Dr. Jason King is the Artistic Director of The Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, an innovative leadership institute for aspiring young music entrepreneurs at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. An associate professor and the founding faculty member of the program, he has been teaching classes on the music business, music technology, and pop music history for the last ten years. His pioneering approach to teaching hip-hop in the classroom has been profiled on MTV, BET, and AOL. Dr. King has also given lectures on popular music at various universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and MIT.
In celebration of the publication of “Michael Jackson: An Appreciation of His Talent” in Da Capo Press’ Best Music Writing 2010 compilation, Dr. Jason King squeezed some time out of his busy schedule to conduct an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on changes in the field of music journalism, the emergence of the “global pop star,” and the future of music production.
As the Artistic Director and founding full-time faculty member of NYU’s Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, your success is intriguing, due to your young age and the universally low number of tenured minority professors at prestigious universities, like NYU. What key personal characteristics do you attribute to your accomplishments?
Well for one, I’m allergic to the word “no.” So I get things done, regardless, and I think you have to have that spirit to counteract all the forces that may not be invested in you succeeding. As someone who was put in an unusual leadership position at a relatively young age, ageism has been the most difficult "ism" I’ve had to deal with probably because it’s the one "ism" that people generally have no self-consciousness about and that makes its expression particularly ugly.
I think some of the work I’ve been able to do is because I chose to explore all of my diverse skills and excel at each one of them, rather than limit myself. In the post-Napster music industry, you know, what they call the new music industry, it’s become increasingly difficult to earn a living just selling recordings, so that now you have to be multi-faceted. You have to have different skills, or be entrepreneurial, or so the argument goes. I think some of the success I’ve had comes from the idea that I was always already multi-faceted and have experience in a number of different areas of the industry – journalism, management, marketing, performing, producing, and so on. I also think I’ve been successful at identifying and recruiting and developing faculty to teach in the program who might not have even thought of themselves as professors