Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Million Dollar Idea, or How the Music Industry Could Innovate and Save Their Reputation in the Process

There has been no shortage of news stories of late regarding the music industry and it's ever less-creative ways. They've been suing 12 year olds and single mothers, shutting down websites, and swooning legislators into writing absurd laws in their favor. They have truly forgotten who they are. 

They've forgotten their purpose.

At it's core, the music industry has a single purpose — to provide the people with music in exchange for money. In any industry, times change. Times change. People change. In any other industry (except maybe the newspaper industry, but that's another story), as times change, smart companies innovate. The tech industry tends to get this better than anyone. The music industry does not. The ironic part of the whole thing is that the music industry could be considered a branch of the tech industry. They could do what successful companies do, and innovate to keep up with the market, but no, they resort to truly barbaric tactics and attempt to force people into giving them their money. It's as if they have this attitude that the people exist to pad their pockets. They now assume that the rest of the human race has no purpose but to give them money, regardless of their total lack of innovation, and be punished for doing anything else. People want to use their music in ways that work today, not in the ways of 2 decades ago. CDs are 2 decades ago. They are obsolete in every way, and they need to go. Now. People share music. Get over it. Barnes and Noble realized this in the book industry, and introduced the Nook. It's users can share books, legally. They can loan a friend a book for 2 full weeks, and at the end of the two weeks, it comes back to them, wirelessly. It's pure genius. If the music industry would simply come up with ideas like this, everyone would be much happier. Unfortunately for everyone, they'd rather pay millions of dollars to lawyers than give the same money to software developers to build a system that actually works. If the music industry spent the money they pay their lawyers with on innovation and implementation of new ideas, they'd be far, far richer than they are now, and would fix their reputation in the process. 

So, how could they innovate? 

I have a few ideas.

They have long since forgotten one of the first rules of selling anything. "Give the people what they want."

What do the people want? 

The people want playlists, with the exact songs they want to listen to, in the order in which they want to listen to them.
The people want to save their playlists, and access them from anywhere, on any device
Services like Pandora,, and Slacker come about as close to the mark as possible while still missing it entirely.

Here's an idea. 

Create a music service that gives the people exactly what they want. Allow creation of ordered playlists, with none of this 'We know what you want to listen to, so let us pick the tracks.' crap. Subsidize it in the good old fashioned way. Have 2-10 second ad spots in between tracks, every 10 tracks or so. On the desktop and mobile versions, reduce or eliminate the commercials in favor of visual ads on screen, Pandora style. Allow people to search for new music from anywhere, and add it into their playlists on the fly. It's all being streamed, after all. You'd just be making small changes to their user account database entries, rather than copying actual songs. If the music industry, or even the some bright internet entrepreneurs would implement this idea, they'd be instant millionaires. Is this too much to ask? Give it some thought, and feel free to let me know what you think. 

Comments? Thoughts? Let me know at

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