Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Punk Rock Circa 2012
This post I originally put on my investment banking blog (IBLA.US) but think it belongs here as well
Or, why iterative changes matter more than disruptive ones.
Punk rock erupted in 1974 as a response to the excesses of the mainstream 1970s rock world (big bands, big shows and big hair; more focused on business than music/audience; arrogance; bad music). Punk music was hard, fast paced and raw, with shorter songs and less instrumentation. Oftentimes a political or anti-establishment message was worked in. Audiences loved the authenticy and accessibility. And what is rock music if not rebellious (corporate wasn’t cutting it)? These artists struggled in the real world like we did. A subculture developed. The movement spread.
Remind you of YouTube and the Arab Spring?
The online content world (today) is exciting, original and creative. It’s raw and funny, inappropriate and not subject to committee. It’s fun and not (as) interrupted by commerciasl. And it’s engaging, at a personal level. My son’s YouTube favorite, Nice Peter (and his partner Epic Lloyd) comment on the related YouTube videos made by their fans, even those with little traffic. How cool is that!
Online content can be produced at such inexpensive levels (my own Captive related videos were shot on a Flip and edited with iMovie). It’s also audience focused with a lot of online content driven in response to viewer feedback and suggestions. My son discusses the viewer suggestions for future Epic Rap Battles of History with great excitement. Best of all, the cost structure allows it to avoid a generic “mass” audience appeal; creators can afford to make mistakes and take related risks. Spared star salaries and expensive marketing, content can be posted quickly and doesn’t have to look perfect to justify a $15 movie ticket or $1.29 download.
Those new rules hold true for video, music and books (education, too, btw).
Watching my children I see how they personalize and customize their content. They don’t watch anything on a pre-set schedule. They multi-media. And my kids prefer YouTube to television or movies (they like television and movies too; but as I’ve already commented here, my daughter at nine had already stated that movie sequels were made to trick children). They read both paper books and Kindle books, choosing based on convenience and availability (those instant downloads are a huge selling point).
Taking over from my (fired) publisher, I’ve learned how easy book distribution can be (marketing is very, very hard). Online, it’s also inexpensive and price points can change at will. I’m pondering all sorts of possibilities in the book world and find the options more empowering than limiting. I’m not alone as online content continues to explode. My costs to play around with business models are nominal to the extent that I’m even pondering starting an online publishing house (interested writers?).
Media is tough because the market is so cluttered that building a loyal audience can be a challenge. But people succeed; in all industries. For a writer, the large publishers offering digital books at $16 plus dollars is insanity. Is that book sixteen times better than one at $.99? What about the free one? Do you want people to test the alternative waters to make that decision?
I grew up in and out of Silicon Valley and love to watch an evolving industry. My one conclusion to this post is to point out that iterative destruction is more potentially damaging that is creative destruction. People can figure out how to watch a video online (an iteration combining the internet and television). They may not embrace bigger and more disruptive changes so readily. The creation of the Internet didn’t damage the traditional media business; people incorporating it into their lives over time did. No laws can limit digital content consumption