Remixing the Technology Adoption Lifecycle

It’s clear that the music industry has had a tough time in the last few years, and there are two reasons for it.

  1. We’ve gone from an era where you needed serious investment to produce a record properly to one where most professionals use the same tools as bedroom musicians.
  2. The internet has taken distribution costs down to pretty much zero.

What this means is fragmentation.

Where before you had a few content producers pushing over a few distribution channels – so, The Monkees selling CDs through HMV or Tower Records – now you have a huge number of bedroom musicians (like myself) distributing over plain HTTP, or iTunes, or Magnavox, or whatever.

(Please note that “bedroom musician” is not a euphemism.)

Simply, the musicians don’t need record companies any more. They’re out of the loop, and they can’t make money doing things the old way. Thankfully, they are all starting to realise that – the agreement with Amazon to create a DRM free store containing all four major labels was a landmark, and should be the first of many.

If the internet has a message for business, it is this: don’t give up. The internet invalidates some business models, but creates new ones at the same time. You need to join the change.

ccMixter is a great example of how that has applied to the music business. It’s a remix site, where you can take samples that someone has previously uploaded, and produce a music track.

Show me whatcha got

Here’s an original track from Fort Minor. The reason you recognise the voice is that this is the vocalist from Linkin Park.

Fort Minor, being a strangely named but forward thinking individual, split out the samples of his track, and threw them into the pool at ccMixter.

People got to work.

There are a lot of remixes available – this is my favourite.

Are you frontin’?

So we’ve gone from a situation where new production and distribution models are a problem, to a case where we’re using that talent to do something that wasn’t possible before. Here’s what that is – I prefer this version to the original.

Here’s what I mean by that. One of the things internet people talk about a lot is the possibility of offering customised content. What that really means is segmenting your market, and then creating multiple products based on that segmentation. For example, I like melodic electronic beats, and that’s just what this remix is. It’s customised content for my segment.

Where’s the green, fool?

Most businesses, at some point, need to think about monetisation. Is Fort Minor just giving money away to people? In a sense, sure. I don’t need to pay to hear an awesome version of this song.

But bear in mind two things. First of all – this is an industry where there are more and more artists available across more and more channels. The trick is no longer getting signed with a label, and into the game. The game is open – the only trick is getting people to listen.

Now bear in mind the classic adoption model – Innovators to Early Adopters to Early Majority to Late Majority to Laggards. That’s who those remixers are – innovators. They are DJs. They set up websites featuring their remixes.

The Early Adopters listen to what Innovators have to say about music.

The Early Majority will listen if the music fits what they’re looking for. If it’s practical.

The Late Majority will listen if everyone else thinks they are crazy for NOT listening.

The Laggards will close their ears, and not listen. But by this point you have diffused your track way past where it needs to be successful.

Sure, this isn’t a perfect model. I haven’t addressed segmentation in taste / distribution, I haven’t mentioned cost, promotions or interactions with traditional media. There’s a lot missing here.

But it’s a start.

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