Saturday, November 17, 2007

He's listed as day to day, but then again, aren't we all?

With all of the bluster about the way "new media" is changing the info landscape, the real challenges to the old guard seem to be - surprise surprise - in music. Witness Radiohead's latest distribution play. Go ahead - Google it - there's tons of stuff, from major mass media to pundits like Gerd Leonhard or Chris Anderson.

As someone who exists on the margins of this, pontificating till I was sick of it to so-called indie filmmakers, it's all quite amusing. Many of the principles remain the same between music and film and indeed with any artistic medium on the indie level.

But music has a different dimension than most others, and that's concerts. For musicians, this is where the money is. This is why the Stones, who by now are probably mainlining Geritol, are still touring and indeed in their recently completed world tour set a new gross record of over half a billion. That's a ton of Geritol.

So while all of the talk about the "innovation" (hint: it's not) of Radiohead's distrib strategy is bringing this discussion to more public light, the key thing to get is that recorded music (herein, "records" or, "a record") in the new age of new media is, in the purest marketing sense, collateral. Think of it this way: If a company takes out an ad for its latest widget, its sales expectation on the ad is based upon market research, and the price for the ad is a marketing cost. The difference is split between the two models, stone age and new media. What the mass media congloms of the stone age fail to understand is the stone age media's aside but a new media bedrock: the model of records = marketing cost in the age of new media; they are stuck in the stone age where, first and foremost, records were a revenue generator, instead of a cost center, ie: marketing cost.

In its most basic light, the stone age media's failure is in their out-moded, out-entrepreneured thinking, their perspective, the way they look at, perceive and understand the world. It's the Peter Principle all over again. (from the citation: This is "The Generalized Peter Principle." It was observed by Dr. William R. Corcoran in his work on Corrective Action Programs at nuclear power plants. He observed it applied to hardware, e.g., vacuum cleaners as aspirators, and administrative devices such as the "Safety Evaluations" used for managing change. There is much temptation to use what has worked before, even when it may exceed its effective scope. Dr. Peter observed this about humans. [emphasis mine])

And not to cast aspersions, but new media has its long list of wacko tries - witness the dot-com boom, but that's not un-expected. However, when a would-be king such as Yahoo goes and hires an old stone age patriarch like Terry Semel, (from the largest stone-age conglom on earth! No doubt the Yahoo-ers thought that was a great selling point, but in reality, their thinking as well was stone-age) it more than raised eyebrows with me. (Although I have no eyebrows to brag of) My expectation at that point was for Semel to not get it, and sure enough, in a re-tread of John Sculley at Apple, (Yes, even the mythic Steve Jobs had to re-tool his thinking. Remember his now legendary pitch to Sculley at the time? You want to sell sugar water or change the world?) Yahoo has "failed" spectacularly. I say this in light of the fact that Yahoo could have been the kings - they were positioned to be so, but then their lack of innovation killed their chances, and in a confluence of now history, Google out-entrepreneured them.