Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Best deal at Macworld Expo

My favorite stop at Tuesday’s Macworld Expo was at the Berklee College of Music booth. I saw them last year at the Expo, but this year they have an even bigger booth (4302) in Moscone North.

I never heard of Berklee until I went to MIT, but then they were around the corner from where I lived (briefly) in Back Bay. The founder was an MIT alumnus, and his son expanded the mission to include both on both the business of music and electronic music.

At Macworld Expo, some of the Berklee faculty were giving free demos on making music using a computer. It was very practical, grounded in how actual musicians work, and (unlike most booth demos) was not pushing a particular product or set of features.

The full schedule is published online. I saw “Mac for the Guitarist” (Tue 4pm, Wed 1pm) but “Making Music with the Mac” (Tue Wed noon) was highly recommended.

I stopped to ask: “why is Berklee doing this?” (If I were asking a SV firm rather than an arts college, I would have said “what’s the revenue model?”). This is the answer I got:

  1. Berklee has one of the largest college installations of Macs around — some 2000 new machines for students every year — perhaps the most(?) for a music conservatory.
  2. They want to raise their visibility on the West Coast, to get away from being primarily a regional school with a student body fro the Northeast.
  3. Finally, the show management (IDG) gave them space for free — a lot more space than last year (there was clearly plenty of free space).
This is not out of character for Berklee: one of the slides mentioned, a website for free self-paced music instruction available around the world. Effectively, Berklee is doing for music education what MIT (just across the Charles River) is doing for science and engineering with its OpenCourseWare initiative.

I think it’s great that Berklee’s doing this, and I hope that it continues in some format after Macworld Expo disappears.

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