Why is the recording industry so blind to the obvious?

[This is a response to Prof. Macek’s fourth blog prompt.]

As part of my Introduction to New Media class, I recently read a Freakonomics Quorum article on the present and future of the music industry. The five commentators Freakonomics surveyed touch on many different aspects of the industry situation, but they all seem to agree on three things:

  1. The rise of digital audio is radically altering people’s music consumption habits.
  2. The recording industry refuses to acknowledge these inevitable changes.
  3. The recording industry is suffering due to its stubbornness.

I’ve honestly had a lot of trouble writing a response to this article, and I think I’ve finally discovered why: All the points I just mentioned seem like common sense! Every popular new technology brings with it changes in the social order, and the companies that can adapt to these changes will continue to thrive, while the companies that cannot adapt—or that could adapt, but refuse to do so—will slowly fade away.

But why, if these facts are so mind-numbingly obvious, has the recording industry paid so little attention to them? I don’t have a good answer to give. I suppose it’s human nature to be wary of change, and I can understand why many label executives would prefer it if MP3s, iPods, and file sharing services had never been born. What I cannot understand is why it has taking industry members so long to realize that digital music is here to stay, and that the traditional, plastic disc–based model is likely fated to a slow but inevitable decline.

I realize this is not the most insightful post on the music industry, but the behavior of industry members seems to make drawing any insight rather difficult. It’s hard to develop a reasonable explanation of actions that do not appear to be reasonable in the least. I’m certain that people more informed about the issues than I can provide more interesting commentary on the recording industry’s actions and motives; meanwhile, I’ll be over here scratching my head.

About Jon

Christian, dude, geek, student, hacker, weirdo, King of Awesomeness
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