Can Netflix Serve As Model For The Music Business? Billboard vs. Black Rim Glasses

image from Envy is a powerful drug and right now the music industry is suffering from Netflix envy. That's let to an interesting debate between those who believe Netflix' success is a model for the music industry, and those who see radical differences between consumer engagement with visual vs. audio content.

Supporting the Netflix model is Billboard's Glenn Peoples:

"With Netflix consumers have proven they will rent content - even re-run content - and stream it from the cloud. They will pay for digital content they could get for free through illegal means. They will pay if the service allows streaming through multiple devices - including mobile."

Not so says fromer Warner Bros. Records SVP Ethan Kaplan on his Blackrimglasses blog:

"With Netflix customers have not proven they will rent content. They have proven they will rent visual content."

"Visual media is intentionally not is still reliant on the singular mode of spectatorship rather than encompassing ubiquity of representation...."

"Audio media however is ubiquitous...It can be everywhere in your home, focused on only yourself through headphones, or background while driving, viewing things online, etc...Its very ubiquity lessens its value ...less investment demands less return and hence, lower value."

People's writes:

"But much of what makes Netflix successful(is)... a strong product that's easy to use, with incredibly helpful recommendations and constant improvement based on customer feedback. Music services can do all these things, plus add features more unique to music such as social and sharing functions and a 'lean back' radio feature that requires little effort other than hitting the 'play' button."

Kaplan concludes:

"The moral of my outrage is thus:

Chasing business models in one media with business models of fundamentally different media is a recipe for disaster...

...The value of the ubiquitous is when it elevates above the din to become something transcendent for all senses. That is what we should aspire to when trying to create the concept of value in relation to content.

Transcendence is the great equalizer in the content hierarchy.

Just ask anyone that has been to an amazing concert."

I'll add two thoughts to the debate:

  • Renting a product that you use only once ( a movie) is far more attractive than renting a product that you 're likely to use over and over again ( favorite songs) .
  • Too many debates center around whether or not music subscription can return enough revenue.  The real debate chould center around what comsumers want to.  Ask Google and Facebook, in the digital era, revenue follows attention; and not the other way around

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