Change is the only constant

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During the 1980s the job of a press officer in the music industry was fairly straightforward.

You sent records in the post to journalists and DJs. If they liked the sound of them success would often follow.

“A play by John Peel on Radio 1 would reliably shift 5,000 copies of an independent single,” according to music critic Dave Rimmer.

“An NME cover might get you a major deal. An appearance on Top of the Pops would hoist you up the charts. A feature in Smash Hits would keep you in touch with a potential fan base in the hundreds of thousands.”

It is not like that now.

The records that get regular rotation on Radio 1 are selected by a playlist committee who spend as much time analysing each artist’s Spotify plays, YouTube views, and Instagram followers, as they do listening to the music, in a mostly futile attempt to chase the trends their predecessors once set.

And so the business of music marketing has completely changed – from targeting key critical gatekeepers to engaging fans directly through social media and streaming platforms.

The changes in the music business are quite easy to analyse because the disruption caused by the digital revolution was so rapid, unrelenting and blatant.

We used to buy individual discs from shops to play on specialist devices and now we stream infinite libraries of music over 4G to our iPhones.

It is interesting to see industries that on the surface look the same, but underneath are undergoing changes no less profound.

It is here that we can find stories of businesses that are adapting to changing consumer habits – or that risk falling by the wayside like tobacconists, greengrocers and video rental stores.

And so pubs are investing in expansive non-alcoholic ranges, fast food chains are launching meat free burgers, supermarkets are dropping plastics from their products, and major fashion brands have finally realised that child exploitation and environmental contamination is not acceptable no matter which subcontractor in your opaque supply chain is ostensibly responsible.

As Bob Dylan said: “That he not busy being born / Is busy dying.”

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post.

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