I was almost run over by a Cadillac today. I was walking down the sidewalk in Brentwood, staring at an Audi R8 parked by the curb, when a Cadillac ascended from the depths beneath an apartment building and just about hit me.
My first instinct?
Must be an oldster.
Sure, I wasn’t paying attention. But this white-haired guy got all the way past me before he stopped.
I’m still shaking.
But I couldn’t get over how things had changed. How Cadillac had gone from the mark of quality to one step from extinction. Cadillacs used to be gigantic boats loaded with luxury. Now it’s hard to buy a car without power windows, and navigation is an option on a Mazda. How did Cadillac get it so wrong?
But it’s not only Cadillac. It’s Mercedes-Benz. BMW sells more cars in the U.S. today. And when I owned my 2002 in the seventies, I was constantly stopped and asked what kind of car it was.
And Sony? The best TVs are made by Samsung. Apple’s iPod is the music player of choice. Pay a premium for the brand? I don’t want it at all.
Times change. If it weren’t for the Escalade, Cadillac truly would be history. Who aspires to a Caddy sedan today? Who wants a CD?
Yes, it’s oldsters buying CDs. Kids don’t want them. And kids are our future, because they’re going to be ALIVE!
In other words, you can be cruising along just fine today, and be history tomorrow. Evaluate your corporation, your band with this in mind.
What killed Mercedes-Benz was poor quality. They put so many gizmos in the cars that didn’t work that customers abandoned the brand in droves. The press said the Chris Bangle designed BMWs were ugly, but that unique, soft look not only brought tons of sales, it set a trend. Take a look at a Lexus ES, never mind a Hyundai, could that have happened without the BMW 7 and 3 series?
If you’re coasting, you may be heading towards extinction.
The concert business is about getting oldsters to overpay once a year for classic rock acts. The whole concept of going to multiple shows a year, if not a month, is something the younger generation has never experienced. Concerts are a high-priced event, like a graduation party, as opposed to a regular affair. And this hurts Live Nation. But high concert ticket prices affect everybody in the music business food chain. Suddenly, instead of purveying Toyotas, we’re selling Ferraris, which most people can only dream about.
As for rights holders protesting that music has been devalued… The public thinks a buck a track is too much, unless you’re a casual consumer. And you can’t make your numbers with the infrequent buyer, that’s why airlines have rewards programs, they want to entice and retain their good customers, those who fly tens of thousands of miles a year.
As for the music itself… Radio thought that since boomers listened, today’s kids would too. Not understanding that today you have choice, and no one can tolerate twenty minutes of commercials per hour. Terrestrial radio is in a death spiral, it probably can never change its image. And if you’re making the homogenized, researched product radio plays you’re going to go down the drain with the deejays.
Just like the major labels being beaten up online. Not paying royalties, ripping off artists… Do you really think new artists are going to sign with them?
If you’re fat and happy you’d better start freaking out. That probably means you’re on the brink of disaster. If, like Cadillac, your customer base is ancient, then you’ve got no one who’s going to keep your business alive in the years to come.