Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Digital Music Forum: The State of the Union

Today, I'll be joining five guys on the State of the Union panel at Digital Music Forum West. I'll be tweeting from the Forum (@rebelcontent #DMF).

The general topic is a look at where the various music markets are now, with all of the disruptions and technologies that effect them, and where markets are headed via innovations and models designed to fuel growth, (assuming of course that growth is a given, which I think deserves some skepticism).

When I think of these issues, I find it difficult to ignore what I see as the biggest elephant in the room: The music business has not only lost its cool, it is often hated by its customers. It's anyone's guess how big the customer group is that hates the business, but they are sufficiently vocal enough to matter. Because music is both subjective and ubiquitous (making it difficult to offer something of distinguished value to customers), this dislike matters that much more.

In this era of unavoidable transparency, the dislike from the customer can intensify as bad behavior comes to light, to the degree where every act is under suspicion. Take extra time to make an artist's royalty payment, "offer" users dodgy subscription services during registration, or charge $100+ per ticket for a 50 minute set, and people will not only know about it, but they will tweet it, blog about it and otherwise expose the shame of your actions to whomever is paying attention. There is no place to hide.

There is no place to hide for the music business. Shady characters can roam the "cruel and shallow money trench, the long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free," but regardless of whether that character is an individual person or a corporation the cover of darkness is gone.

So the question arises: How can the music industry play in the light and win?

The first step: Apologize.

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