With New Online Education Platform, Dave Kusek Wants to Build Music's Middle Class

via Digital Cowboys

Dave Kusek is worried about the future of music. So the former vice president at Berklee College of Music and CEO of Berkleemusic, the college's online education program, has launched an online education platform called New Artist Model.

Kusek says he built the platform to help build a next generation of independent artists. "We as an industry need new pathways for people to develop themselves or be developed as part of a collective. You don't have a label system working as it did. You don't have a publishing system working as it did."

The future of the music business depends on a more vibrant independent class of musicians, says Kusek. "Unless we find ways for new artists to break and reach an audience, the business could stall. That would be horrible."

New Artist Model is an eight-week program targets performers, recording artists, songwriters, producers and managers. The courses cover topics such as licensing, publishing, e-commerce, concerts, promotion and networking. The first classes begin February 17th.

One key feature is the Career Map. Artists fill out a questionnaire that helps them formulate a plan for recordings, songwriting, performance, marketing strategy, building a team and financing and budgeting the business. "There's no one to help develop yourself in the classic sense," explains Kuesek. "No A&R people to take risks on little bands. You've got to know more about your career and what the possibilities are."

Kusek left Berklee in 2012 after building Berkleemusic.com into a leading online source of music education. Just as MOOCs make higher education accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, New Artist Model strives to open music education to a larger audience. Kusek says he has known many people that wanted a career in music but couldn't afford a traditional music business program.

The pricing is one of the most important elements of the New Artist Platform program. Students have two options. The "Essential Class" costs $297 and allows students to learn at their own pace -- a practical option for a musician always on the road. The $997 "Master Class" is a more traditional online education program with group discussions and class assignments. Students of both programs are offered a seven-day money-back guarantee. In comparison, the lowest price for a single course at Berkleemusic.com is $1,200.

Online learning is currently reshaping education. The rise of massive open online courses, known by the acronym MOOCs, has opened up higher education to people around the world. Venture-funded startups such as Coursera and Udacity are partnering with universities to experiment with MOOC programs. Although MOOCs have yet to deliver on their promise -- early experiments with Coursera and Udacity have failed -- the trend toward accessible, affordable online education is undeniable. Nevertheless, President Obama has included affordable, online education programs such as MOOCs in his plan to make college more affordable and provide opportunity to the middle class.

Kusek wants New Artist Model to help build music's middle class. Some students may be attracted to the success of independent duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but Kusek knows most artists won't reach that level. Instead he points to the example of MC Lars, an American rapper and producer that has built a stable career and following over the last ten years. He says MC Lars represents the middle-class lifestyle available to independent musicians able to direct their own careers. "It doesn't have to be all or nothing."