WHAT I LEARNED FROM JEFF BEZOS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF MUSIC
Article by Amishar Frutkoff
Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, was quoted recently with some very interesting insights about how we build and prepare our businesses for the future.
“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” — Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
When I first read this, my immediate thought was — wow, he nailed it! Everyone around us is constantly trying to disrupt the market with new products and ideas but if we start breaking it down, we’ll probably come to realize how many of them have succeeded not because they successfully predicted the future (although there are some who have done this well), but rather because they have identified how to improve the things that aren’t changing. Amazon has used this logic in building their e-commerce empire, honing in to what is obviously not going to change; people are always going to want easy access to the best products, to the most affordable and reliable products and will want to get them as fast as possible. All the technology that amazon invests in, seems to have this approach in mind. And it’s working pretty well for them so far.
When looking to apply this logic to developing a strategy in the music industry I identified one major timely element — music, is about experience. It always has been and always will be. That experience starts at the ideation stage when a songwriter writes and composes their music, onward with recording & production, and finally with distribution and live shows. Recognizing this, and implementing a ‘music-experience’ focused strategy, could radically transform the way artists approach their music and the way people interact with it. ‘Music Experience’ can be a very vague term, probably because it covers so much. I think it’s important for an artist to do some really deep creative thinking to explore what their music is and how people will experience it throughout the whole journey of the song, album, or music project. A cool example of how this could look in the real world is the project album ‘Exposure’ by Esperanza Spalding — a live album experience. Esperanza went live for three days to write, produce and record an album. The videos continued to broadcast live even when Spalding took a break to eat or sleep. Excited fans (myself included), joined the live video to take an active part in the album creation process. The limited 7,777 albums pressed were sold before the album even existed in any shape or form and cannot be found on any streaming service that I know of. Now that’s some creative strategy!
One musician I was coaching couldn’t wrap his head around why he needed a website. “I still haven’t really gained traction and nobody goes to my website anyway, so it’s kind of a waste of money” he said. To which I responded “well, you haven’t really given anyone a reason to want to go to your website”. I don’t mean to say by this that having a website with the essential information isn’t important — it is, but I also think it’s valuable real estate where fans, and people curious about an artists’ music, can be enrolled into a strategically planned, authentic and engaging music experience. To understand what I’m trying to get at, check out the DNA Project by J.Views or if your looking for something a little more mainstream Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars also have some form of experience driven websites. (I’ll probably end up writing a whole post about artists websites one day so stay tuned).
And then there’s LIVE. Live experiences, whether online or in person, are popular because they are unique. They only happen once. You can watch a video of a live show or hear the same song a million times and it will never be the same as experiencing it live. Sofar Sounds a company that produces gigs in intimate spaces around the world is some living proof of this. Even though the format stays relatively similar in all of their 400 or so locations, the experience is different every single time. Some of the defining elements that create this are the people, the space and of course the line up of artists and their excellent music. Those who attend many theatre shows on Broadway will often speak of how the experience of seeing a show they had already seen, differed from the first time they saw it. Finally we get to festivals, that might be considered the epitome of music experiences. One can go to the same festival every year and feel the same vibe, perhaps the style will be the same and a similar feeling of nostalgia will be present but the experience is always different — and that, I believe, is a huge reason people continue going year after year. They want to have been there, to have seen it first, to have been apart of something big and most importantly unique.
So what might the future look like for experiences in music?
That’s a good question. I know some cool people working on live immersive experiences, and have participated in some of their workshops. I have also been following some of the really awesome developments happening in AR and VR technology in the music space that are very exciting. I also see more experiences such as the intimate music shows that Sofar Sounds put on taking off big time. We’ve seen examples of Airbnb following suite and creating similar music experiences for their members. I’ve also seen some cool projects such as koolulam — that put on events that create one time mass choirs, film the show and share it on social media.
Taking it out of the context of performing arts, music can also contribute to interactive experiences such as National Geographic’s Encounter experience or even just be used to define the vibe at a major league sporting event, shopping mall or restaurant. The bottom line is, music experiences are here to stay so get creative and build your own!