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« Too Much Control and the Imaginary Bottom Line | Main | Trent Reznor's Survey: Analysis & Discovery »
Wednesday
Nov052008

A Call For The (R)Evolution Of The Elephant

When animals in the wild don’t adapt quickly enough to their enviroment they either die or go extinct.  Let’s take the healthy adult elephants who believe it or not have no natural predators except their inability to adapt to change.  This complete ineptitude has dwindled them down to only 4 species faster than you can make a ivory necklace. There are the 3 mammal species and then there is the corporate elephant. For sake of conversation we will be discussing the demise of the corporate elephant that dominated the music industry for eons. Ok, maybe it was 50+ years but it still seemed like eons.

So the corporate elephants use to have the whole kingdom on lock down. How is that you ask? One word, Control.
First, you control the recordings by:

        1) Owning all the studios that house the expensive equipment to make the ‘records’ with.
        2) Owning all the copyrights to all the songs that are recorded (even though you didn’t write them) by using attorneys who are……well….ummm, versed in making up a language that is only decipherable by them and the Mayans.

Second, you control the distribution by owning all 4 distributors in the United States. This makes sure that no one gets out there and makes money in your system without you getting a piece of the pie.

Third, you control the ability to get these recordings to the masses.

        1) Through the use of terrestrial radio you get your songs played (The Malcolm X way, “by any means necessary” (cough, payola, cough, cough), I’m just sayin’).
        2) By having the Big Budgets to promote your product to the mass public.

How do you bring a product to the marketplace?  You beat a massive media blitz into a frenzy until it’s equal to the second coming of the man himself doing a world tour. Then throw some hyperbole into the mix. Sprinkle a dash of testimonial endorsements from celebrities along with a smidgen of PR and Viola! Low and behold we have a smash hit.

That is until the tech (r)evolution comes along and turns that kingdom upside down like a Cirque du Soleil show at the county fair in Ohio.  It brings with it the ability to publish, record and distribute from the desktop to the rest of the world quicker than a Muhammad Ali right hand. This ability plus the cost of admission to perform these tasks has been dramatically decreasing since the 90’s because the marching of technology keeps on going and going (Thanks to Moore’s Law and the Energizer Bunny).  And it will not stop.  Why?  Because technology is the (r)evolution of the collective consciousness of humanity right now.  

It’s the shear size that kept you on top of the musical food chain for so long and it is the exact thing that is bringing you closer to extinction everyday.  You are starting to feel what the rest of the kingdom has known for a long time.  If you don’t learn to adapt quickly to the changes in the environment then you will not survive for long.  You can’t cry about (r)evolutions.  They going to happen regardless of what you think and how hard you fight.  This is just the natural way of things.  If you can not change the course then you must find ways to avoid extinction.  

Your response time has been too slow in adapting to the environment-Internet. This is because your corporate world is dominated by too much hierarchy, that resembles a pyramid scheme all to well, and approvals through committees.  This approval time is detrimental to your very survival.  When the Internet is changing the daily landscape with its instantaneous charisma you can’t be taking a year to decide on what direction you should go.  Your impulse/response time has to be under the legal limit in this age of consumerism ADHD. You can’t be intoxicated by your own self-importance at the wheel of your company, especially right now. So please pay attention to the road ahead because the one eyed approach isn’t going to get you back to where you came from.

You must open both your eyes to the possibility of engaging your users (customers or whatever you refer to them as) with content that opens up the legions of communities that exist without you already. You do not have control over the social media so you need to adapt or die the way of the Wooly Mammoth through the impending Ice Age of musical consumption. The word during this Ice Age is sharing. There is no hoarding during these desperate times. It will only make things worse because people will go and find it somewhere else. At this point you have EPICally FAILed in capturing the ADHD of the people and they will find someone else who will share and discuss openly with them through what is known as social networks. Some of these networks you may know about already and some you probably will never find out about. If you find yourself saying to someone in the company, “What is social networking?”, “It’s myspace right?” then please close your doors and end it. You have no time to play catch up at this point. You are extinct already.

Although this may seem like a call for your demise, it is not such. It is your final chance for survival. I believe you have a lot more to offer than sounding like someone’s grandfather on the front porch, “Back when I was your age we could sell millions of Cd’s.” Quit holding on to the past. It’s over. Your only chance is to develop relationships with those of us who are out here on the Internet and understand it’s potential in bringing people together.

We are not standing here idly waiting for you to join us. We are out here hustlin’ everything that makes us happy. We are filling the niche’s you leave for The Long Tail feeders of the world. We are building businesses on such markets until the day you realize you are no longer in control and We collectively are free. Free to explore new market potentials. Free to develop the music we want with the artists we love. Free to create long lasting, career building relationships with our bands, brands and fans.

So please do not go let yourselves go extinct like the Wooly Mammoth it is avoidable if you choose to adapt to the Internet and it’s circular networks of people. You just have to participate. We are waiting….

Defining the musical chairs of (R)evolution,
The Amoeba

Reader Comments (4)

Well thought-through analogy Dale! ;-)

Survival of the fittest means survival of the most adaptable.

What the big companies don't get is the read/write pro/am culture of sharing as you well said.

The only hierarchy on the Internet is the the one of trust.

The small passionate business focused on their niche will outdo the bored major label employee both with the networked tribes and at the Search Engines. This is vital for business on the Internet. We want the real thing and can spot the "old skool" shove-down-your-throat marketing a mile away. We ignore. We want passionate personalities we can relate to.

Money can not buy the passion and realness so the labels need to find a different way without the control (and profits) they were getting used to.

The old model is already extinct. I think the remainder we see now is just keeping up appearances.

Will major record labels as we know them exist in two to three years time? What do you think?

What can major labels do to get "it" or is there no hope for them?

Marius

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterMarius

Dale,

Here's another elephant analogy for you. I wrote this 12 months ago on Unsprung Media for kicks.


If you invested a substantial sum of money to invent a zero-emission, 500-MPG engine that ran on decomposed yard waste and droplets of elephant piss, and automakers and consumers insisted on obtaining your engines for free, what would you do?

Would you give away your engine, or move up the value chain to realize a profit by manufacturing a proprietary car for your engine?

If it were up to me, I would hoard my engines, build the car and corner the market on elephants. End of story; everyone else can pound sand. I would invite every component maker on earth to build accessories for my 500-MPG car and I would price it to monopolize the worldwide auto market.

Upon saving the earth from global warming and after buying up the shuttered factories of my former competitors for pennies, I would proceed to make billions from breeding and nurturing my heard of elephants; as I would be hoping to gently squeeze the piss out of them for years to come.

At this point, record labels need to start practicing aggressive, eco-friendly, elephant-correct, Ayn Rand capitalism to survive and thrive.

Right now, all the other automakers are using your 500-MPG engines for pennies; you haven’t built a single car; and you have shown over and over that you know very little about nurturing elephants.

The cars that everyone are driving now are iTunes, Rhapsody, Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Grooveshark, Purevolume, Imeem, iLike, ProjectPlaylist, Last.FM, etc, etc, etc, and the number of “car companies” using or negotiating to use your 500-MPG engines grows daily.

You should understand that without your 500-MPG engines, without the use of your master recordings, these companies are just building Škodas.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you realized that as far as the elephants are concerned (Radiohead and NIN get it): these other carmakers are adding a layer that further reduces the pennies you share with them, and therefore it would be better to cut you out altogether; as you don’t build the car that everyone drives, and those others do.

Before it’s too late, it’s time for you to manufacture a car that exclusively uses your engines. Give the people what they want and in the process grind your competitors into acquisition meat. Your car should be FREE and every component and widget maker on earth should be able to profitably build accessories upon your platform (ala FaceBook).

Five years from now, the competition will be between elephant herdsmen. There will be four to six major “carmakers” and they will all be running elephant farms; so when you have one of the only car designs that run on yard waste and elephant piss, sign as many elephants as possible to generous deals that motivate them to pee often.

Readjust, Coke doesn’t give their formula to Pepsi and Google doesn’t give their algorithms to Yahoo. It’s the same thing here; your roster is your secret sauce, stop giving it to your competitors. The other “car companies” are not your “bottlers”; they are the competition that enables the elephants to sell their waste without you.

November 5 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Great post Dale.

Here's the thing, elephants do have natural predators...humans. And this actually supports your argument.

In addition to their inability to rapidly adapt, they are hunted by tribes and poachers. Tribes can be seen as social networking sites and poachers as individual artists. One wants their meat, the other their ivory. Like elephants, The Big 4 cannot magically make their skin bulletproof, but they can crush the crap out of you if they get the chance.This is, however, a losing battle for them, for behind each attacker that they crush lies a whole tribe or poachers with rifles full of bullets.

What keeps elephants and big record conglomerates a prize worth seeking, is that the thinking of many artists has not changed. People still want a record deal. People still want ivory. Until new artists understand that their desire for "a deal" is outdated the ivory hunt will continue.

To add to Bruce's comment, which is a terrific metaphor, it is important to remember what has happened to those that have invented low emission engines outside of Detroit....they have a habit of disappearing.

Throughout the decades there have been urban legends of the guy who buys a car at a dealership, brings it home and drives it for weeks without refueling. Eventually, police and the dealership show up at his house and take the car away saying that he was accidentally sold a prototype.

Whether this is true or not, it brings up a good point: The first line of defense when a competitor develops something that rivals your product is to acquire it and silence it.

If you build a 500 mpg engine, a car to fit it and establish a terrific piss factory, you had better have an army outside your gates because someone will soon come knocking. And the sad part is that your 500 mpg engine will end up in some warehouse because the automaker doesn't understand it or doesn't know how to fit it into their current design.

What will be interesting to see is if the big 4 will attack and acquire the emerging technologies like they did with downloading sites, or if they will develop new and better ways for us to get their music. After all, they have the Capital but do they have an Epic enough vision.

November 6 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Beguin

Marius, Alex and Bruce

I'm really glad you guys like it.

It just doesn't make sense to me why the 'Elephants' haven't put together a social networking team. It takes a lot of time and a little bit of money compared to 10 years ago. It's like technology keeps handing them the Ace in the whole and they want to give it back or pretend that they can keep playing the same hand over and over.

There has obviously been a major shift in the way that business is being done and it doesn't seem to me as though they've been adapting fast enough to the landscape. As I mentioned. So I look at this as an opportunity to use it to our advantage and get the out here and hustle. It's time to turn the game in our favor.

As Marius asked, "Will major record labels as we know them exist in two to three years time? What do you think?"

The 'Elephants' will still exist. They are already taking on the roll of venture capitalists. The foundation has to be laid out for them now. Everything together in one nice package and they are going to keep doing what they do best and sell to the masses so that they can get the bigger dollars.

Which leaves all the other bands and music for us smaller companies to develop artist careers. I think we should be looking at music as an artistic investment. It's not something that we should look on as a ROI every quarter like the majors do. Of course I want to see my artists successful but I would rather them build a career over 3 years than to be a disposable tart. That's where the advantage comes in. We can have a relationship with our artist and then that artist can have a closer relationship with their fans. This is where the long term money is.

"What can major labels do to get "it" or is there no hope for them?"

Like I mentioned all they have to do is participate. It's really that simple. Here is something that best describes it :

Working the Room


Love the comments. Keep them coming.

November 7 | Registered CommenterDale Adams

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