Where Record Labels Ran Into Trouble: Monoculture
from the farming-multiple-revenue-streams dept
In summary, farming theory suggests that anytime you rely on a single crop (monoculture) over a long enough period of time, you can expect something really awful to come along that will ruin you. Why? Because of the common genetic code that results when you have a single crop in a single location for so long. What inevitably happens is that there is a change in the environment: disease, new wildlife, slight or great variances in the temperature or amount of sunlight, etc. And because your crops are all essentially the same, they're all affected. So, instead, the theory suggests that you should always have multiple crops in production. That way, if something comes along that wipes out all of your rice crops, you still have your corn and wheat. Multiple streams of income, so that there is no single point of failure.
Relate that to record labels and movie studios. For a long, long time, they've relied principally on selling their recorded music crop or movie crop and almost nothing else. It was all going so well, until the environment changed. Cue the internet and its ability to copy and distribute, piracy, and the resulting change in thought of their customers about how music and movies should be consumed and how much it should cost. It's been said repeatedly here that music labels don't have to go away, but that they do have to adapt. They were hit by a change in the environment that affected their single crop. The RIAA had to lay off workers. They spent a great deal of time attacking an unstoppable problem, causing it to fragment further, rather than planting new crops and cultivating new revenue streams. And, while we hear stories over and over again about the labels and studios attacking piracy, too few are stories of them adapting and building new revenue sources.
It's interesting to note another comparison between the farming and music industries. Earlier in this century, the advent of certain chemicals made monoculture appear to be doable. That went on until relatively recently (thank you Gretchen Heckmann for the details here). The problem became that the diseases and insects the chemicals were supposed to destroy adapted and have come back, often times stronger than in the past (sound familiar?). As a result, the farmers, particularly smaller farmers, have had to adapt back to crop rotation and away from monoculture. Nature has hit back and now they have to duck and weave and try something different. Perhaps there's an Agricultural Science major that could apply for a job at the record labels?