and continued focus on new experiences and new formats.

2.    Solving the music licensing quagmire. Until all parties in the industry agree on some common sets of standards, and global governments begin to consider how to make copyright law work in a borderless world of content, the music industry will continue to overspend on rights clearance, fail to make payments correctly, and fail to monetize various opportunities for licensing that are currently left on the table. For example, how many online videographers actually clear the music rights for their films?  How many more licenses could be issued? What if there was an easy source for the music rights, where they could pay a small fee and not worry about infringement, and creators could see more revenue generated? This is one point that should be solvable given digital technologies if all stakeholders can just agree on the major points of a solution.

3.    Ensuring long-term artist development continues and artists have access to funds, and compensation that will sustain their artistry. Listening focus has been shifting over the past decade from albums and artists to singles, with new consumption patterns by millennials that does not always create long term careers. By creating new revenue streams for artists and writers, like mentioned in #2 above, or offering investment programs for artists, the industry can create a sustainable economy for musicians.

We’ll be following developments on these points and on the music industry worldwide, including those happening here at Berklee with Open Music. Further, this year’s work will find us focusing on advancements in music therapy and the different medical uses for music in healing. The impacts have been widely demonstrated by folks like Berklee alum Daniel Levitan, but as medical and music technologies continue to evolve, the advances are stunning to see. One real life example comes from Berklee’s deep relationship with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston (which helped to treat many of the Boston bombing victims in 2013), and other local hospitals. More soon on this.

In the meantime, let’s keep rethinking music. You can always be in touch through our social media channels or to info@rethink-music.com.

Allen Bargfrede