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Lessons from the music industry

August 15 2011 | Strategy, Culture Shifting,

It felt odd to type that title.

ARE there lessons to be learned from the music industry?

It seems to be generally accepted that the music industry is a mess. It's backward and perhaps among the last places one should look to for applicable lessons that would be applicable (in a positive way) for other industries. Yet it also appears to be true that more people are listening to music than ever.

This piece makes the simple case that what matters isn't consumers owning product but consumers listening to (streaming) music, i.e., if a band wants to get big they should put complete focus on maximizing streaming volumes not selling CDs.

Focus on real actions (people listening to your music) as opposed to focusing on potential for real actions (people buying your CD which may or may not get played).

These are different strategies.

The world of music listeners has shifted to the former (streaming music from various sources) and the music industry still seems to be trying to live in the latter (selling CDs).

Granted, my "music industry" phrase is a bit generic... the truth is artists have gained a meaningful amount of power at the expense of record companies.  Artists are doing well (focusing on getting listeners via any streaming channel and touring to support that created demand), it's the record companies that are losing more and more power and profits.

From a pure consumers standpoint it hasn't made sense for years to buy product (CDs). Why buy the most recent CD when you can simply listen to a never-ending stream of that and similar music on Pandora, Spotify,, etc? If you don't want advertisements to be played (to offset the free service) then pay for a subscription.

There ARE lessons here.

One of the lessons is that which matters most is how often people are engaging with your brand, idea or product.

We know this at Surfrider. We built our current strategic plan around this idea. The single most important metric at Surfrider Foundation is discrete engagements connected to our misson.

More than anything we want people to engage, we want people to act.

We want people to see our mission, our campaigns and our programs as worthy enough that they will act on them... they'll engage with them.

Of course not all actions or engagements a person can take are equal. If a person comments on a post that's good. If a person shows up at a chapter meeting, that's awesome. We know this and we weight accordingly.

The music industry isn't broken, it's just morphed into something different. The larger truth is that so have most, perhaps all, other industries. We need to understand these shifts as they are happening in real time.

The last time I checked pretty much everyone I know is listening to music. Let's pay attention to shifts as they are happening so we can get everyone we know acting to preserve our coasts. This isn't about trendy business shifts, it's about maximizing impact for the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches.



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