Lessons from the Music Industry

by Jonathan Longnecker

Music IndustryI’m a frequent reader of Seth Godin’s blog, and his recent entry “Music Lessons” is mostly right on the money.

I think everyone is in agreement that the music industry has been ripping us off for years; their business model from 1950 is dead, and they’re floundering around trying to figure out what to do. Copy protection; while a decent first tackle at the problem; should have been dropped years ago. Suing your own customers. Stupid. Yeah, yeah we’ve heard all this before.

What makes Godin’s entry so interesting is that he reminds us that it can happen to any business.

It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever? It didn’t. Yours doesn’t either.

Yes, the music industry has fouled up, but how often do we cling to our old ways of doing business because we’re afraid of the new way? As he says, it’s almost always better to get out of the old way before it collapses than be the last one there when it does. We should always be looking for ways to improve ourselves both personally and professionally. Keep the big picture in mind at all times.

There’s a ton of other great stuff in the post, but the one thing I disagree with is that last point about selling subscriptions. I think it’s been pretty obvious that subscriptions for music don’t work. Why? People want to own their music. It’s part of who they are. Part of the mindset they belong to. Music gets in your soul in ways that other products can’t. Kids want to show their friends what they’ve got on their iPod because they’re proud of it. Because they found it, bought it and take care of it. Not because it came automatically as next in line from their subscription.

But he’s right: the good old days are yet to happen for the music industry. And it will either be through large labels, small independents or the musicians themselves, depending on who gets there first.

January 08, 2008

Business, Personal


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