Last week, I met for a second time with Luke Wood, head of A&R at Interscope Records.
During our first sit down, Luke shared with me some of the problems he’s facing running a label.
One of these problems struck me as really odd: according to Luke, it’s always been hard to let people know when an artist’s album is coming out.
Apparently, even with TV, radio, and rappers incessantly blathering, “YO NEW ALBUM IN STORES, BITCHES!” consumers continue to languish in confusion.
I say baffling, because while I don’t know when the new Weezer album is dropping, I know EVERY TIME one of my friends uploads a dumb picture of me on Facebook… or tweets, or adds me on MySpace, or uploads a video on YouTube.
So what are startups good at that labels aren’t?
Getting your contact information… and using it.
In fact, record labels don’t even seem to try. Instead of going for your digits, they market their products like this:
Ok. Maybe a passerby sees it; maybe he likes it; maybe he remembers the date; maybe he buys the album.
That’s a lot of maybes. And worse, there’s no way to know if the poster worked or not.
But what if that poster looked like this:
Now the poster isn’t just noise – it’s a CALL TO ACTION.
Text us your e-mail address, and we’ll send you a link for a free mp3. Good trade?
And now, we know your E-MAIL, your PHONE NUMBER, your LOCATION, and your MUSICAL TASTES.
So we can contact you directly next time to let you know Katy Perry’s album is out… or that she’s playing a show near you… or that she wants to hear your wildest fantasies for $9.99/minute…
Kinda feel like something Netflix would do?
Though record labels aren’t doing things like this now, I got the feeling from Luke that they could be on the way.
But while a startup can make the decision to launch a new project in 10 minutes, record labels are substantially larger animals with deep organizational barriers to changing their behavior. And labels don’t have a historically strong track record for change.
I was impressed at the way Luke seemed to openly acknowledge this.
Unlike many industry executives I’ve met so far in LA, I got the same feeling talking with Luke as I do talking with tech execs back in Silicon Valley — the sense of a strong vision, intense passion, and urgency to develop a new way of doing things.
Among my friends, I’m in the minority believing it’s not too late for record labels to adapt. But I stand with most in thinking it’s about time they did.
And I’m excited to learn there are some in the industry who agree.
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