Twitter #music is now out and people are abuzz about how elegant it is while also murmuring about what it means that Twitter – a company with no direct music expertise – is providing a music service. At the highest level, some are asking the question: is this the future of music?
The answer is simple. No, Twitter has not built the future of music. But that wasn’t the point. Instead, Twitter is building the future of Twitter’s customer relationship. It’s a significant difference in goals and it shows other wannabe digital disruptors some of the most important principles of digital disruption that you can follow, whether the adjacent possibility you will pursue next on behalf of your customers is in music or house cleaning or education. Here’s what to learn from Twitter’s music service:
Build a customer relationship to acquire data. In a digitally disrupted world, the most important asset you have is a digital customer relationship that connects to customers as frequently as possible and generates as much of a data trail as possible. Twitter has spent years doing this for millions of users, many of them who touch the service daily. It was only after this step was successfully completed that Twitter could look beyond it. That’s already a lesson for just about everyone else.
As I write this, I am sitting in Boston’s Logan airport surrounded by healthy- but somber-looking people clad in the yellow and blue of the official jersey of the Boston Marathon. Some are wearing their medals, some are walking with a bit of a limp. All of them are on the phone with their loved ones, telling their stories of survival. I was not one of them, I wasn’t even down in the city – my favorite place to watch the historic marathon is at the 25 kilometer mark, miles away from the explosions. But I feel for them, I feel with them, and for a brief moment, we are all brothers and sisters. With each phone call, text, email, or tweet from friends and associates from around the world – especially those from Madrid and London who feel this solidarity especially deeply – I am reminded that we are better than this, we will be better than this.
How will we be better than this? In the days and months to come we will do what the best of us always do, we will support each other and work to build a better society than the one that permitted this. But what about the long run? Given my role – I am not a first responder, I was not on the front lines, the best I could do was offer my house to marathon-running friends as a place to regroup, refuel, and just be surrounded by good feelings for a while before beginning a long drive home – I am best able to help in the long run rather than the short run.
Monday’s The New York Times offers a defense of authors’ rights from bestselling author and head of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow. In the piece, Turow interprets a Supreme Court decision that allows the importation of books purchased abroad for resell in the US, making it seem like all of Western culture would henceforth be at risk. Later the same day, I read a brief statement from News Corp in which the company threatened to make the FOX broadcast network a premium pay channel in order to get its just compensation for its creative works ahead of the likely decision that Aereo is not illegally capturing and restreaming broadcast content.
These individuals and organizations have the right to do what they feel they must as they pass through the phase known as denial. But may I offer this one small suggestion to help them through the stages of grief yet to come: Stop pretending that the foe you face won’t eventually win because it will. That goes for all of you. Digital disruption will eliminate your structural advantages someday, too.
We’ve been through this before, dating back to the first time the music industry sued someone to prevent the future. No, it wasn’t Napster or the users of BitTorrent in the 2000s. It was actually Diamond Multimedia, makers of the new PMP300 MP3 players, and the year was 1998. The argument then was the same as it is today: We, the people who currently benefit from an artificial monopoly in either the creation or distribution of value, don’t want that monopoly to end.