Why The Music Industry Is In Trouble

This week I received two e-mails that provide an example of why the music industry is in trouble.

The lawyers for the music industry, clearly using automated software to seek out people who might be violating their trademarks and copyrights, informed Google (owners of Blogger) and Mediafire (a company that hosts my e-book) that I was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for embedding a video from YouTube.  I was also apparently breaking the law by offering “direct links to files for other users to download containing sound recordings”, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The trouble is I don’t provide links to illegally download music through the blog or through the e-book.  The embedded YouTube video might be an issue, so instead of the embedded video I simply posted a link back to YouTube.  Problem solved.

But there’s a bigger problem.

That problem is that the music industry continues to spend millions of dollars each year trying to shut off the valve of free-flowing music, and only really serve to piss off the very people they want as customers.

By getting to the point where they are targeting me, they are now targeting people who simply observe the music industry and comment on it.  The message I’m getting is that I can’t even be interested in the music industry without getting into trouble with the law.

The music industry is pouring water into a bucket with a giant hole in the bottom.

Their profit margins are shrinking, and their legal costs are ballooning.

They continue to fight the reality that their business model is dead instead of changing the business model.

The Grateful Dead understood all of this stuff 40 years ago, and they were perpetually under the influence of various substances.  If stoned musicians can grasp the future, why is it so tough for lawyers and music industry executives?  What are they smoking?

I don’t have the answers for the music industry, but it seems to me that attempting to preserve the old business model is pointless.  The future for record companies is in music discovery, music promotion, live touring, merchandising, and music exploration.  It isn’t in protecting themselves from bloggers like me who are passionate about the music and the bands.

Grateful Dead 1,100 Comments

Consistency Matters

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One of the chapters of the book Brand Like A Rock Star focuses on AC/DC, and how the band has become of one rock’s most successful acts through absolute focus and consistency.

I didn’t realize just how consistent AC/DC was until I started researching for the book and I had the chance to spend some time with the legendary Phil Carson.  Phil first saw a grainy super-8 video of the Australian band in the mid-1970s, and immediately signed them to a 15-album record deal with Atlantic Records.  He also helped launch the careers of Led Zeppelin, Yes, and many others.

When AC/DC was first promoted in America, Phil told me, they were greeted by “a stunning burst of indifference” from their record company and the music industry in general.  According to Phil, “Atlantic was a very forward-looking record company, and they thought we were nuts to sign them because the band was so straight ahead rock ‘n roll.”

Phil and the band fought against the push-back, playing their brand of raw straight ahead rock ‘n roll night after night and slowly winning over fans one show at a time.

Thirty-five years down the road, AC/DC are still winning using that same consistent formula.

Even when times were tough for the band, they were consistent.  In the 80s, when rock stars wore make-up and skin-tight leather and feathered their hair, AC/DC stuck to their formula.  Carson remembers seeing the band play Nassau Coliseum on Long Island during those darker days.  The arena holds 18,000, but fewer than 8,000 were there that night.  Yet AC/DC played like they were playing to a packed house because that was simply what they did… they played powerful straight ahead rock ‘n roll every night, whether there were a hundred fans or a hundred thousand fans in the audience.

The same AC/DC iconic font.
The same flat-top hat, sleeveless shirt, and jeans on Brian Johnson.
The same school boy uniform and duck walk from Angus Young.
The same pounding rhythm section from Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd.
The same grinding rhythm guitar from Malcolm Young.

Your brand might be consistent, but is it AC/DC consistent?

Are you confident enough in your formula to weather those tough times, like AC/DC did?

Apple was nearly dead a decade ago.  You could pick up their stock for $22.  It closed yesterday at $320.

Old Spice was dead and gone.  It was your father’s cologne.  Today it is the top-selling brand in its category.

Volkswagen was disappearing in the 90s.  Then along came the new Beetle.  VW is alive and well again.

LEGO was dying.  Today LEGO is once again immensely popular.

Great brands embrace what they stand for and they strive to exceed those expectations every single day.  When times get tough, they find resolve.  They know their customer, understand the expectations of their customer, and never let their customer down.

AC/DC, Apple, Lego, Old Spice, Volkswagen 200 Comments

A Letter To John Lennon

Dear John,

We didn’t do much at school on Tuesday, December 9, 1980. 

We were typically boisterous, innocent kids as the day began, but there was a strange, heavy presence that quieted us as our teacher walked to the front of the classroom looking distraught and confused. He announced that he wouldn’t be able to teach us that day.

Instead, on a desk near the chalkboard was a box full of albums he had brought from home. Moments later an awkward pimply kid from the tech club wheeled a record player into the classroom, plugged it in, and left.

The room was silent.

The teacher held his head low as he delicately removed an album from its jacket and placed it on the turntable.

The needle touched vinyl, and in a few seconds music began.  The teacher raised his voice over the music as he told us about a man who had been shot and killed the night before.  He talked about how he had grown up listening to this man’s music, and how much it meant to him.

For hours he sat there on a stool at the front of the classroom and let the songs play.  In between them he would share stories about the band, the man, and the songs.  He was our own personal DJ, and he told us stories that made us laugh.  He told us stories using words we were pretty sure 10 year-old kids weren’t supposed to hear.  He told us stories about the man and his successes and downfalls.  We learned about this man’s quest for peace, love, and equality.  And we listened to his music.

I have no idea, looking back 30 years, how long this went on.  I certainly don’t remember anything else that day.  I only remember Sgt. Pepper and Revolver and The White Album and Double Fantasy and Walls and Bridges and Mind Games.  Most of all I remember Imagine and watching my teacher tell us about John Lennon through his tears.  A 10 year-old boy doesn’t soon forget watching a grown man cry.

I don’t remember any math, English, or geography.  According to the Board of Education, he didn’t teach us anything that day. Yet I learned more on Tuesday, December 9, 1980 than I did on any other day in my life.

I wish I could have learned those same lessons some other way.

From the 10 year-old inside me, thank you John, for your music and your message.


John Lennon 1,015 Comments