Published on: June 27, 2008
The New York Times
had a piece earlier this week about changes taking place in the music business, and the trend there is worth noting for broader reasons.
“The traditional music industry is in the tank — record sales are off another 10 percent this year and the Virgin Megastore in Times Square is closing, according to a Reuters report, joining a host of other record stores. That would seem to be bad news all around for music fans,” The Times
writes, but the fact is that the collapse of the traditional record business – the disintermediation of the retailers and manufacturers that traditionally controlled the follow of product – has been good for many of the actual musicians. You know. The artists.
The story cites a group called the Drive-By Truckers, a Southern Rock band said to be influenced by the likes of Lynyrd Skynryd and William Faulkner. (Needless to say, I was intrigued by this description and immediately went to iTunes to check them out. Good stuff.) “The Drive-By Truckers were never going to be record industry darlings. As it is, they have found a sustainable, blue-collar business model of rock stardom in which selling concert tickets and T-shirts have replaced selling CDs,” says the Times
, which then quotes guitarist/lead singer Patterson Hood: “The collapse of the record business has been good for us, if anything. It’s leveled the playing field in a way where we can keep slugging it out and finding our fans.”
goes on: “After investing early and continuously in the Web, the Drive-By Truckers have a MySpace page with 37,000 friends, offering four songs from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” with almost 800,000 downloads alongside a touring schedule that would put James Brown in his prime to shame. This week, they will be in five cities and two countries (Canada, remember?).
“Before file sharing tipped over the music business, bands used to tour in support of a record. Now they tour to get the dough to make a record. Cheap recording technology, along with all manner of electronic distribution, means that bands don’t need to sign with a giant recording label to get their music out there.”
Drive-By Truckers may not know that it is a kind of poster band for the business trend of disintermediation. But it is.
Further evidence of the enormous change taking place in the entertainment business: Apple announced that music sales on its iTunes sites have passed the five billion mark, and that visitors are renting and purchasing more than 50,000 movies each day.
What was really remarkable about the announcement, though, was that it came just 77 days after Apple had announced that it had sold four billion songs via iTunes, which meant it had sold roughly 13 million songs a day during the period of time.
By any standard that is an enormous amount of product. And while in some ways Apple is taking the place of the old-world music companies in the entertainment continuum, the very structure of its business – and the fact that much of the newest music also is available elsewhere – suggests that it will only continue to be vital as long as it continues to innovate and create unique and relevant connections between hardware and software (like, for example, the iPod).
In the big picture, control has shifted. To the artists, who are more in control of what they do. And to consumers, who are more in control of what they listen to and what they buy.
The real lesson here is that this expectation of control, as experienced by a generation that does not remember a world before the iPod, will filter into all of its rules of acquisition.
Vendors in all venues need to take notice, and begin changing their approach. Now.
Because the writing is on the wall, and they have a choice. Ignore it and eventually fall victim to obsolescence. Or read it, adapt, and survive.
Speaking of control…
There was a piece from Reuters
this week noting that a new study saying that children who believe tat they have control over their own lives may grow up to be healthier- better-adjusted adults. In fact, the belief by children that they can control their own lives through their own actions seemed to a better predictor of adult health than IQ, education and even income.
"Parents who encourage independence and help children learn the connection between their actions and consequences tend to have children with a more internal locus of control," Dr. Catharine R. Gale, of the University of Southampton in the UK, tells Reuters
This sounds very logical to me. I’ve always told my kids that life essentially boils down to a simple equation:Responsibility + Discipline = Autonomy
And autonomy, I’ve always told them, is the Holy Grail when it comes to living your life.
Reese Schonfeld, the longtime television news executive who created CNN for Ted Turner and also created a little something called the TV Food Network, wrote the other day on his Huffington Post blog that there used to be a telethon on the Food Network called “Let’s Make Sure Everybody Eats,” designed to raise money to feed the hungry.
“That's something the Food Network should think of reviving, given the current price of food,” Schonfeld wrote.
Not only is he right, but the nation’s food retailers – spearheaded by one of the trade associations – ought to get out in front of it.
My wine of the week: the 2006 Deloach Pinot Noir, which is wonderfully smooth. I enjoyed it this week with a nice mushroom risotto at the excellent Citrus City Grille in Orange, California.
I know everybody is whining about the travel experience these days, by the way, but in the last two weeks I’ve traveled to Munich, Germany as well as to Pointe Clear, Alabama, and Southern California. Put one bag under plane and carried a small duffel bag and briefcase on the planes. And have to say that by and large the experiences have been fairly pleasant…mostly on time, seats where they were supposed to be, and crews that weren't hostile and even occasionally smiled.
Maybe I’m just lucky. But I also think there is something to be said for not obsessing about how awful things are, and just doing what you have to do with the best possible attitude.
I travel for a living. I give speeches for a living. I write, I eat, I drink for a living. I am amazingly lucky, and for me to whine about these circumstances would be to spit in the face of good fortune. Plus, nobody would care and nobody would listen.
So book me another flight, and order me another meal and glass of good red wine.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.