14 January 2008

Has EMI Finally Heard the Music?

I'm not the biggest fan of private equity companies, but they do have the virtue of being ruthlessly logical: they are not enslaved by history, just by greed. That means they are not frightened of radical thinking or radical solutions if it brings them more of the foldable stuff. Thinking like this:

The record business - in which 85 per cent of artists are lossmaking and EMI pays £25m a year to scrap unsold CDs - "is stuck with a model designed for a world that has changed and gone forever", he says.

His solution is to switch from pushing CDs to pulling consumers towards music in different forms. One element will be focus groups. "People say the music industry is more creative and the customer doesn't know, only the creatives do.

"When you look at which car companies are succeeding it's the ones which work with their customers. Are clothes not creative? Is fashion not creative? Is food not creative? The only real difference is these industries have learnt to work with the customer and not force-feed them," he argues.

So, he seems to get the idea of listening to customers, which is good.

Surprisingly, he says that Radiohead, the band that ditched EMI last year to launch their latest album online, made the right choice. "Radiohead had the right idea. They understand their fans. They realise some of them want the premium box set. I'm one who bought one, and paid the full price. What Radiohead showed the industry was that it isn't one answer for all artists or indeed for every customer."

Which indicates that he also realises what the record business is really about: selling scarce commodities like analogue objects and unique relationships.

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