Music: 14 Rules, Starting With Disruption

Seth Godin lays out some lessons for the music industry. The first of them is so basic, it’s rule zero.

The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late.

The obvious new thing, in the context of music, is MP3: the file format, which is compressed, and players such as my new toy. It’s technically inferior to the combination of a CD and a decent stereo. But MP3 is cheaper (even when obtained legally), more portable, and it’s likely that MP3 and similar technologies will get better.

So, although Seth doesn’t come out and say it, his lessons are founded on a disruptive technology argument. Incumbents don’t usually cope well with such disruptions; the big record labels certainly aren’t coping well with MP3.

Therefore, I’m not convinced by Seth’s 6th lesson, which seems to imply that it’s easy for record labels to change business model. I don’t think that it will be.

There is, however, at least one big music incumbent that has adapted superbly to the disruption: Radiohead. I feel yet another Radiohead post coming on soon…