Posts from the Business School Dropout Category

Some people are worried about the shape of the music industry. Every other day, one of my clients will send me some scary bit of analysis from a newspaper or music industry blog, projecting the end for CDs, labels, streaming, downloads, classical music or for the entire human race.

I’m not worried about this.

You see, my second child was born in November. It’s certainly true that my growing family provides valuable perspective on what’s really important, and I barely have time to sleep, let alone read daft speculative analysis, but there’s another reason these projections don’t scare me.

When baby no. 2 was born, he weighed nine pounds and was 50cm tall.

When he was six weeks old, he weighed twelve pounds and was 62cm tall.

He’s a fairly big boy. I wondered how big he’d get.

Not to scale

Now, there are lots of babies, and a lot of them get weighed and measured so there are lots statistics available on how fast they grow. I could use these to find out how big he’s likely to get, but you know what? Those statistics were gathered by looking at other children, and not mine. My child is unique, and if I want to know what he’ll do, I should look at what he’s done.

I think you’ll agree that it makes total sense to ignore all these statistics because they cover situations that are merely very similar and not exactly the same as the one in which I’m interested. This approach has the added advantage that I don’t need to check or even understand anybody else’s data. This is good because I’m lazy and not very good at statistics or research.

Instead, I opted for a bit of basic arithmetic.

If he puts on three pounds (and twelve centimetres in height) every two months, he’ll be 80 feet tall and weigh just under 613lbs by the time he’s my age.

That seemed pretty big, so I figured I should probably check my working. After all, perhaps his growth is slowing down.

If his growth was indeed linear, he should have weighed 10.5lbs at one month old. If it were more, his growth rate would be slowing. Alarmingly, though, the real figure was less than that. Based on these three observations, I concluded that his growth is exponential.

So if instead his body weight increases by one third every two months and his height increases by 24%, he’ll get even larger. Much, much larger.

By his first birthday, he’ll be about as tall as I am, and will weigh 50lbs. At fifteen months old he’ll be the tallest person who ever lived. He’ll weigh the same as me by the time he’s 19 months old, and by then he’ll be more than twice as tall.

He’ll be heaviest person on record by the time he’s three.

When he starts school, he’s likely to be the only boy in the reception class who weighs more than twelve metric tons, but he won’t be the fat kid. At 839ft tall, he’ll be positively lanky.

Growing boys eat a lot, but I do genuinely worry what we’re going to feed this one. At fourteen and a half, he’ll weigh more than the world’s current population. Then again, at 41,000 miles tall, his arms should be just about long enough to give the planet a bear hug. If he wants to eat something, anything, anywhere, he can get it for himself.

At sixteen, he’ll have to be careful he doesn’t bump his head on the moon.

By the time he’s my age, he will have consumed the entire mass of the Earth, and unless his own gravity has rendered him completely spherical, he’ll be roaming the solar system, looking for planets to snack on.

So what I’m saying is don’t worry too much about the alarming analysis that all so frequently fills the news. It might be based on simplistic mathematical modelling that ignores the vast majority of serious research on the subject.

Even if it isn’t, and the music industry really is doomed, why worry? You’ll have been crushed by a giant toddler long before it becomes a problem.

If you want somebody to proof something carefully, make sure they think they’re the only person who will see it before publication. If you don’t want them to read it at all, include half the company when you ask for their input. There’s plenty of research on this* but the graph says it all.

Latané & Darley, 1968 is the classic study, but you may find the Wikipedia articles on the Bystander Effect, Pluralistic Ignorance and Diffusion of Responsibility give a better overview of the work people have done on this.

I worry that I can’t have a proper music business blog without writing at least one post about Radiohead. This completely useless chart is as close as I’m willing to get.

Labels often create series of recordings. Occasionally, these form part of a coherent project that means something to the customer. Most of the time, though, the connection between the recordings is only important to the record label*, and the real reason for having a series is because it saves time when you’re trying to convince retailers to stock them.

How, though, is the customer supposed to make sense of this?

Don’t fret. I’m looking out for you. Here’s a helpful glossary of the most common catalog(ue) marketing terms. It’s all you need to know:

Original = Old

Legend = Old

Classic = Old

Great = Old

Master = Old

Gold = Old

Platinum = Very old

Pleasure = Cheap

Ultimate = Cheap

Best = Cheap

Most = Cheap

Supreme = Very cheap

Masterpieces = Cheapest

Complete = Big

Essential = Too big

Greatest = Old and cheap

Edition = Same record, different cover.

Collection = Too old, too big, and not nearly cheap enough.

Library = Run for the hills. Do it while there’s still time.

* Are these all recordings on which the artists are no longer due royalties? Are they 1960s vinyl releases having a last shot at incremental revenue before they enter the public domain? Have artists active on the label recorded the same repertoire, triggering a price drop on the old records? Are these better than the new recordings but not nearly as easy to market? Who cares. The covers are crap, but they’re cheaper now.