(Cameo Carlson is the former executive VP of Universal Motown Republic Group who last week left the label to take on a new role as head of digital business development for management firm Borman Entertainment.)
There is a moment when the game changes and the best players and coaches can see it coming just early enough to capitalize on it and win. That moment is now for the game we call music, but there is debate over who those players and coaches are.
I spent the last four years at Universal Motown Republic Group and the three-and-a-half years before that at iTunes. Incredible coaches, even better players on both sides of Technology and Music Industry...and I do mean sides. There is still a definite division in this game and although they share the field, the rivalry is bitter. Technology and Music Industry need each other but don't understand each other...or rather both think they are smarter and more correct based on intelligence or experience and don't want to understand each other. Unfortunately they just want to prove whose defense is stronger at a time when we need strong offense. Meanwhile savvy artists and artist managers are using the tools at their disposal to build strong minor leagues that can serve to marginalize the majors. So what's the problem? What have I learned on the sidelines of both teams?
Technology is not a necessary evil; it's the most incredible equipment any team can have. What used to take years to build is now done in a few keystrokes. You become a data nerd without trying because you can (and do) know more about your art and commerce than you ever wanted to know. Artists have real-time insights and feedback from consumers, professionals and the fans in the stands waving the foam fingers. Technology can rifle off the most obscure facts in seconds because they were able to access it on their portable device. Artists like cool and there is no doubt technology has the coolest uniforms on the field, even if sometimes the flash outshines the game plan.
Music Industry has decades of playbooks and the greatest network of scouts on earth. They have a solid track record of finding and grooming the talent, bankrolling the roster and getting butts in the seats at the stadiums. Artists can take a more passive role and still win. These coaches can also rattle off the obscure facts because they were there, they've done that before.... twice. Music Industry has the experience to win The Big Game, no rookie mistakes here, but the uniforms are worn out and they sure could use a revamp in the locker room.
Both teams are abundant in hubris, ego and trash talk on and off the field. Patience is thin on both sides because Technology measures success in immediacy and Music Industry measures immediacy based on how successful something is. The two teams simply have not sat down long enough to figure out a common set of rules that allow both teams to play to the best of their abilities (transparency, data, spending a little less on the uniforms and a little more on digitizing the playbooks). Change/compromise is difficult for both sides and there aren't a lot of interpreters to help them bridge the communication gap. Pride is getting in the way of the coaches while the players just want to be let loose on the field.
Some players, myself included, are looking for a completely different side to work on as this game-changing moment plays out. Artist Managers that invest in digital (as Borman Entertainment has for a long time) have a golden opportunity to blow up the rules as they exist now and reorganize the leagues, but it's not going to be easy. Technology is ready to loan us equipment but they allow us to be horribly fragmented because each of their plays only concentrates on one position and that's a hell of a lot of coordinating. Music Industry wants to partner up, but only if we play by the rules they set out decades ago and agree never to wear any of the Technology logos they don't like. Artist Managers have to set up the offense ourselves. We have to take pieces from both sides to create the perfect game. We have to move quickly while Technology and Music Industry are setting up pyro for the halftime show.
In my time on both sidelines, I've learned that leadership can make or break us. I've learned that inertia is the common enemy, not Technology or Music Industry. I've learned that no matter how well the equipment worked in the past, the new stuff keeps us going stronger longer. I also learned the power of the sports metaphor (thanks Coach Lipman!). If we are smart and correctly assess this moment in time, we can all win.
Put me in, coach!
Cameo Carlson is the new Head of Digital Business Development at Borman Entertainment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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