Digital music innovator Dave Kusek has left Berklee College of Music to focus on funding and guiding digital music startups. The former vice president at Berklee conceived and developed the school's successful Berkleemusic.com online school that offers over 150 online courses and certification programs.
Kusek says his amicable departure stems partly from the current state of the Berklee's online program. "Berklee is an incredible place," he tells Billboard.biz. "The online school, Berkleemusic.com that we built, is thriving. So, I feel like it's a great time for me to move on because things are going very, very well. I feel like I've done everything that I wanted to do at Berklee. The business is in great shape and the future is very bright."
Kusek was pulled away from Berklee by the opportunities in digital music and what he sees as favorable trends in the music business. "I think maybe we're approaching the bottom of the recorded music fallout. The labels and publishers have finally agreed to begin licensing some of these more robust models and giving these companies a chance. I think that's a very positive sign. I also believe the live business and the revenue streams around the live business are underexploited in many ways. It's the part of the music industry in many ways that has really not been transformed by technology in a meaningful way."
Through his consultancy group Digital Cowboys, Kusek has invested an undisclosed amount of seed money and is working with a startup called Tastemate that has yet to launch. The service allows artists to engage with their fans and connect them with merchandise, tickets and downloads at live concerts.
"I am looking for people who are thinking big rather than replicating the past," says Kusek of his investment strategy, "people who are thinking about new ways to monetize audiences, new ways of generating revenue that perhaps didn't exist before, bigger ideas that might take longer to incubate but could have a significant impact down the road."
In becoming a consultant and strategic advisor, Kusek is actually returning to his roots. "That's how I got started at Berklee," he says. "This was originally a consulting project that grew over time and eventually I went inside." Prior to his consulting work, Kusek founded the music software company Passport Designs in 1980 and was a co-developer in the Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) industry standard that allows electronic instruments and other devices to communicate with one another.