Nick Gatfield, recently appointed CEO of Sony Music UK, took the opportunity of an interview with the Guardian newspaper to do a bit of grandstanding on behalf of the music industry. Broadband businesses he said “are being built on the back of illegal filesharing”, and went on to call ISPs liars if they claim they can’t block web sites.
If the conversations I have been having recently are anything to go by he will find plenty of people in the music industry to throw him a herring for balancing that particular ball on his nose. But sadly just as few able to able to explain the economics of broadband businesses, or the technical and legal implications of site blocking, as there were five or six years ago, when the real conversation about the music and broadband business should have started in earnest.
And that is a shame. Having worked with ISPs for many years I know how much they can learn from the music industry, and how much music can learn from them. The cultures might be poles apart, but complementary rather than antagonistic. Even at a very facile level a business with huge and expensive infrastructure and a 24/7 service ethic, where customer satisfaction – or lack of it – is the most important metric, is where some parts of music already are, and some think they ought to be. And from the other side, even a modicum of emotional engagement, which is the only wallet opener music companies have, could transform a telecoms utility into a much deeper connectivity business.
So what a pity that music, instead of saying “we want to learn about your business so that together we can make more of both of our assets”, instead has dug in for a war of attrition on ISPs’ core technology, their customer relationships, and the fundamental legal protections that manage the risk of investing in public communications infrastructure. And what an opportunity for someone on the music side to reach across the divide.