@BerkleeCollege Shows They Aren’t Serious, Responds to Our Criticism with Straw Man Argument

Professor Whiteboard Trichordist vs Berklee item 1

Berklee College of Music has still not addressed our fundamental criticism of their report. 

A few days ago I had an email conversation with Panos Panay who may or may not have authored the flawed Berklee College of Music report on transparency and fair pay in the music business.   In our conversation he indicated that he thought our list of omissions were valid criticisms of their report.  I encouraged him to issue a follow-up report or letter.

Yesterday Berklee did indeed issue a follow-up.  But it was less of an actual correction or update and more of a defensive “fuck you.”  Yes, they squandered their opportunity to have a real discussion, by following up with a bullshit straw man argument, that completely misrepresents our criticism of the report.  These guys are not interested in a real and honest discussion.  Therefore don’t expect an honest discussion at their conference either. In other words don’t waste your money.

Here’s what they say about our criticism in their follow up:
“Some have questioned the role of digital services in this debate. It is important to remember that most online music services pay 70% of their revenue to rights holders (except YouTube, who should be encouraged to pay more than their current 50%), and we believe that this technology for distribution is a good thing. It is impossible to put the “Internet genie back in the bottle” — let’s not forget that the main source of industry woes 5 years ago was piracy — and at least a business model has evolved that has people paying for music again” 

Classic straw man argument.

We don’t think “the technology” is a bad thing, and we are not trying to put the “internet genie back in the bottle.”  If you want to put it in terms of “internet genies” we are asking the internet genies to drop their NDAs and to exhibit more transparency on advertising revenues and expenses.   This is clearly illustrated in the whiteboard photo above.  Further the email record clearly  indicates that Panay understands our criticisms.  The only conclusion is that Berklee knowingly misrepresented our criticisms of their report.

This is classic demagoguing.  Trying to neutralize your critics by dishonestly claiming they are saying something they are not.  Berklee implies we are “trying to put the internet genie back in the bottle”  or somehow we are against streaming technology because they wish to portray us as hopeless luddites that are completely out of touch with the modern world. Yet facts are facts, our criticism illustrates a deeper understanding of the revenue flow in the digital world than their sloppy and biased report.

I don’t understand how someone at an academic institution can engage in this sort of demagoguing and still have a job.   My academic institution would really have a problem with me issuing an official statement in the name of the institution that engaged in this level of dishonesty.

At the very least from a public relations stand point Berklee needs to learn to stop “poking the bear.”  Especially this bear.  They just gave us at least five new posts on why rights holders and artists should NOT go to their “Rethink”  conference.




Why Digital Exec’s ARPU is Bad Math and also Bad Philosophy for Artists.



2 thoughts on “@BerkleeCollege Shows They Aren’t Serious, Responds to Our Criticism with Straw Man Argument

  1. Hello David, Keep the heat on the bastards. For your amusement, I’m copying an e-mail thread from a few years ago between myself and Terry Fisher of the Berkman Center after I had been a panelist at a Harvard Rethink Music event.

    Read form the bottom up if you have a few moments.

    Thanks for your passion and commitment to the cause. I am sad to admit that I ran our of gas. I now spend my days working with my non-profit, Operation Song, which brings songwriting as therapy to veterans and active duty military. It works amazingly well. Here is a link to our website and another to a recent article in the New Yorker.



    Mr. Fisher;

    Well, I’ve not received a response to my last two e-mails with invitations to come to Nashville. I can come up with a few possible reasons. Possibly you’ve been too busy. Perhaps you’ve been put off my tone, although I would assume that anyone in the legal profession would be undaunted by a little confrontational language. Maybe you assume I’m a paid shill for the labels (not so, I’m a lifelong musician, 25+ year as a self-employed, still working songwriter with a Grammy nomination as recently as 2009. I am an unpaid board member of the National Songwriter’s Assoc. If you would care to give me a list of the donors to the Berkman Center, I can clarify any incorrect assumptions I might have regarding yourself.)

    If none of those, then it could be that you have dismissed me as bothersome and irrelevant to the mission of the Berkman Center. If that is the case, may I suggest a name change for your institution; The Berkman Center for the Study of the Internet and Society (Excluding Those Who Make Their Living from the Licensed, Legal Uses of their Copyrights Created under Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution). A little clunky I know, maybe you can improve upon it. I’m going to use my day to write another song.


    Bob Regan

  2. Given that I am personally mentioned in this post I felt I should respond. And yes, the Institute that I founded and oversee at Berklee called Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship is the entity that houses Rethink Music.

    At the end of the day there’s only one entity here that matters as far as I am concerned: the creator. The artists, songwriters, performers and all others who create and give life to the beautiful sonic landscape that we call the music industry. David is one of them. Our 45,000 alumni are as well. As are our 4,500 current students and 500 faculty. And for that matter most of the college staff too. It is a college of MUSIC after all.

    I founded the institute here at Berklee because we believe that it’s no longer sufficient for schools like Berklee to simply educate students on their music craft. Our graduates, which include folks that collectively won over 250 Grammys, also need to understand and be a proactive and loud voice on the business side of the industry. Without that knowledge or mindset they just don’t stand a chance of a fulfilling career.

    Entrepreneurship for us is not about just founding companies or startups. It’s also a state of mind and a set of behaviors that make you a self-sufficient and action biased individual. All musicians today and all artists are entrepreneurs, whether they understand it or not. We want them to get that part and sharpen that skill.

    Anyway, this is not a post about BerkleeICE. This is about the report. Is it thoroughly researched? Yes. Are there things that we likely missed? I am sure. Are we open to record labels, artists, managers, streaming services, publishers etc. calling us out on things we may have (at least according to them) gotten wrong? Sure — help us then take the right next steps with your input.

    Most institutions put out research reports because they like the academic or intellectual exercise of it all. Or the attention. Or the controversy. They also often have the attitude that they are The Word. The Truth. We care about actions. Solutions. How can we preach entrepreneurship and demand anything different?

    For us, being above all artists, we see Fair Music as simply our first prototype, the first step towards creating a collective action, by all players in the industry who care, to create an equitable, sustainable music industry. That’s why we are happy to see artists like Imogen Heap and David Byrne and managers like Andy Edwards publicly supporting our efforts.

    We want to crowdsource the action and the crafting of this new environment. If the first iteration of what we are trying to do has gotten some things wrong, then let’s make them right. That’s why I did state to David that I in fact agree with some of the omissions that he stated and why we are interested in talking. But I am not interested in dogma or boogie men, I am interested in solutions and the way forward. (I will also not try to convince anyone that Google or Berkman had nothing to do with this report any more than I am sure President Obama is interested in trying to convince birthers that he was, in fact, born in the USA — to quote a favorite songwriter of mine).

    The event on October 2 is not another conference, God knows the business does not need more events or more talking heads (no pun here). It’s meant to be a workshop to take the first step towards bringing artists, consumers, students, industry, academia, public policy folk and technologists together to work on crafting the early, embryonic ideas of what a 21st century Fair Music environment looks like.

    We believe it’s achievable.

Comments are closed.