When to resist technology

My readers know that I love technology –  I literally rub my face in it.

But technology is not always the answer. Sometimes it pays to resist the use of it. This is especially true when technology lacks differentiation or is the lazy option. A hand written letter has far more value today than an email, tweet or whatsapp message does. We know you care more, we know you made more of a concerted effort with a pen and a post box.

It comes down to swimming against the tide. Music is one industry that has been impacted incredibly by new technology. Every laptop is a world class studio, opening up the music making to everyone regardless of their budget. But prized musician David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) has some interesting views on why this might not be the answer to make great music. Watch the video below, and think about the work you do and how it applies. If you listen close enough you’ll come up with some new anti-tech ways to both make a difference and a better product. Enjoy!

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How the music industry gamified social proof

If you grew up when MTV was still a music channel you’ll remember that many music videos were recorded at live concerts… except that they weren’t. Nine out of ten of them we’re in filmed studios in a way which made things look bigger than they were. Clever camera work that looked like the band was already a big thing, when many times, the band was a new thing. It was a brilliant method to gamify social proof that this band rocked! Just take a look at these famous music videos:

Walk this way

Living on a prayer

Wake me up before you Go Go

All of them filmed in studios for bands who weren’t big yet. It’s a very important part of selling anything new, especially a startup. We need to create the perception that others think this ‘thing’ is terrific. We are a social species, and we rely on our social nature as a survival mechanism, and so social proof is one of the most powerful tools we need to build into promoting anything. Blurbs, Stars, Reviews, Fans, Shares, Likes, Hearts, Testimonials.

And before you ask, gaming social proof like the music industry does, is not misleading, it’s necessary. Anything we’ve ever done as a species has at some point required someone to paint a picture of what could be, not what is. We are simply pre-empting the future reality. And unless what we are selling lives up the gamified social proof, it won’t last anyway.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Singing for their supper

You may have noticed that there are a lot of ‘Older’ Rockstars coming out to perform in your country. Bands we thought we’d only hear on Golden Oldies radio stations and never see live again. Well they are all back playing live again….

…I’m guessing it’s not buy choice. The fact that it’s pretty hard to find a record store these days is a good indication that the royalty streams old rockstars lived on have dried up for good. It’s much harder for older music to be promoted on iTunes than it was in a store that could only carry 2000 albums – from the artists who always got played on the radio. Their industry has been disrupted to the point where they now have to sing for their supper. Actively earn a living, versus passively receiving cash for deeds of yesteryear. Hence the deluge of 1980’s rockstars now touring again.

At some point disruptive technology effects us all. As startup entrepreneurs we are often the the creators of the disruption. As successful business people in years to come, our revenue streams will ultimately be disrupted by the next iteration. What we must do is create a war chest of revenue streams once we make bank. And the best advice I’ve ever been given that is future proof is this:

Build businesses, then buy real estate.

Sure it might sound boring, but one thing for certain is that it’s hard to see technology disrupting the value of good real estate. At least in our life times.

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Top 10 dying industries

The good people at Ibis World just released a report on which industries are facing the biggest declines. You can probably guess a few of them, and the major culprit behind the decline is another mainstay of change: Technological Development. The numbers are from the US economy over the past decade, but I think it’s a fair representation of what is occurring in most first world developed economies.

So while you peruse the list, have a think about the incumbents and if they saw it coming or were in denial. Also have a think about where technology is taking us and if you can be a driving force behind flipping an existing industry on it’s head with your new startup! Enjoy.

1. Apparel Manufacturing

Has declined by 77% over the past decade. Simple reason. Cost of wages in labour intensive industry.

2. Music Stores

In the past decade almost 80% of all music stores have closed down in the USA. Sales recorded music sold on a physical transportable device (Tapes, CD’s, LP’s et al) have declined 76.3% in the past 10 years. The only chance for survival is to be very niche, like some ‘drive in cinemas’ have done. even cultural icons, like Tower Records below have succumbed to the inevitable. If you look closely at the pic below, you might even see the who was behind it all…

3. Manufactured Home Dealers

Declined by over 70% in the past decade. Who knew?

4. Photo development

Photo finishing faced a 69% decline, which digital photography is entirely responsible for. Facebook and Flickr are quickly replacing the photo album, and Kodak got caught napping as this happened. The truth is that 1 hour is still 59 minutes and  59 seconds slower than digital. The question is whether the increasing level of awesomeness of cameras in mobile phones will make stand alone digital cameras redundant?


5. Wired Communications

Wired telecoms declined by 54.9% since the year 2000. The evidence exists with how many people you know who’ve ‘turned off’ their fixed line connection. Long distance and overseas has equally been decimated by Skype which comes at peoples favourite price point – ‘free’ – with the added benefit of video. It’s pretty clear that I life without wires is better than a life with them.


6. Mills

Manufacturing suffered a 50% decrease. Seems they are closing all the factories down in Allan Town – as 23% have closed down since 2000. It’s a pretty simple formula here as reduced trade barriers and low wage markets have concocted this reality.


7. Newspaper Publishing

You’re reading this on-line, and you probably get most of your news the same way. Hence it isn’t a great surprise that newspaper publishing has declined 35.9% in the past decade. What’s really interesting is that most of us consume more news and content than ever before, we just get it in different places from different people. The problem with most publishers is that they confuse the delivery mechanism (the physical publishing) with why they actually exist. Granted, lower barriers to deliver any form information has made the old model almost impossible to maintain. I’d also argue that the pay walls being put up by Rupert Murdoch and the New York Times won’t cut it when valid substitutes are ‘free’.


8. DVD, Game & Video rental

A percentage decrease of 35.7% which is easy to see as local video & DVD rental stores close down. The on-line alternative is simply superior. Enough said.


9. Formal Wear & Costume rental

A curious one as this industry has declined by 35%. Most probably a combination of reduced prices for textiles in general and the casualisation of dress throughout society.


10. Video Post Production

With standard simple digital manipulation tools on our desk top, services of this nature have been hurt. They’ve declined by 24.9% in the past decade. Only the very high end have survived.

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