Streaming, Change, And The Right State Of Mind

Disruptive technology and the change it brings can be overwhelming, particularly when it threatens to change forever all that we have known. Streaming clearly fits this bill. But the impact of change is as much in the eye of the beholder as the disruption itself. While it would be bland and disingenuous to say that change is merely a state of mind, a positive outlook that is focused on the opportunities can make the world of difference.

To illustrate the point, here are three examples from the last century of how vested interests have viewed revolutionary new media technology.

1-ebwhiteThis first quote is from the American author and essayist EB White writing in 1933 on the impact of radio. Here new technology is eloquently portrayed with an almost magical profundity.

2-sarnoffThis quote is from David Sarnoff, the Belorussian-American radio and TV pioneer who oversaw the birth of RCA and NBC. Here he is in 1939 talking about the advent of a TV broadcast network against the backdrop of the globe teetering on the brink of world war.

And then fast forward 70 odd years to the emergence of streaming music, and we get this….3-yorkeSomething certainly appears to have happened to the eloquence of observation over the decades. While I’m perhaps being a little unfair to our esteemed Mr Yorke his quote illustrates the stark contrast in how one can view impending change.

There is an inevitability about the shift in consumer behaviour of which streaming is merely a manifestation. We are moving from the distribution era when everything was about linearly programmed channels and selling units of stuff to the consumption era when consumers value access over ownership. Resisting fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour is a futile task. It’s what happened when the labels fought Napster tooth and nail and it took the best part of a decade for the music industry to recover from that mistake.

None of this is to say that the shift to streaming is going to be easy, but it is going to happen anyway. Artists, labels, managers, publishers all need to decide whether to work with streaming now, and have some control over the process, or wait until they have no choice at all.

11 thoughts on “Streaming, Change, And The Right State Of Mind

  1. Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsSpotify Officially Launches in Canada. About Time. - A Journal of Musical Things

  2. I don’t think Thom York’s tone was that surprising given the massively different context and epochs relative to the previous two quotes. ~ One of the clear take away’s of your ‘Digital Ascendency: The Future Music Forum Keynote’ article posted on the 29th, is that downloads are still the biggest force in the music industry, and speaking of Thom York, 430k downloads on Bittorrent in about a day is testament to the fact that P2P file sharing still has massive potential. ~ I thought your closing thoughts in the article of the 29th were very important. i.e. that: ‘Experience is the Product’… This served to re-focus our own vision of the type of files we propose to create and utilize in the ‘monetization of file sharing’ technology/service that we are developing. ~ Streaming, IMO, is an anomaly along the way to a more compelling medium/experience for users.

  3. Reblogged this on La Fabrique de sens and commented:
    Pas assez de temps pour écrire sur mon blogue depuis quelque temps auront constaté mes lecteurs fidèles. Je vais tout de même utiliser cette plateforme pour “rebogger” des billets intéressants.

    Ici, celui d’un observateur aguerri de l’industrie de la musique au sujet du streaming, un phénomène qui est en train de transformer la consommation de la musique en ligne.

  4. You nailed it, Mark, especially in your conclusion. The move to streaming music goes beyond music.

    “There is an inevitability about the shift in consumer behaviour of which streaming is merely a manifestation.” Exactly. As I point out in my blog post “Music Ownership Is Over”, what’s really ending is the need to own things, all kinds of things, just for the sake of having them.

    Spot-on post, excellent blog.

  5. There’s nothing inherently wrong with streaming as a technology. I’ve used it and wrote in support of it 8 years ago. My issue with streaming is whether or not the current business plans are sustainable. Spotify continues to cut their rates in order to attain rapid growth with the demographic they need most…youth. They cut monthly fees in half for a crowd that is not only the most active users, but can be students for upwards of 10 years. Combine with that the intense competitive nature and general race to the bottom mentality, plus the fact that many of these platforms are built upon borrowed money (venture capital), and I wonder if it can survive as a business long enough to help re-build an industry clearly in decline, while consumption is higher than ever.

    Keep in mind that 70% of Spotify revenue goes right back to rights holders. Not a lot of margin to expand and run a massive company. Compare this to Dropbox whose costs are minimal since storage and bandwidth are relatively cheap…and even for them, there is a squeeze occurring from majors like Google and Amazon.

    I predict in the very near future…you are going to be looking at maybe 4-5 music platform choices and all from massive companies. No more plucky startups in this space.

  6. Streaming is here to stay for a while, until the next new shift. We have to all deal with that. The perception that streaming is free music has to be changed. No matter how the music is created, the artists(s) and writer(s) should be fairly compensated. Why is it fair for the CEO of one of these streaming Internet services to make millions of dollars per year while paying the creators (if they pay at all) pennies on the dollar. Music is one of the few for of art where the creator is diminished in the equation, except for poetry (it is difficult to get paid for poetry unless you publish a book). This is because a stream is not tangible. We hear music, but we don’t see music. So, people see it like the wind. Unless you are in a dust storm, you don’t see the wind, or at least the product of the wind being dust. As artists and writers, we do not have a problem with new forms of media, but we do have a problem with not being fairly compensated. What would a famous chef think if someone bought their signature dish for 50 dollars, and someone turned around and sold it on the Internet for 5000 dollars, with an offer of free delivery. The chef would feel cheated and would refuse to do business with the Internet entrepreneur. The creator and performer needs to be compensated. Often, we as writers and artists spend out hard earned money to make recording and pay for musicians and engineers in the studio. We can spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to produce a song or album. Is that fair? I think that paying 99 cents or even 1.29 for a download is more than fair. I think that a streaming service paying the same rate as radio is not too much to ask, after all, they don’t even have to hire a DJ. They run adds, and make money. Hey corporate America, don’t punish the creators of music, work with us and we will continue to produce the songs that sell your products and entertain your guests.

  7. How ridiculous to use the term “inevitability” when referring to something humans do/make. Smacks of the supernatural or of the just plain idiotic…

  8. The difference between Napster and streaming is negligible from a consumer standpoint (totally free verses a few pennies). From a creators standpoint there really is no difference either, it’s the same outcome for writers and artists, unless you’re backed by a major label. It must look a bit different from their view as they are receiving almost all the payout. But a slice of ever-shrinking, broken-business-model-pie is not something on which to bet your future. The labels will jump this streaming ship like panicked rats the second something better comes along (hopefully very soon) and then the whole thing will come crashing down.

    There’s no free lunch here, these songs are a commodity, they belong to someone. Someone made an investment to create them. You cannot expect the music to just keep coming if the people who make it are losing their shirts. Streaming might be the nail in the coffin of good music and the industry built on it if these poor business models are not corrected.

  9. Thanks for the valuable comments, well all of them except one wasn’t but i guess that was ‘inevitable’ 😉

    Here’s a really interesting quote I just came across that really emphasises the importance of state of mind when facing disruption. It is from a TV boss talking about the challenge of making TV work as viewing becomes increasingly time shifted and ad skipping predominates, thus eroding the entire revenue base:

    Showtime’s David Nevins:’I don’t think the demand is going anywhere. I think as long as demand for television doesn’t go away, we’ll figure out the business model challenges.”

  10. I think the music industry can learn a lot from that way of thinking. That’s what got me to jump out of bed in the morning every day to help EMI Music to find ways to better serve it’s artists. That passion, that engagement, that excitement, that emotional engagement with music is so so so so magic. We’ll find a way to make the economics work. And if we don’t, we’re squandering the gift that all of the emotional engagement with our ‘product’ represents and we have ourselves to blame 🙂

  11. Pingback: Spotify Officially Launches in Canada. About Time. | Geeks and Beats Podcast

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