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MIT Media Lab-inspired Berklee ICE hopes to change the music industry

In a constantly evolving music industry, teaching students pop music fundamentals and how the music business has historically worked isn’t enough. The Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, an offshoot of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, hopes to solve this and they’re using the forward-thinking MIT Media lab as inspiration.

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BerkleeICE, chaired by Sonicbids founder Panos Panay, aims both to foster entrepreneurial music and tech projects and partner with other music companies. ICE is made up of classes, a research center and an start-up incubator and currently is in the process of raising money to build a institute-dedicated space.

“[In the music industry] there’s little evidence of a desire to ask the big questions and then leverage a partnership of industry, academia and government to come up with the answers,” said Panay in a recent interview with Hypebot regarding the inspiration for the institute.

Considering Berklee’s diverse curriculum and resources — including study areas in music production, engineering, music therapy and sound design, esteemed professors and motivated students — a research lab which explores the future of the music industry was a natural extension.

“We want to build on the strengths of our location. The fact that we’re in Boston. The fact that within a two square mile radius, you have some of the world’s smartest and technologically advanced students,” explained Panay in an interview with DigitalTrends. “We are looking to build the creative equivalent of the [MIT] Media Lab: a research lab that looks at both the future of music as impacted by technology, but also in many ways the ways that music impacts innovation and the adoption of new trends.”

In a course featured alongside the lab called “The Startup Lab,” students work on current music projects developed around a principle called ‘design thinking.’ “Think of design thinking as effectively the fundamental philosophy that you can apply the principles of design to just about any problem,” said Panay (also via Hypebot). “Students use this entrepreneurial approach to develop their projects, whether they’re as simple as furthering their band or aspirational as launching a new music therapy product.”

In addition to the lab and classes, an incubator will ‘aim to answer big questions’ about the music industry. “One of the first projects that we’re undertaking is called Rethink Music: The Fair Music Project, where we’re looking at transparency in the music space as well as exploring the impact of technologies in terms of more efficient flow of funds from consumers to creators,” explained Panay. He emphasized that the project, which is in collaboration with the Harvard Berkman Center, is the first of many projects which seek not just academic inquiries but useful answers for the music industry.

The music industry is certainly in need of reinvention. Any research in this regard is likely a very good thing, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing what projects come out of BerkleeICE down the line. We’ll keep you updated.

Revision (4/16/15): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that BerkleeICE has a formal relationship with the MIT Media Lab. The Institute has no formal relationship with the Media Lab.