MEDIA ARTS EDUCATION IN CANADA – 10 year anniversary
by Jim Lamarche
“Sweet dreams are made of these; who am I to disagree. I’ve travelled the world and the seven seas; everybody’s looking for something”. Annie Lennox
Hello friends and readers. I’m into my 10th year as the creator/editor of MAE in Canada, the report and still enjoying being here. I started it as a blog in MySpace in 2008 and was surprised to see it catch on so quickly. MySpace died and I jumped ship and re-booted MAE in WordPress in 2010, then making it a formal website in February 2014. It appeared early on, that a lot of people appreciated the effort and that many benefited from the insight and information it provided. I still receive emails every week from those who are grateful and/or would like further clarification (some posted in the FORUM). As always, I’m happy to help.
I originally wanted to create a forum of interaction where those passionate about music/media could gather and exchange ideas, with the report itself acting as a platform from which to project those ideas as there was really nothing to go on out there (still isn’t). What I learned as time progressed, is that the appeal of such a forum was (is) limited only to those curious individuals who wanted/want to know the facts, which turns out to be a tiny percentage of those participating in music/media post-secondary college programs overall. I have learned that most who are in these expensive programs aren’t that interested in ‘real news’ at all, especially if it interferes with their idea of who they think they are and want to be (the fantasy), regardless of the impending fallout (student debt and survival default) post grad. All throughout my 30 years as a music/media arts educator, I was surrounded by a multitude of young people who hesitantly showed up with little or no musical talent; (maybe having written a song or two) and wanted to be in the music biz because someone told them that all it takes is this program (to become larger than life). I’m IN! Where do I sign?
Don’t get me wrong; a healthy imagination is a good thing and aspiring to become successful (and yes even famous) can be inspiring to watch, providing it’s done with both eyes open and with a willingness to look at everything whilst. In my experience in education, I’ve found that 9/10 who enrol in these programs like the “idea” of being in music/media than are actually committed (willing to work at it). Those who have what it takes have big ambitions backed by a burning curiosity and a relentless need for the truth (a combination that is in short supply). Of course, it’s easy to assume that because one has a computer and likes to make beats or YouTube clips (imagining becoming a famous DJ or producer), that they have what it takes to make it work out there in the industry when so very few actually do, then actually going to the school and listening to an admissions recruiter (paid on commission) tell them that they in fact have what it takes, makes it even easier to take the plunge (and sign the loan).
In the MAE Survey (link below), I gathered information/data on those participating in these programs which confirmed that many in music/media students/grads like to pretend a lot (been there, done that). When I started teaching in 1984 (Trebas Institute), everyone that signed up/enrolled wanted to be seen and heard, and the school’s marketing was all about showing them the way. Year after year I watched 3/5 or 60% of students drop out before their final term started – then most of those remaining drifting into non-related vocations after spending/investing $20-$30K on an education they would rarely use (never use professionally). After conducting the research, I just assumed that the report/forum would gather momentum and become even more relevant, but am sad to say that nothing changed. To this day, most don’t really want to look at it but the facts remain. Think of it this way … out of 100 students that show up first day of class (particularly at most private colleges on average), 60 of them are gone by their final term. Out of the 40 remaining, 20 graduate and maybe 4 find meaningful employment in their field. This is my observation after having taught at Trebas Institute, IAOD/TFS Toronto Film School, Metalworks Institute and Fanshawe College (Music Industry Arts). That’s a 4% success rate despite the college’s over-inflated published KPI stats (Key Performance Indicators). That said, I have gathered new survey data (Survey 2017) and have incorporated my findings into the updated MAE Survey. MTCU KPI stats report on participants who successfully integrate later (any related job), but most don’t graduate. Now maybe you’re in that 4% who can see through all the misinformation into a future where your vision can prosper. Thoroughly processing what’s real is an important prerequisite.
Young people earnestly embrace the possibilities presented to them by enthusiastic post secondary colleges (having everything to gain by signing new students up), having the answers to questions students have had for years and FINALLY good news! “You’re accepted – you’re IN!” Finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel and a ‘real’ reason to push forward! What I’ve also learned is that many music/media student registrants were/are coming from a place of insecurity in an absence of mature, emotionally grounded support – far more-so than those pursuing traditional educations (University and Community College diplomas/degrees), so the idea of becoming larger than life (take this job and shove it – I’m going to do what I want to do) takes on a whole new appeal; a unique stubbornness. I’ve seen a backlash in that there was/is zero tolerance for anything that interferes with that constructed reality, regardless of its benevolence or it’s relevance … especially from some report/forum on the internet that suggests that they might be wrong in their assumption about their intended destination (or at the suggestion that they are possibly being used).
That concluded, I have tailored my message to these individuals in particular, should they choose to look in this direction, hoping to engage them even on some basic level, having been there myself and recognizing the pattern. 10 years later, I’m finding that parents read the report/blogroll/forum on the site more than their sons/daughters (music/media students) themselves which tells me something … most young people don’t want the facts (real stats); they just want a constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth and this translation has all encompassing ramifications (looking at the bigger picture) because in essence, they are flying solo.
I’ve said it before and will say it again … if the world’s next Quentin Tarantino, Avril Lavigne, Drake or Trent Reznor/Daniel Lanois is reading this stuff, then none of it will matter one way or the other because information in a blog on the internet won’t change that kind of commitment. It has become obvious to me now that I’m 60, that following one’s passion IS essential and that anyone who tells you what you ‘should’ do (or buy), is someone you shouldn’t be listening to. That said, more than ever before, we humans (all ages) have become volatile and gullible – shunning the truth/what’s real – in favour of fake news, and that makes us feel better about ourselves (short term) but all too often, leaves us with little to show for our efforts when the game is over. When it comes to modern day marketing, there really are no rules. Today (as I write this), it’s “Black Friday” (Nov. 24/17) and yes, all in the Christmas spirit (a time of giving). Massive banners flashing everywhere claiming … “buy one – get one free” or “50% off today only“ – but they’ve marked up the original price – so what looks like a great deal for the discriminant shopper, is actually a big boost for the retailer.
It is my final thought and wish that those of you reading this pace yourselves (resist impulse) and take careful stock of your options and opportunities, developing the courage to look at everything that can help you get to where you want to go. Become fully informed/street-smart/sharp (learning to read between the lines), while developing a creative and cohesive plan of action that is grounded and realistic after the initial assessment has solidified. The one given (reality), is that regardless of the media arts path that one wishes to pursue, the market is flooded with gifted/talented grads looking for work in their field of study. I will never tell anyone not to embark on a choice to attend a music/media arts college. I will however, continue to encourage those who do, to take a good long look before jumping in.
More articles/blog posts by Jim Lamarche:
The Learning Curve – An Observation in Modern Education (private vs. public post-secondary)
MODUS OPERANDI – a peek into the dark side of (for-profit) PCC college recruitment in North America.
CRITICAL THINKING: THE END OF AN ERA – exploring the impending expiry of liberal arts education.
The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit
The Learning Curve – Erase & Rewind – introducing the open loop/non-linear post-secondary model
Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education