Thom Yorke And David Byrne Remind Us What’s At Stake

October 18, 2013

Wherever your opinion lies, the dilemma surrounding music streaming and revenue streams is a familiar one.

But in the past month, the dialogue has seen a burst of fervor as key figureheads of modern music — Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of the Radiohead / Atoms For Peace dynasty and David Byrne of Talking Heads — professed their deeply-seeded feelings on the contentious music streaming model most recognizably popularized by Spotify. You can read their thoughts here, here, and here.

Thom Yorke on Spotify

As a disclaimer, I’ll readily admit that I’ve had considerable skin in the game. I’ve recorded and performed with the very species of emerging indie acts that Thom, Nigel, and David champion. I’ve also placed independent music on national television shows, had work in Hollywood films, and produced music for brands like Target, Cadillac, and ESPN, to name a few. Needless to say, I’m familiar with the territory and I’m not without opinion.

But I’m equally rooted in the world of brand strategy. I work daily at the complex nexus of factors that, when handled deftly, can combine to create a winning combination of culture and commerce. While the Spotify dilemma both makes me lament a missed opportunity and fails to afford any sustainable answers, it does, however, afford an opportunity to reconsider the fundamental factors that contribute to success or failure in a rapidly evolving world.

Truth is, we’ve all got skin in the business game. We all need to make money. What the Spotify question gives us is a harsh reminder that we’ve all got to be on our toes. And while it may seem trite, the second the answers to these basic questions are taken for granted, the floor can fall out from under entrepreneurs. What is the product, really? How do people consume or use it? Is a consumption model part of the product or service’s offering? Who is consuming the product? And lastly, are we staying on top of the technology that helps our offering flourish or are we helplessly at its mercy?

For better or worse, it is this set of questions whose answers decide who has the advantage. And while these answers aren’t always readily apparent, it’s up to all of us to uncover them – and keep uncovering them, as our ever-evolving world won’t stop hiding them.