The biggest challenges confronting recording artists and music lovers are distribution and access, respectively. In the past this made it necessary for both parties to deal with recording labels like EMI. How else would the public get exposure to the worlds best artists? How else would artists get connected to a fan base so they could be paid for their work?
In 2007 Radiohead decided they don’t need a middle-man anymore. EMI, so Radiohead reasoned, take more than 80% of the wholesale revenue in exchange for marketing, distribution and pirate-chasing. The war on piracy is evidently not working and as for promotion and distribution, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, argued that the band could now bypass EMI by marketing and distributing their music directly to fans using social media. That’s my paraphrase of Yorke’s argument. His actual words were:
“The time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs [a record company]. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘F#@& you’ to this decaying business model.”
So Radiohead’s next album “In Rainbows” was distributed directly from the band’s website to fans who were asked to pay whatever they wanted to for it. As it turned out, most fans who downloaded the album paid nothing at all for it, yet “In Rainbows” still made more money for the band, even before it was released, than they made in total from the previous album “Hail To The Thief“!
If I were the CEO of a record company – I’d be a bit concerned about that. But EMI’s “decaying business model” that once made music distribution possible, is now just getting in the way of it.
If recording companies are the traditional gatekeepers of music, schools are the traditional gatekeepers of education. It is schools that have connected educators with those needing an education. How else would students get access to knowledge? How else would teachers get connected to a group of students so they could be paid for their work?
But what I see is a growing number of educators, qualified and unqualified, who are producing high-quality lessons and publishing them directly to students via Youtube, Vimeo, and iTunes, thereby bypassing the gatekeeper (take as examples the Kahn Academy, iTunes U, McDonalds’ Maths Online and teachers independently publishing podcasts). But in many schools, video download sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, and even iTunes are blocked by the school’s Internet filters, and so all that learning is going on after hours despite the school, not because of it!
Let’s just be careful that in our attempt to control Internet access, school is not just getting in the way of education.