In what is perhaps a sign of the times, EMI (famously home to Pink Floyd and Coldplay) hosted a pitching panel for music startups last night at their Kensington HQ. A group of eight startups got to pitch their wares to a panel of big guns, comprising EMI execs, VC investors, a tech journalist (not me), and veterans like Last.fm’s former COO, Spencer Hyman. If you’re interested in what the startups had to offer, it’s worth reading MusicAlly’s summary – Webdoc, Seevl and DizzyJam stood out from the crowd for me.
The evening kicked off with a keynote from EMI’s strategy SVP Jim Brady, where he said selling (physical) records no longer helps artists, which I’ve already reported on for StrategyEye.
But an equally fascinating part of the speech was Brady’s summary of changing attitudes towards music consumption over the last twenty years. He outlined three models of contemporary music consumer – whom he dubbed Tower Man, MP3 Man and Homo Spotifyicus – and their evolving music habits. I’ve posted a transcript of that section of the speech below – worth a read in full for an idea of how the majors are trying to frame the pace of change.
The Tower Man
We’re in the early 90s, life is blessedly uncomplicated. The digital disruption has yet to arrive – we have what we would call the well-behaved pre-digital music fan. He – statistically it’s a he – listens to radio, he reads NME or Billboard, he watches MTV and on Saturday he goes down to his local high street record store and buys what he’s been listening to. We call this man Tower Man after the late-lamented Tower Records retail chain which shuttered in 2006.
Buying music is really is the only way Tower Man can control the listening experience. He doesn’t control radio. So music is a scarce good – ownership is hugely important. In fact in many ways, Tower Man defines himself by the music that he owns, by his wall of CDs and you’ll often find him quietly judging others by their wall of CDs. You know who you are.
MP3 Man / iPod Man
Let’s now move to the second half of the nineties and the arrival of what we call the transitional music fan. The MP3 codec’s been around for a while, and by 1999 it’s formed Napster and Codester and an endless variety of stirs that offer free digitised music. Labels lose ‘monopoly control’ over the availability of the music.
For the tech savvy music fan, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. But only if you’re particularly tech savvy – the technical hurdles are quite considerable for the large majority of music fans. You might think all that access to all that music that the case for ownership would diminish, that music would feel less rare. But Early MP3 Man grew up musically in a time of scarcity, and the ownership habits of his parents are still ingrained. He’s got one leg over the digital fence. He reacts with the normal reaction – he starts to hoard. College networks start crashing, labels start suing, piracy becomes the topic of every music conference you go to and the market shifts in a fundamental way. CD sales start to decline, nothing new there. Of course MP3s also offered a high level of convenience, more than the CD or cassette. Music fans have shown quite consistently they will pay more money for music convenience. [...]
Apple makes a typically late, thoughtful entry into the emerging mp3 player marketplace. In 2003 it launches iTunes and our MP3 Man becomes iPod/iPhone man. So your entire music collection all on a cool little gadget so now you don’t have to break the law to join the digital revolution, you don’t have to be tech savvy – but it does tempt a bunch of new fans across that first digital divide.
The true digital fan – Homo Spotifyicus
As a music industry, we spend a lot time getting to grips with iPod man and rightly so. But we can’t get too blinkered by them – let’s move forward to the late Naughties. This is when we see the emergence of a true digital fan, and they are quite different from the previous two. For them, commercial music has never really been scarce, never been hard to access. We call that generation Homo Spotifyicus, sometimes Facebook man. And for Homo Spotifyicus, music is just around them all the time. [It's in] many new radio stations they might listen to over the internet, it’s in their parents’ CD collection (they have access to that), it’s on their elder siblings’ iPods, its on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, it’s in the TV shows they follow, it’s in the films they watch, ads, video clips on Facebook, even in the computer games they play. True digital fans do not have a very strong ownership habit. What matters is instant gratification – being able to access that song straightaway wherever they are. To borrow a phrase from another arena, they’re not looking to collect Mr Right, they’re looking for Mr Right Now, musically. Of course we know there are open porous borders between these three groups of fans.
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