Record Industry: Unintentional Message to Digital Consumers

By Richard Menta 7/15/09

Hate Me, Distrust Me, I'm Going to Cheat You. This is the subtle (or not so subtle) message that the major record labels inadvertently delivered to consumers these past ten years as it thrashed about in the disruptive digital landscape. This wasn't their intention by any stretch of the imagination, but it is exactly what has happened. I have already gone into great detail regarding the considerable badwill the industry has generated among music fans to a point where they have already alienated an entire generation of young tech savvy buyers. It's not the only industry to do so - broadcast radio has also lost touch with many young listeners - but no industry to date has achieved this dubious accomplishment so thoroughly.

So when EMI Music CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti stated recently that "Music is in demand and the demand is growing all the time, but we've clearly lost touch with our consumers" he was only stating the obvious. When Digital Music News asked for his solution to reengage this audience Leoni-Sceti's reply "offered some rather obvious statements, with few concrete steps". This included a generic "listening to the desires and needs of consumers"

I'm sure high on the consumer desire list is to stop suing them, a clear source of consumer enmity generated by a runaway litigation train that caused considerable wreckage without achieving it's goal to curtail file sharing. Another desire is a dramatic drop in prices that will allow users to assemble massive 10,000 song libraries for something considerably less than $10,000. Why must contemporary music be so expensive when the Internet has reduced costs so dramatically? Then there is the huge back catalog of music that goes as far back as Thomas Edison and gaslight lamps. Since the costs of making this music were amortized decades ago one wonders why legacy music must be priced equally high.

If Leoni-Sceti is truly sincere about satisfying consumer desire he will find it too easy to cultivate a long list of frustrations. A good place to start is showing the customer a little more respect. Then maybe he can ease the sense of paranoia on all sides.

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