Alan Krueger, Ex-Obama Aide and Economist Who Studied the Music Industry, Dies at 58

AP Photo, File
Alan Krueger

In 2017 he founded MIRA, a non-profit dedicated to studying critical issues in the music industry.

Alan Krueger, the prominent Princeton University economist who advised two presidents and founded the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA), has died. He was 58.

The cause of death was suicide, according to a statement from his family which was released by the university, where Krueger had taught economics since 1987.

The New Jersey native is remembered for pioneering a more empirical, data-based approach to economic research. Krueger applied that approach broadly, from his lauded studies on the impact of the minimum wage to his assessments of the economics of popular music, including a study on the resale market for concert tickets. A music lover and Bruce Springsteen fan, he in 2017 founded MIRA, a non-profit dedicated to studying critical issues in the music industry. Krueger's book Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life is set for release in June.

"Alan Krueger was a brilliant economist whose groundbreaking research not only left its mark on academic circles, but also on the lives of Americans," reads a statement from MIRA. 

"While Alan published works on topics as disparate as terrorism, happiness and education, in recent years he doubled down on music," the statement continues. "He had a dream of engaging a cross-section of economists, sociologists, psychologists and other social scientists to help inform the music industry of the challenges it was facing and those on the horizon."

He is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two children.

Read the full statement from MIRA, below.

“Alan Krueger was a brilliant economist whose groundbreaking research not only left its mark on academic circles, but also on the lives of Americans. An example of this is his research on the minimum wage, which has paved the way for increased wages for many Americans. His commitment to public service went well beyond teaching and mentoring his many students at Princeton University, where he was recently appointed the James Madison Professor of Political Economy. He had the rare ability to take academic research and communicate it to policymakers and the general public in an effective and memorable way, as he did with the work showing how increased income inequality translates into worse economic opportunities, a relationship he christened the 'Great Gatsby Curve.'

“As President Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Alan was instrumental in devising policies to minimize the impact of the recession and ultimately create the economic growth that would help pull us out of it. President Obama said of Alan, 'He saw economic policy not as a matter of abstract theories, but as a way to make people’s lives better.' During his tenure, Alan made a speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame using the music industry as a metaphor for the U.S. economy. This important talk synthesized Alan’s passion for the music industry with his scholarly work in labor economics.

“Alan recognized that the love of music could unite people across age, gender, income and race. Through this insight, he saw an opportunity to use music and the music industry to teach economic theory to not only students, but people from all walks of life. Driven by this goal, his passion and his unending curiosity, he interviewed professionals from every part of the music industry. The fruits of this labor are reflected in a new book, Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life. The book explores important contemporary trends in the economy through the fascinating lens of the music industry‘s recent experience. It is available in June.

“Alan loved music and was a regular concert-goer, but had a particular affection for Bruce Springsteen, so it was no surprise that he chose a Springsteen concert to first test out a survey that revealed the scale of the resale market for concert tickets. One of the highlights of Alan’s career was meeting Springsteen’s drummer, Max Weinberg, by chance at a dinner in Italy. To his amazement, Mr. Weinberg had not only read his published paper, but asked Alan to sign it. Later, Bono from U2 would also read a follow-up study on concert tickets, in which Alan’s survey was extended to a U2 concert.

“While Alan published works on topics as disparate as terrorism, happiness and education, in recent years he doubled down on music. He had a dream of engaging a cross-section of economists, sociologists, psychologists and other social scientists to help inform the music industry of the challenges it was facing and those on the horizon. He formed the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) as a non-profit organization to fulfill that goal and led two well-attended conferences in Los Angeles in 2017 and 2018.

“Alan liked to draw others into topics he considered important. His inclusiveness is one of the qualities that made him a beloved mentor, colleague and friend, and no doubt facilitated his success as a policy-maker. This gift was especially evident in his efforts with MIRA. As President Obama memorialized Alan: 'Through it all, he had a perpetual smile and a gentle spirit -- even when he was correcting you. That’s what made him Alan -- a fundamentally good and decent man.'

“He will be deeply missed. As a tribute to Alan, the Board hopes to fulfil his vision of MIRA, and in the coming weeks will be discussing plans to move forward.”

Signed:

Marie Connolly, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Université du Québec à Montréal School of Management
Julie Holland Mortimer, Professor in the Department of Economics, Boston College
David Reiley, Principal Scientist, Pandora, and Adjunct Professor in the School of Information, UC Berkeley
Dan “Doc” Ryan, Head of Product, Artist Services, Amazon Music
Alan Sorensen, Professor in the Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin
Joel Waldfogel, Professor and Frederick R. Kappel Chair in Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
Jeannie Wilkinson, Executive Director, MIRA and former SVP of Global Research at Live Nation