What they don’t teach you at Lady Gaga U
Perhaps it is nostalgia for their own student years that drives academics’ fascination with popular music.
To mark Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, Bristol University last May hosted a conference of “the UK’s foremost Dylan scholars”, with an introductory address by Prof Daniel Karlin, who had nominated the singer for a Nobel Prize in literature.
Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy, a Canadian performer, last year became the first graduate of Liverpool Hope University’s masters course in Beatles studies.
Now Harvard Business School has written a case study on Lady Gaga, challenging its students to think about how they too could produce a meat-dress-clad phenomenon.
The music industry is a perfectly respectable subject for study, not least by a business school. The revenues can be huge, the marketing frenetic and few sectors have been so changed by the internet.
In the 1980s there was “a simple path in which the key to success for a musician was signing to a major record label that would then develop, manage, market and distribute the musician and their works”, a recent report for the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) observed.
Album sales have since collapsed - UK figures last week showed them at a little over half their 2004 level - and while digital services such as iTunes and Spotify have won a large following, other hopefuls such as MySpace have shrivelled. There is no sign of the business settling down. The IPO report said there was a clash between artists who wanted to license their music for use in computer games
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