I live in Nashville, so I’ve had a front seat for the disruption of the music industry. The model used to be roughly linear. Artists created music. Labels developed and promoted that music to radio stations and retail stores. At the end of the chain, people bought the music. First as albums, then later as cassettes and CDs.
The move from vinyl to cassettes and CDs was interesting, but it wasn’t disruption. That was just evolution. Disruption is bigger. It turns the way we do business into mush. The business model--how money is divided within the value chain--gets smashed.
Disruption turns the way we do business into mush. The traditional models for how money is divided within the value chaiN gets smashed.
Under the old music model, individuals bought actual physical goods from a limited number of sources. Now individuals have lots of sources, but we no longer buy anything at all. We pay monthly subscriptions for access to millions of files. Millions. Access, not ownership.
Suddenly Music Was Free.
The old model was first disrupted when online services like Napster began peer-to-peer file sharing. Suddenly music was free. Artists-turned-entrepreneurs figured out how to make more money from ticket sales and sponsorships than from record sales. Replaced by services like YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Google Music and Apple Music, traditional music publishers lost their pivotal role in getting music to listeners. They had to change their model.
There’s a generational component to all this. Owning appealed to Boomers, but streaming appeals to Millennials and Gen Z who have grown up using music as a constant background that enhances everyday experience, eases them through the work day or softens the harsh edges of urban life. Yep, there’s lots of money in earphones.
Lots of money in the music business, too, but the foment continues. Digital royalties on streaming are still being fought out in the courts. And, of all things, Jack White is pressing vinyl.
I spent the first half of my career in publishing, and I saw the same disruption play out there. As soon as the Internet made information free and self publishing easy, traditional publishers lost their role at the center of the industry. Now readers have innumerable sources for books and information, and we “stream” rather than own.
That’s disruption. It changes the status quo. YOUR status quo.
No matter what your industry, your challenge today is to anticipate the disruption and predict, as best you can, how it will play out. Then you can lead all the generations to find the new roles and new ideas that help you to ride the waves of change.
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