Moguls, Superman and Kryptonite

I have been working my way through Michael Wolff’s Autumn of the Moguls and found some of it very predictable. Its obsession with disfunctionality amongst business leaders including Eisner and Messier.One thing that did strike a chord with me was the way technology had moved from saving the record industry from itself to becoming the industry’s kryptonite. Around about 1984 or so, the music industry had hit paydirt as Joe Public moved from their analogue recordings on 8-tracks, cassettes and vinyl on to CDs. Artists of the 1960s and 1970s were the money spinners, reputedly there was one CD factory in Germany that did nothing but make copies of Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the Moon.

Then the internet came along and the record companies were slow to take advantage of this technology so the consumers did. Instead the industry created a huge knee jerk reaction blaming the customer for their own mistakes. From pages 283 and 284:

File sharing replaced radio as the engine of music culture.

It wasn’t just that it was free music – radio offered free music. But whatever you wanted was free, whenever you wanted it. The Internet is music consumerism run amok, resulting not only in billions of dollars in lost sales but in an endless bifurcation of taste. The universe fragmented into subuniverses, and then sub-subuniverses. The music industry, which depends on large numbers of people with similar interests for its profit margins, now had to deal with an ever-growing number of fans with increasingly diverse and eccentric interests.

Not a unique challenge, clothes manufacturers, car companies et cetera all have had to deal with the fragmentation of consumer interests. There is no longer any such thing as the teenager, when do people now get old? These are all similar challenges. The fear isn’t piracy, its the ability of these businesses to manage themselves and adjust to a post modern society.
My own take on this is that the music industry has failed:

  • Failed to give customers what they want, more eclectic artists and built a business model about more ‘customised’ sales. I read somewhere that a Volvo car model can have some 48,000 variants. Customers now have a more eclectic musical taste, artists and record companies should build for a business model of selling 40,000 rather than 400,000 of a given record
  • Failed to take advantage of their back catalogue of deleted recordings and putting them for sale online to make a better return on slowly decaying master tapes
  • Failed to innovate, during the time that record companies may or may not have sold less CDs, depending whose numbers you believe; they signed and supported less acts and off loaded talented but not huge selling artists
  • Failed to realise that a fast buck is not always the best buck. In prostituting their recordings for supermarket soundtracks, films and car advertisements the music industry turned music into musak
  • Failed to grab their own destiny and allowed their product to be dictated to them by the radio stations
  • Failed to recognise that a number of customers still wanted analogue recordings, thus allowing niche players to subvert a reasonable revenue stream. Much of the US and European requirement for vinyl is pressed in state-of-the-art factories based in the Czech Republic as the majors exited the market

The Hacienda must be built

The Hacienda (or Fac51) was one of the most famous and influential clubs of all time, together with London nights like Shoom, Spectrum and Solaris it catapulted house music (at the time, the sound of black and gay Chicago into worldwide exposure). The Hac influenced and was influenced by the Ibizan scene. Even prior to house, the club innovated; hosting the first UK performance by Madonna in the early 1980s. The club was a work of love by designer Peter Saville, Rob Gretton who managed New Order and Tony Wilson TV newsreader and founder of Factory Records. The name itself came from a passage in arty situationist manifesto by Ivan Chtcheglov that culminated in the passage:

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the Haçienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old alamanac. Now that’s finished. You’ll never see the Hacienda. It doesn’t exist. The Hacienda must be built.

Famous art galleries and authors houses get preserved and saved. However night clubs don’t get this reward: The Cavern where the Beatles played is a car park, The Warehouse in Chicago has disappeared, The Wigan Casino and Twisted Wheel hubs of the northern soul scene have been redeveloped, The Wag Club which hosted new music throughout the 1980s from the new romantics to Bomb the Bass is part of a tacky mock Irish pub chain on the edge of London’s Chinatown.

 The Hacienda was demolished in 1997 and auctioned off piece by piece, the site is now a block of overpriced yuppie apartments.Despite the desecration committed by property developers, its cultural mark still lives on.

This can be seen in the popular Steve Coogan film 24 Hour Party People, the ‘classics chart’ of Graeme Park hosted at Hard To Find Records online and London event promoters Get Loaded.

Technology Marketing moves away from its tech roots, editor Tony Hallett takes time out to look at BT’s new business marketing campaign, the article is a bit shallow on analysis all truth being told, but quite readable none the less. Technology visionary and ex BT Labs head honcho Peter Cochrane raise the possiblity of a new dark side to the future of marketing, holding out the possiblity of internet telephony spam calls: nice (not).

Belle Adjourned

Belle de Jour, allegedly the diary of a London call girl signed off with an entry on Wednesday. Belle de Jour was the second most read electronic periodical in Londonmeejaland (second only to Popbitch). Belle’s sign off can be found here.

mercredi 15 septembre

Sundown is the start of Rosh Hashanah. I’m afraid, darlings, the time has come for me to go.When this blog started it was with no expectations. I’ve never lived my life to a plan aside from enjoying myself and have (for the most part) enjoyed doing this.All things pass. For instance: Harts the Grocer, I am saddened to note, are now Tesco Metro. But that is the way of things. I’ll miss this. The time will never be right to finish the diary – so I am ending it now.Doors have opened and I’d like to see where they go. Other doors close, but as my mother said when I was 10 and tennis conflicted with piano on Thursday afternoons, you can’t do everything you want to do. So my plans to be elected to Parliament, win a Nobel Prize and make the finals at Wimbledon are on the back burner for now. As book and telly projects progress, I’ll come back to link – and I will let you know if the site is going to be moved.Thank you to everyone who supported me. Thank you to the critics as well. I wish you all a sweet new year.If I could add one thing, it would be this – don’t ever turn down pleasure because you were afraid of what other people might say

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss…

But does interview Gerry Trudeau. Trudeau is not well known, but his work as creator and prime mover behind the Doonesbury cartoon strip is. Rolling Stone magazine has managed to secure a rare interview with Trudeau here. My favourite Doonesbury character is Duke, loosely based on the writer and pioneering gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson. Incidently Thompson’s Fear & Loathing on the Campaign trail is one of my favourite books.