Future Of , Legacy

5 steps to finding another way forward: getting on the right track to the Future of the Music Business

Cross posted from the MidemNet blog, Nov 6, 2008

I really enjoyed Ted Cohen’s MidemNetblog post from last week as it quite succinctly pointed out the urgency to act now, and to implement real changes in the way the music industry works. I feel strongly that there may very well not be too many gatherings like MIDEM in the very near future if we don’t embrace CHANGE much quicker than we have been.

I wrote on the SAG’s strike and a project called Strike.TV on my Mediafuturist blog yesterday, highlighting the fact that the rule seems to be that we don’t change unless the PAIN gets big enough. Well, it seems to me that we are there, right now, so here are 5 things that I believe would help us get there:

  1. Collaboration_only_way_forward_afri
    Truly collaborate to arrive at sweeping and effective solutions
    : the music industry has been notorious for in-fighting, wide-spread distrust, clubbiness and ludicrously fragmented business procedures and licensing rules. We need an industry-wide innovation initiative that looks at new business models from a global joint perspective of labels and publishers, artists and managers, agents and promoters, startups and societies. We need to rethink our traditional business rules and put the cards on the table – or that very table will start to burn down while we’re sitting at it.
  2. Watch and listen to the kids i.e. the digital natives, and then offer business models that will serve them in the way they want to be served, not as we would prefer them to be served. This is seriously ingrained problem in the music industry: all too often, we are assuming the ‘consumer’ aka user to be different than they really are, and / or we are thinking of them to act like we do. This is a deadly mistake, as it will be those very same 15 year old kids that do Facebook, Twitter, Loopt, Spotify, Songza or Youtube that are our future customers. This ignorance has cost us billions already so let’s stop acting like we can control them or tell them what to do.
  3. Question our fears and assumptions – because they guide us inadvertently to faulty conclusions. I can’t tell you how often I run across this problem when I do my speaking gigs: those deep-seated and mosty unspoken fears of ‘not getting paid’, of being ripped off, of losing an advantage, of losing control, are often at the heart of many decisions that are made in the music industry. If we don’t start facing and containing those fears, and the assumptions that stem from them (e.g. ‘nobody wants to pay for anything on the Internet’, or ‘those kids can’t be trusted), we will always decide on the wrong course of action. It is time to take an honest look at where we really are, and how things work in today’s world.
  4. Control_icon
    Question our desire to keep control at all times.
    This goes with point the 3rd one, of course: when watching the music industry actions, it all too often seems like it’s more important to our ‘leaders’ (?) to remain and assert control than it is to make money. This is a deadly attitude that needs to change asap so – on the risk of sounding like a broken record here – let me spell it out for you: we will not, and we cannot control what people do with our music, going forward. How much they share, when and how, how they re-use it, how and when and where they listen to it, and which music they like. We can only participate, get their attention, get them to become fans, and then turn their attention into dozens of possible revenue streams. It’s now solely about TRUST and Merit, not about selling copies. Give up control and get ready for much larger things to come back to you!
  5. Future_is_conversation_gerd_leonhar
    Open up and have real conversations
    with everyone, whether it’s users and fans, or the government, the media, other industries, ISPs, startups etc. How many music industry ‘leaders’ are blogging? How many have a twitter feed? How many would reply to your email? How many are on Friendfeed? How many are on Facebook, joining the conversation? How many really want to HEAR from the public and show that they are open to conversation?  Again, let me spell this out for you: Markets are Conversations. If the music industry does not want to have real conversations with it will shrink inevitably.

I look forward to debating these concepts with you – please comment below. Also, if you like these 5 points, be sure to read my Music 2.0 book, online, as free PDF, on your iPhone, or the dead tree version – whatever.

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