Solving The Problems Faced By The Music Industry In The Digital Age

future of musicWhenever I interview anybody, I always ask in which ways the music industry has been benefited and derailed by its encounters with the Internet. A recurrent answer is that the industry has always been inept to react to changes as they came along.

Not many would disagree with that, really. If the industry had moved faster (and more intelligently) when services like Napster began disrupting the way things worked, the damage could have been seriously minimized. It was to take bands like Radiohead to show record companies that music could be distributed online as profitably as by traditional means – “In Rainbows” was instrumental in redefining how a new release could be handled online. And that was well before the social web came along.

All these events and developments were taken into account by Mark Mulligan (a music analyst at Forrester Research) when speaking at the MIDEM music industry conference. He devised a set of guidelines for any company that is releasing a music product in the future. He has named these SPARC – “Social”, “Participative”, “Accessible”, “Relevant” and “Connected”.

Let’s go through them one by one.

SOCIAL: To all intents and purposes, this refers to putting the crowd in the cloud. Services like Spotify lead the way in that respect – by letting users post songs to their Facebook profiles, Spotify makes for creating online buzz like little else.

PARTICIPATIVE: A distinction must be made between younger and older audiences.

Gaming platforms like Nightclub City have let companies engage younger audiences in the context where they spend their livelong days (IE, online). They are allowed to make in-game music purchases, and buy new tracks to enliven the time they spend in their virtual worlds.

And when it comes to older audiences (IE, the kind who still buy CDs) these are not as unapproachable as it might seem… or are they? The answer would have obviously lied in console games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Yet, these have begun being discontinued… Mmmh… a missed chance?    Continue reading