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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Marching to a Comforting and Predictable Drum-beat

From my personal perspective, how I use digital music, Spotify has been the game changer. I have every record/track I can think of I wish for in my playlists and can access my streamed music all over the house and via any computer anywhere. If I want to pay a subscription I can save my Spotify playlist on my iPhone (so in my hotel room and car). Before Spotify I had never purchased (or stole) an MP3 on-line, why would I? I always purchased a CD which I could rip, lend, leave in the car and sell on eBay.

(As it is I have my phone full of free podcasts and never want for excellent music or talk 'programs' when on the move - indeed I don't think I will ever catch-up with what I have yet to listen to).

The problem is not artists, big corporate music companies or the few big cogs in the current digital music distribution market. It is the consumer. The consumer has become stupefied and soporific; how can I say this kindly? I can't. They are stupid and lazy. They are programmed to march to the comforting and predictable drum-beat of the big branded spoon-feeding money-relieving machines.

The opportunity is to offer an environment where people, consumers, realise it is OK to search, filter, discover and enjoy the enormous wealth of music that is 'out there'. Independently created, historic, global and varied. Right now they are so stuffed with the idea that it is only today's music, today's big name, that is valid. That is the paradigm that was sold by the record companies and is now almost hard-wired into the public's psychology. The fact is though; it actually does not need to be crafted-fashion 'branded' celebrity to be good, with-it, edgy, sexy or profitable. The task is to sell, or un-sell, that to the market.

I submit, frustrating though it may be, the fundamental core of the wish to MAKE people pay for content (music, film, news or whatever), the angry petulant desperate demand, is a dated paradigm.

The correct desire should be no more than to provide the best service possible; and along the way people will pay for a good service. The correct desire should be to provide that service at a price which reflects no more than the essential commercial margin in addition to the true, nuts and bolts, cost of provision (to allow for investment, development and a return).

It does not matter what you were selling the stuff for in the past. It matters not what you think something is worth or even what you can resoundingly prove enough people will be happy to pay for it to make a viable profit.

It is only by having an absolute monopoly, over all the content people want and over all the means of distribution people use, that the market can be forced to comply with price. That monopoly exists with copyright but not with distribution. It is the opening-up of distribution that is the game-changer so far.

The next step will be a further and enormous proliferation of available content. Presently the market, the customer, still thinks they have to draw their media from the traditional sources - but the market just takes time to adjust. It is the current content providers that must predict and adapt to the new paradigm.

People will pay for good content. Some people will pay a good price for the content they want. Most people, nearly everybody, will pay a peppercorn price for unlimited access to unlimited content.

King Canute the Great knew this. He sat in the sea to make clear he could not stop the tide no-matter how Great he was thought to be. Miss the boat and today's content providers will become tomorrows historic media archives.

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