The Chasm and the Bridges

MCMFriday, March 30, 2007

In a recent conversation about the music industry's inability to grasp the internet age, a very intelligent colleague made the observation that there is a giant chasm between the record labels and their audience. It's a social chasm that evolved rather quickly in the last decade, dug deep from resentment and distrust. It makes it impossible to make music back into a booming market, and the labels are at a loss about how to fix it.

The point that stuck with me was that he said it was time for the tech industry to step up to the plate and do something constructive... it's obviously a technological solution that will span that chasm, but so far all the tech industry is doing is standing back and watching the record industry plunge into the abyss as they try and make nice with their audience.

I think what bothered me the most was that the labels have already managed to forget that we HAD the solution in 1999. Since the dawn of mp3s, tech companies have been offering solutions to the music suits, trying to apply the same kind of "this is so cool" spark that made the digital revolution work. And (speaking from personal experience), the suits didn't want to listen. They were offered bridges when the chasm was small, and they firebombed those bridges because they thought they knew best.

For years now, the tech world has been trying to figure new ways of dressing up these ideas, making fancier bridges, bridges in different colours, bridges with cup holders... and each time, the music industry ruthlessly destroys the efforts, because they STILL know best. But now they're left with a giant gaping hole between them and peace, and they call across the chasm to the programmers: "Help us! Make us a bridge!"

The programmers just laugh, because they've got better things to do, and at the end of the day, there's nothing funnier that watching another music service crash and burn. The labels wouldn't even talk to the techies when time was right, and now they complain that no one else is doing their part to usher in a new era of music consumption. The labels had their chance, and they blew it. They collectively deserve a corporate Darwin Award.

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