Mike King of Berklee Online Looks Back On 2014


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Mike King, course author, instructor and Assistant VP of Marketing for Berklee Online is up next on Hypebot.com's Year End Virtual Panel. Discussing what 2014 meant for Berklee Online, King says “Massive Open Online Courses have made a significant, positive, impact on our business over the past year.  We have seven free online courses available on Coursera right now, and two with EdX, covering music business, music production, songwriting, guitar, vocal production, and even a Gary Burton improvisation course." Continue reading on the full panel post below. 

1) Do you see the current debate questioning the effect of ubiquitous free music online leading to real change, or is the Taylor Swift rift just a short term distraction?

When we talk about Taylor Swift, the important thing to consider is that we are talking about Taylor Swift, one of the largest artists in the world.  Taylor Swift and her management company are focused on what is best for Taylor Swift, who is an artist that continues to sell substantial amounts of records at traditional physical retail, and who has a massive fan base.  Windowing her records on digital services, or focusing only on the paid side of things with Spotify might be the best option for her specific situation, but I’m not sure if it’s the best path for all artists. 

I think overall, there’s a lot that the streaming services can do to help the artists who are not Taylor Swift, and I think there have been some small, but not insignificant, changes happening recently.  I think Pandora Amp, for example, could evolve into something meaningful for artists, and perhaps the first step towards allowing some form of direct communication between artists and fans on that platform, which can be really helpful for artists who are looking to build up their base.  It will be interesting to see the evolution of direct sales on interactive and non-interactive services, too.  

2) How important is the entry of YouTube Music Key and the expansion of Beats Music within the Apple ecosystem? Will they lead to a much larger streaming audience by the end of 2015, or just fragment a steadily expanding user base?

Both Apple and Google are swimming in money, and I think from a marketing standpoint, they could make some significant noise about whatever Beats Music becomes, and YouTube Music Key.  Anyone who reads or writes for Hypebot is already familiar with streaming music and all of the intricacies / players involved, but I think streaming is still a relatively new thing for many consumers who are trying to simply figure out how best to listen to music right now. The marketing that both companies could do around these releases could raise the overall awareness of interactive streaming as a consumption model.  

Apple and Google have released some very clunky products in the past, and I don’t think that it’s guaranteed that they will succeed.  Spotify is practically a verb right now, and I think ultimately, changing consumer behavior is a very hard thing to do.  I remember last year when folks were talking about iTunes Radio being a Pandora killer, and what ultimately happened, I think, is that the overall visibility created by Apple helped people to better understand that non-interactive streaming was a thing that they could do, and in looking around, discovered Pandora as well.  Instead of biting into Pandora’s user base, Pandora’s market share initially grew.  I think the same situation is possible with regards to Beats / YouTube and Spotify.

In full disclosure, I have paid subscriptions to a bunch of streaming services, and Beats Music is my go to option.  I have a lot of faith in the team behind it.  A lot of folks who read Hypebot already know about Ian Rogers, and I think he’s the right guy to help make Beats a success with Apple.  And having Jimmy Iovine on the team doesn’t hurt, either.

3) What big shift or story took place in 2014 that will have a major effect on your business/sector in 2015? How will you feel and field the effects?

Massive Open Online Courses have made a significant, positive, impact on our business over the past year.  We have seven free online courses available on Coursera right now, and two with EdX, covering music business, music production, songwriting, guitar, vocal production, and even a Gary Burton improvisation course. Over the past couple years we’ve had over a million enrollments in these courses. The MOOCS have allowed us to reach folks from around the world who we couldn’t connect with in the past, and from a marketing standpoint, Coursera and EdX have been a tremendous top of funnel partner for us.  We launched our first online bachelor degree program at Berklee Online this year, and quite a few online degree students first discovered Berklee through these MOOCS.  

Although Berklee Online has been teaching music to folks for 12 years, we’ve still got a lot of work to do in making folks aware that we exist.  I think our relationship with Coursera and EdX will not only continue to help us with awareness, but I also think that they will help us to identify some really talented students that we might not have come across otherwise.

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