Back in the late 70s through the mid 80s I wasinvolved with running one of the more successful college radio stations in the US at a remarkable time in the music industry. I want to tell you a story of business change that should sound familiar. To me, this is a continuous story over 30 years time now. Here is the beginning of the tale…
In the period immediately prior to the late 1970s, music had gone from the raw creativity in songwriting, performance, technology, and more of the late 50s though the 1960s into an era where “play it safe” and “bigger and better” and “do the same thing that already worked last time” were the rules of the day.
The result was eventually labelled “dinosaur rock” – because the results were both creatively and financially unsustainable. Too big, not enough diveristy. Not everyone is interested in the same 3 or so styles of music, and eventually attention turned away.
It is kind of forgotten in the face of what happened next, but music sales were dropping to an alarmingly low level. For the conventional thinkers, who were especially vested in the existing system and status quo, there was no way out. More of the same used to work, used to put bread on the table, but now people were starting to go hungry. Bigger was no longer necessarily better.
All the creativity hads been squeezed out of the business end of the music industry, and it was starting to look like neither could exist anymore. But something remarkable was about to happen, somethinig that continues to shape the way the internet has evolved 30 years later, something for us to learn from as we look at business models, startups, distribution, finance, consumer experiences, and the value of encouraging creativity in thinking.
Next: What happened ?