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Thursday, February 23, 2006

4 Lessons from the Symphony

The other night I went to listen to some music with a friend. I was billed as an interesting fusion of Bach and Latin music called The Passion According to Mark. After the show, I found myself at the post-performance reception drinking very strong Mango Martini's and wolfing down crackers after every sip to keep for getting sloshed. While making cocktail chit-chat, about what I did and where I was from with other party goers in varying stages of boredom and inebriation, I struck up a conversation with a consultant from BCG . This was an affable fellow, for a consultant, no steely stares or close talking and the moment I mentioned I had worked around the music his energy level amped way up.

"You know what the media industry really needs?" he asked, clearly about to tell me whether I knew or not. "It needs to sell me a license and not a damn CD or file."

"Hmmm, Thats really interesting." I offered helpfully. "What about rights?" It was an obvious prompt to see how far he'd thought about this but he didnt notice.

He barreled on, "There would have to be some sort of deal with BMI or what ever the agency is called. But the core idea is that I buy rights to the media I'm interested in. I could then use it anywhere and everywhere I want." he steps a bit closer to me as he starts to really get into it. I guess, as he spoke, he forgot he was being charming and the consultant came out, close talking and all.

"Imagine it." he continues, "I buy the rights and I use it in my car, at the job, on my friends home stereo. Where ever I want. The price of music would be effected, sure, but the utility function would increase by a factor of...blah, blah, blah" I have to admit that either the Mango martini or the close talking started to really kick in and my brain shut down. I dont remember the rest of what was said, except that it involved demand curves, exponential growth and the unleashing of constrained markets and it was all somehow really important.

So what did I learn from my evening at the Symphony?
First: European concert music, while an ossified and stagnant art form, is exceedingly palatable when combined with a bit of life and modernity in the form of African drumming, tango dances and Salsa music. Also the symphony at Emory attracts an audience that would make Ralph Reed and George Dubbya seem right at home in both its tenor and complexion (or lack there of).

Second: Consultant are a little creepy but can really needle through the issues and come up with interesting ideas in the process.I know they're overpaid, "complexify" everything, re-purpose past solutions across clients, hyper-hyphenate and are predictably MBA'ish. But come on you gotta love the 100 page decks or the 30 years of blood, sweat and tears condensed into a two by two matrix.

Third: When a consultant in Atlanta with no history in the music biz arrives at the same idea Mark Hardie (the crazy haired Forrester Analyst) was pushing in 2000 you know the time is overdue for media middlemen to catch a clue. As average people dis-associate the physical product from the experience of the content, the obvious question is how do I replicate the experience (not the product). Media models are going to have to evolve to reflect the selling of experiences. Or as Gilmore and Pine might put it, media companies have to join the experience economy .

Fourth: Mango martinis are dangerous.


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