After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses – NYTimes.com.
…to figure out that at a cost of $1,500.00 for 32 leather bound volumes they could no longer afford to compete with the free, user generated, 11 years old, encyclopedic website Wikipedia. It took a decade for a digital phenom to disintermediate a nearly two and half century old business. Why hasn’t there been a similar, swift change of the guard when it comes to music?
If we credit Edison’s 1886 patent for the wax coated recording cylinder as the start of the recorded music industry, then the business of music today is in its 124th year. That said mp3 files have been on the internet since 1994, so applying the same disintermediation arithmetic to music means it should have taken about 5 years for the physical consumption of music to go the way of the Dodo bird. Ironically, 1999 was the music industry’s zenith with global sales topping out at nearly $27B. Many well known factors (from the failed draconian enforcements of the Copyright Cartels, to the steady adoption of broadband, to the falling costs of technology, to the rebirth of Apple, and the P2P revolution launched by Napster) have since reversed that trend with sales of music dropping steadily every year.
So, again, why is it taking so long for things to change? Some say CDs are here to stay, that they serve a qualitative and nostalgic purpose. One good friend, who sells physical CDs online, argues that millions of CD buyers are still out there looking for what he has to offer, and with less competition from brick and mortar stores he’s poised to make a seven figure a year income. OK, but for how long? The CD is well on its way to becoming a collectors item and, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, physically obsolete.
Music fans have spoken, they want 24 hours access to their music wherever they might be, in an easy and cost effective manner. The way forward is mobile streaming because when fans leave the house it’s their keys, wallet, and cellphone that they take with them.
The Spotify music streaming service is the closest thing they have to that desired ubiquity, but cost for the service and its condescension for indie artists & labels has made for a spotty service. Spotify is not the future, it’s the staid present under the watchful eye (and ownership) of major labels. If major labels and their cronies (publishers, PROs, trade organizations) aren’t the agents of change, then why do artists still appear dumbfounded by the fact that change is being spearheaded by TechCos?
What is it going to take for artists to embrace change on their own terms and scale their musical offerings to a global marketplace instead of falling prey to copyright politics defined country by country?
Today your customer is global from the moment you make your music available. Isn’t it time you started competing and cooperating with each other on a global scale to meet the needs of your fans? That’s the genius of the Visa credit card: No single owner, no centralized power, no country by country politics, instead a global marketplace defined by a financial exchange between all merchants for the customer and all customers for the merchant.
So why not all artists for the fan and all fans for the artist?