Friday, March 23, 2007

Managing Perception in Decline 

How do you manage perception in an industry that is dying? This question has come up before but it takes on new urgency in light of this in the recorded music industry. CD sales continue to plummet and not even the brightest recording stars are succeeding.

The challenge is that the 100+-year-old industry has worked the same way since Edison invented the phonograph. Music is distributed on something -- a medium whether wax, or vinyl or plastic. The entire business model and accounting of the industry is pegged to that something. With digital downloading, there is no physical entity and no good way to account for sales. With large scale piracy, there is no revenue coming to the industry and artists. With the long-tail of recordings available on download sites such as iTunes, there is no way to sell one artist over another consistently.

The industry is spending enormous amounts of energy to combat piracy and to persuade youth that it is bad, but it clearly isn't working. The question is what concept will work and how would PR go about helping the industry sell it? This challenge almost certainly will not involve sales of something physical and sales are likely to be lower margin than before. The hardest part of the challenge will be to get the industry away from selling something to selling bits and bytes. It seems clear that few are prepared to do that even yet. The industry fears for its future, so it clings to the past. It is an interesting time to be in PR in the music industry.


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