An Education

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

I started in the record business in 1978 as a clerk in a record store. Paid less than a living wage, the job demanded knowledge I could never learn in school. It was all about the best. The best rock, the best jazz, the best pop and the best blues. If you understood that, you could rule the world. Music knowledge was power.

I worked my way up through the industry, learning as I went. I took numerous jobs in the business, each one teaching me more than I had known before.

My school of hard knocks earned me a lot of opportunity. But the lessons of today's music business are not taught in the nightclubs, the record stores or the board rooms. Today's music business actually requires hitting the books, academically. Many active music buyers are online. Reaching them requires sophisticated online marketing knowledge.

No better way to learn than from the professionals. The prestigious Berklee School of Music has built an online extension program. Their offers a number of interesting classes online to fill in experiential gaps.

The most useful course is titled “Online Music Marketing with Topspin.” Topspin is the leading digital-music marketing and sales company. In this course, Berklee's Michael King and Topspin's CEO Ian Rogers have deconstructed the marketing matrix, providing a hands-on education in digital record marketing. Students learn how to build digital touch-points, optimize site visits, develop fan integration and build brands. It is a first class education in online music marketing.

It doesn't hurt that the whole course studies the TopSpin platform, similar to how a course might focus on PhotoShop or Excel. Topspin has developed a robust program to maximize online visibility and sell through. Musicians and music companies around the world can participate and socialize in a private trusted community.

The Berklee Music/TopSpin adventure is 12 weeks long and costs $1200. You can take the course without credit for about a thousand bucks. Outstanding deserving online students may be eligible for a scholarship, courtesy of Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Don Was and Steve Vai and others. Many other musicians donate funds to help students learn how to make a living in the craft they love.

Today's music business is not just about hustle, music knowledge and who you know.  Today, it's also about digital prowess, online inventiveness and a fast Internet connection.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.