The Attention Economy And The Music Business - Digital-Lifestyles.info (Gerd Leonhard essay)
The Attention Economy And The Music Business
28 Jul 2006
The Attention Economy and the Music BusinessMuch has been said about the so-called "Attention Economy." – the new buzzword and visionary's catch-all phrase for a dawning, digitally networked ecosystem - where attention is worth a lot more than distribution, where 'having the time' is the final frontier and the great democratizer, where the 'longtail' rules and where many businesses that have –and keep - people's attention stand to prosper dramatically.
10 years after the birth of MP3, the music industry is now in the throngs of this powerful shift from 'having distribution' as a gatekeeper to 'having people's attention' as the holy grail. It boggles the mind, but it is now no longer relevant (or shall we say… sufficient) to have distribution, i.e. to have a replication facility, a retail network, reserved shelf space at the point-of-sale, or frequency slots (if you are radio company), or a satellite in orbit, or a cable network – what really matters is how many people care about what's IN your network!
What's more, soon, it will matter less and less that you can store 10.000 hours of video, or that you can pipe it through your network to users around the world, as it will get dramatically cheaper and easier to do this, and within 7 years pretty much anyone can be a broadcaster or media service provider; at least in technical terms. Ebay and Skype are going to illustrate this point very soon, i.e. when they role out their legal, fully licensed P2P entertainment network (and they will!), putting them into the driver's seat of what some people have come to call media2.0. Just how much attention does eBay and Skype already have? 100s of millions – probably a lot more than all of the record companies combined. Google is now worth more than Disney and Viacom combined, and though they still insist on not being a media company (well, give that another month or so), SEARCH IS MEDIA, and Search is the ubiquitous attention funnel.
The Attention Economy and the Music Business Apart from all the attention that people pay to Google, Ebay and Skype, they also have one thing that truly sets them apart from the record and publishing companies, and that is TRUST. Deep distrust (to put it mildly) of the record companies has swept across the world as a direct consequence of the past 10 years of misguided efforts of 'putting the genie back into the bottle', and that is what must change first in the record industry. In order for people to pay attention to them and their artists, once again, a new trust must be established, a new appreciation nurtured, and a new, mutually acceptable basis for commercial relations must be established. Because today, attention is the currency, not control. It's as simple as that. If they take a few hints from the airline business, from travel and the gaming business: give the users total control, transparency and clarity – in other words, the power – they will thrive. Keep control, loose people's attention, and they'll perish...