Paper: Online Tools to Promote Music of the Midwest
Robert Willey (Ball State University)

photoABSTRACT: An approach to teaching a music industry class involving the promotion of regional music is presented. A variety of tools are applied, including cell phones, lap tops, web browsers, iTunes, streaming Internet radio, and Google drive, forms, maps, and gmail. Many of the class meetings are flipped, with students watching lectures and studying at home and working in groups during classtime. The class is modified in the summer to be taught online with more individual than group projects, and office hours performed using WebEx online meetings.
Ninety percent of the students in the class take it as a general elective. There is an entrepreneurial emphasis in which students explore their interests and apply their portfolio of skills in whatever major they come from to develop a project that fills a community need. Electronic tools help us reach outside our small-town environment, get practical experience, and develop contacts.

Robert begins by talking about his ‘graphic curriculum maps’ – which are flowcharts that describe the learning journey. His pedagogy of ‘Specifications Grading‘ is partly influenced by the work of Linda B Nilson.
We see a photograph of his students undertaking a ‘Montecarlo quiz’, which is a dice-driven form a class pop quiz; he reports that they found it a lot of fun, and that it helped them to engage with the class material.
The core material of the module relates to promotional material for bands, and Robert gives an example of a class discussion where students’ views on copyright and ownership changed as a result of their reflections in the class.
Robert’s book, Midwest Music Business: A Primer (companion website) is not only a primer for students, it is also an attempt to prime the music industry in the Midwest. Having these resources enabled Robert to flip the classroom, because the students could undertake study outside in their own time, readying them to undertake more debate driven activities in the f2f classroom.
The students’ work (and the University) is based in Muncie, Indiana, but the module is conceptually branded around Middletown, which he describes as the very definition of an average town (fun fact – it was the inspiration for Parks & Recreation). The project has its own social media presences – e.g. Facebook page. YouTube presence.
Robert cites some interesting rules of thumb that the students are asked to apply to their artist social media pages;

  • 40% of your posting should be about the band/artist
  • 30% should be content of interest to visitors
  • 10% answering questions from fans
  • 10% to providing behind the scenes content for the band
  • This leaves only 10% to promote the album/product etc

The students gather large amounts of data about the scene – live and radio play – and they also receive training in calling venues to set up artist bookings. The course/module has partnered with the business department – these students design additional content for the website. The class is also taught online over the summer, in small groups of 20 or so.
[JB comment – this is really good stuff, and I hope I haven’t understated here how broad Robert’s work is, especially considering that this is a single course. The social media presences work together with the real-world student activity, the core texts, and the pedagogical framework. This is really strong curriculum design with real-world career implications for the students].